First Outdoor Group Ride

In preparation for the Hotter than Hell ride at the end of August, we are going to do the Katy Flatland next weekend. It is the first event of this type that I will be riding in. I did one training ride with a group in Tulsa a few years ago and then have ridden a little bit outdoors over the last weeks to try to acclimate to the heat. I am in search of info about how to do this? Sort of along the lines of “riding well with others” Stay to the back? I have read that if I am near others, I must absolutely not overlap my wheel… Otherwise so far I have only ridden with my husband. I am somewhat worried that I will do some dumb thing that causes someone else to get hurt and really, really don’t want that to happen. There are stations along the way for water and stuff, so I am not worried about that. I wonder what else I need to think about for a successful event. I’m doing the 55 mile route and do think that TR has prepared me to finish this distance. And it starts at 7 am so I hope to be done before the hottest part of the day. And being an avid gardener, I am somewhat used to being out in the sun and the heat. My goal is to finish and have fun so that I will want to do it again…

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Sounds like you are doing a sportif as we call it in the UK rather than a group ride - so you’re riding on your own amongst a lot of people who will be going at whatever pace they want, rather than trying to hold together a small group for the duration of the route.

You’ll be fine :slight_smile:

Check out the rules of the Katy Flatland, I googled them for you:

Safety Expectations for NWCC Sponsored Rides

· Helmets required!!

· NO earphones while riding

· Follow ALL traffic laws unless directed through an intersection by local law enforcement.

· Ride single file or two abreast. (Riding more than two abreast is almost always illegal.)
· Announce and/or use hand signals for changes in direction or speed.
· Announce or signal road hazards to other riders.
· Announce “slowing” or “stopping” when approaching intersections.
· Scan and look behind before changing position.
· Pass on the left announcing, “on your left”. If you need to pass on the right clearly say “on your right” since this is an unusual maneuver.
· Watch for approaching traffic as well as traffic coming from rear. Inform others by calling out “car up” or car back”.
· Move off the road to stop.

· For SAG pick-up, move off the road, call 346-334-7515, and take off your helmet.

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I live in Sugar Land and have done this ride before, but not this year. It’s very flat and very hot. In addition to the excellent Northwest Cycling Club rules above, just be very aware of what’s happening around you. Try to maintain your line and don’t wobble around on the road…but assume everyone around you WILL drift or even jump into your lane. Pass only on the left, and call out before you do, “on your left”…be prepared for them to jerk to the left when you do. Pay attention to what other riders call out too (hopefully your husband has taught you this already) “car back/left/right/up”, “slowing, stopping, rolling”, “glass”, “hole”, etc. There will be a lot of cars, so stay safely in your lane. Have you been to an MS150 orientation? If so, it will be like that. It sounds like a lot, but really, it’s just “be safe, follow the rules, and have fun!”

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Best to do more group rides, maybe with a club and practice riding and drafting. Try to maintain a distance of 3 feet at first and inch your way closer as you get more confident. Also be aware of those in grant calling out hazards. Holes, gravel etc. The person at the back calls out car back if they become aware of one behind the group. I hope this helps.

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Totally, and one more thing, if you are mid group and can only just hear the person in front (or see their warnings) , the person behind wont be a able to hear or see either, so pass it down (make the same shout / indication), same goes from back to front

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Thank you @JoeX , @Pbase , @WombleKiller and @DennyD for all the tips and thoughts!

So this may be a silly question, but if someone yells hole! does everyone swerve around it like a synchronized swimming team or a flock of birds, or does that just warn you “oh, dang, I guess I’m going through a hole”, or does chaos ensue? I guess if we follow the rules and don’t ride more than two abreast, it won’t be such a problem?
I shared with my husband last night that I had written to you all to ask for advice and told him I am feeling a bit unhappy about doing this by myself, so he said maybe he can ride with me for a bit at the beginning… That should help. I mean, I hate to slow him down, but really, I did mainly get into this cycling thing so that we would have something to do together. And I have been super diligent with my TrainerRoad workouts so I am getting faster.
And after riding around in Watopia for the last few years, maybe a flat course outdoors will be fast and fun.

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Its more like a swimming team, the person at the front should shout hole, probably point at it and move around it, the people behind should do the same, no sudden movements, and definitely no braking, just a gentle movement within the group …like others said, it might be worth getting some practice, we have a new person in our group, a lot of it is about trusting the people around you, and the new person breaks when ever somebody says hole, and slows a lot when we come to corners, and that add confusion and means they have to make a lot of micro efforts to catch back up, its all keeping consistent and communicating with the people around you

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If there are any around you. And I’m guessing most of the time there won’t, so don’t worry too much. Enjoy!

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Hi Beth, a fellow Houstonian here…

I wouldn’t overthink it, jump on it and you’ll have the time of your life… Typically people with very different levels of fitness and endurance join these rides, but after a few miles the big groups will split into more manageable smaller groups of similar skill, so it will not be as overwhelming as you may think.
Riders in the area are normally very safety oriented, I’m actually learning to ride safer since I started riding groups… So I wouldn’t worry about this either…

I’ve started doing group rides about 9 months ago, and I wish I started earlier… You’ll find great camaraderie, and likely you’ll want to do group rides regularly in the future…

Edit: I think I may know your husband (Ch… ?). I’ve done a VCC Century Ride with him in May, small world if I’m right :grin:

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You’ll be fine.

One thing I’d add is that it’s handy for riders close behind you if you can identify any potholes/debris that they might not see for you, and hopefully whoever is in front of you will do the same for you.

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Most important thing is if you find you are boxed in, which is essentially riding in a group, you will have riders ahead, riders behind, and riders beside you, don’t panic, just keep pedalling in a straight line at the pace of the rider in front of you and embrace closeness of other riders on their bikes. It’s kind of like a school of fish. More group rides may help with the comfort in this situation.

A couple of basics:
Try to look over the rider ahead of yous shoulder to see what is going on as many riders ahead of you as possible. Don’t brake unnecessarily. Don’t swerve. Look for folks calling out holes and turns and repeat them. And if you do need to get out of line for any reason, pull off to the open side, tap your bum or wiggle your elbow and folks will know what you are doing and close the gap and you can just drift to the back as everyone comes by, just make sure to catch onto the back if you are staying with the group. You’ll need to speed up as the back of the line gets close to make sure you have enough momentum to latch on. Watch out for turns as groups tend to slow down too much in turns and then hammer out of them which causes gaps. And if you can’t hold a wheel due to a moment of weakness, let someone around you know and they may help close the gap allowing you to save the energy and stay in the group.
Make sure you have enough food. I find it’s easier to drink calories than to eat on the bike, but a bit of both is nice for variety. Pure sugar along with some flavoring like gatorade powder is a great source of calories.

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Since it seems you have extremely limited experience riding with others I’d suggest you actually try to ride more or less alone. In my experience these types of rides have a lot of unpredictable riders in them. All of the advice from everyone above about safety, watching out for others, etc. will certainly help - but given your goals (completion) and level of experience (low) I wouldn’t suggest you ride with unfamiliar riders in this scenario.

Instead - do these rides on your own, or in extremely small groups. Go your own pace and have fun!

If you want to gain that type of experience I think you’re much better served trying to get the experience in smaller rides - with a local cycling club. Get to know some of these cyclists, ride with them regularly, and gain those skills in a more controlled and contained environment than one that is focused around your primary (or secondary) goal for the season.

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Thank you all so much for all the tips and help!! I really, really appreciate it!

Thanks @WombleKiller , @Pirate , and @russell.r.sage for the advice for if I should find myself in a bunch. I will especially try to remember not to panic and not to brake too much.

Thanks @JoeX and @trpnhntr for the idea that I may want to try to stay more or less on my own. I do tend to tense up when I get panicky, so being on my own for now is likely the best idea.

And hi!! :wave: and thanks @Lucac !! How fun to see that you and @Pbase are nearby! Yes, you did meet my husband on the VCC ride! He loves being a part of the groups around here. I would love to join a group (I think - although I am afraid of the drivers here), and that is one of the reasons that I finally signed up for TrainerRoad, so that I can get fit enough to keep up. I just need to find a group now that is slow enough for me. My husband says that the groups often ride a smidge faster than they say they will, which for me wouldn’t work. He can often keep up even if it’s a bit faster than he wanted to go, but I just want to find a place to learn to ride in a group and have a nice time without getting all stressed out about keeping up. Otherwise we’ve gone to Grantwood Park, which has a closed-to-traffic paved loop (2km), which I’ve practiced on. I’m going to try the 55 mile (80ish km?) route as practice for the Hotter than Hell in August - so if it goes well and I see what my outdoor speed is, I will likely try to join some group rides in the weeks between the two events.

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Are you anywhere near George Bush park? If so, you might be interested in Cool Cat Cycles. The owner, Katya, is very friendly and rides daily. She can probably help you find a good group to ride with or places near you that may have less traffic. She’s not a high pressure salesperson and stocks a lot of lower priced products. She mainly focuses on gravel and bike packing, but does ride road and is active in the community.

Another option is Handlebar Cyclery, on the Westpark Tollway outside 99. I haven’t been there in a while, but I know they do weekend group rides.

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This scenario encapsulates most of the basics of good group riding technique! People will swerve to avoid the hole but;

  • Pay attention so you can anticipate what’s about to happen (like always, not just when you hear “hole”)
  • move as little as necessary (“hold your line”)
  • be ready to give the person next to you some room (This group thing only works if everyone looks out for everyone else)
  • “Protect your front wheel” a/k/a never be in a position such that if you or someone else suddenly changes their line (like to miss a hole), your front wheel will touch or get touched by someone else’s wheel (instant crash if that happens)
  • Leave yourself a little space - its a group ride not the last 5k of a Tour stage

Advance extra credit group ride technique - learn how to bunny hop so you can just fly over the hole without swerving :wink:

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Possibly the best advice you can give a new group rider

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Well, it’s about 30 minutes south of us, but we did ride there once recently. I will go down and see Katya. I’ve started following her on Instagram and I think her rides are still too fast for me, but it would be good to talk to her. And I will check out Handlebar Cyclery - thanks!

This is actually a great idea! I watched a video on how to do it… I am hoping to get my husband to have a workshop one of these days soon. He said there were a few people in his last group ride with a Cypress group here who had trouble with the things I have trouble with, so maybe we can all get together and practice.

Thanks for this too. I will absolutely watch out for this.

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This allows the guy behind you to hit the pot hole at full speed :joy:

Good point!

I can jump little holes but I’m always on guard when riding behind one of those young dudes who can jump curbs . . . What’s a hazard for one person might be nothing for someone else.

Especially when riding with strangers, you do always need to be aware of the skills and abilities of those around you on a group ride. Even if you can bunny hop a small hole you still need to point it out. You don’t want to lead anyone into something they can’t handle.

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Hi Beth. Hope you had a great ride!

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