ZAP’S COLUMN: THE GROUP RIDE IS BACK!
It’s back. Back in my life. And, I couldn’t be happier. After having made the switch from one year-long calendar to another, after riding mostly alone, losing fitness, avoiding crowds and then thankfully getting vaccinated, I finally made my return to the weekly Montrose ride. It hurt, but, oh, how enjoyable that hurt was! It had been over a year since the nearly 50 miles of bar-to-bar jostling and conversation had last been part of my weekly routine.
Best of all, it didn’t take long before I knew I was right back where I belonged. All the different bikes and outfits were a treat to see, as well as all the talk, which included everything from getting reacquainted with each other, talking about family, work, new bikes and then, predictably, silly (cliché) chatter that came only about 10 miles in: “Dude, I’m not burning all my matches too soon.” On a 50-mile ride?!
“As the speed picked up, I was reminded of Greg LeMond’s famous, and entirely accurate, quote: “It never gets easier, it just gets faster!”
And then the stellar moment when some guy named Jerry came flying past us all on his city bike with flat pedals—what the?! I rode up alongside him to ask his story. “My road bike is in the shop. There was something wrong with the shifting, so all I could find was this bike,” he said, as I complimented him on shaming so many of the all-too-serious, nose-to-the-stem types left in his wake!
WHAT GREG SAID
The high-speed chute on Royal Oaks Drive is where the serious jockeying for position preceding the notorious Winston Street climb begins. Despite a trio of stop signs, the group manages a top speed of over 30 mph and—take it from someone who crashed there once—this is where it gets dodgy. It was during last week’s charge down Royal Oaks that I was reminded of Greg LeMond’s famous quote: “It never gets easier, it just gets faster!”
MY GROUP-RIDE TIPS
• When riding in close quarters, few things are more important than paying heed to your front wheel at all times.
• Courage is important. Try to not get nervous or over-react when things get mixed up and other riders’ handlebars start nudging you.
• If you find yourself taking a pull at the front, don’t just stop pedaling when you get tired. Give a signal and pull over to let the group ride through.
• Remember, if you need to spit or blow your nose, pull to the side as best as you can and either blow or spit under your arm.
• Hey, it’s been a while since you rode in a fast group ride where even the slightest tech miscue can wreak havoc on others. Make sure your bike is in good condition and clean. Is it shifting precisely? Are the brake pads still good? Are your cleats in good condition?
• Don’t go for a water bottle when a sprint is picking up. When you do hydrate, be sure to grip the bottle firmly and that your bottle cage also offers a firm grip to avoid falling out.
• If you find yourself mid-pack and see that the leaders have rolled either a yellow (or stupidly a red) light, do not—I repeat, do not—hit the brakes. The group is really no different than a semi-truck laden with trailers, and as we all know, once a semi enters an intersection on a yellow, it keeps rolling all the way through.
• On the last two rides some old dude on a sweet Cannondale R4000si went hard with an out-of-the-saddle sprint, which resulted in his bike swinging wildly side to side. Yo, manage your antics!
• Although it was stupid of the UCI to ban the “super-tuck” out of a misguided sense of safety, please save your best Peter Sagan aero tuck for when you’re not in a group of tightly bunched riders who know as little about your handling skills as you do theirs.
• Given the sense of camaraderie that should define every group ride, do your best to look out for others. When I saw a guy whose Clif Shots were about ready to fall out of his jersey pocket, I slowly rode beside him and tucked them back in. Pointing out holes and trash is good to do.
• Be cautious but not squeamish. This is especially true if there is water to ride over. Ride steady and don’t hit the brakes!
• Don’t let safety be the victim of courtesy. On our last ride we came upon some stragglers from the 7:30 group, and as our group started passing them, the slower riders began swerving to get out of the way without any signaling, which almost caused a massive crash. Remember to signal!
• One of the best parts of any group ride is the ability to pedal along and have some good conversations with friends. However, there is a time and place for it, and when the group winds up for a sprint, it’s time to stop talking.
• Most important of all, group rides are where we all belong. Have fun, be courteous, safe and don’t forget