Post date: Feb 13, 2012 8:34:47 PM
A few basic skills are needed in order to successfully cycle with any group. You must be capable of cycling a straight line, controlling your speed, anticipating possible problems and watching the road ahead of you. At the same time, be alert for activity in your peripheral vision.
Hold your line -- If you have watched a professional cycling race, you know that every rider needs to "hold a line." This means that cyclists need to be capable of riding a line parallel with the edge of the road. Practice this skill by riding 12 to 24 inches to the left of the hard shoulder line while trying to keep parallel with that line.
The Slipstream – Group spins incorporate pace lines—or some version thereof—into their sessions. In its most basic form, a pace line occurs when one rider pulls a line of other riders behind them. Each person follows the rider in front of them by staying within a few inches to a few feet of their leader's rear wheel. This area of least wind resistance is known as a slipstream. Staying in the lead rider's slipstream is called drafting. Riders that are in the draft position save upwards of 30% of energy compared to the lead rider. If you've ever had a chance to draft, you know that riding 20 miles per hour is significantly easier when you're following rather than leading. The difference is even more pronounced in a head wind.
Control your speed -- The lead rider in a pace line can stay at the front for just a few seconds or for several minutes. When you join a group that is rotating the lead position and it is time for you to lead, resist pouring on the gas to show everyone how strong you are. A pace line is happiest when the pace is steady. Fast accelerations or jerky braking motions disrupt the line and can cause a crash.
Keep eyes and ears open -- The first person in the group can see clear road. Thus, they need to point out road hazards—as do the rest of the people in the line. Pointing out hazards and verbal communication skills are important. For this reason, do not use headphones in a group riding situation. When you are following someone, avoid getting a visual fixation on their rear wheel. Look several feet ahead, keeping the distance between your front wheel and the rider ahead of you in your peripheral vision. Watch for road hazards as well as motion to either side of the pace line. Listen for cars approaching from the rear & give the “CAR Back” call to warn the rest of the group.