The Chainlink

Turn Good Group Rides Into Great Ones

By Shawn Conley

The “rules” of group riding etiquette is only part of the picture.  If you would like to really be a good part of a group, you will need to know more.  Good group riding behaviors, before, during, and after the ride, was covered very well in the previous article Group Rides 101.  Whether you are new to riding with a group, or a seasoned veteran, I’d recommend going back over that article periodically just for a refresher. 


That being said, I think that experience is our best teacher.  So, I encourage you to go out and try as many group rides as you can.  There are a number of good ones out there this year.  And, The Chainlink has done a great job of organizing some of them so that we can have a resource to find them.  The group rides in the area covers every day in the week, and you will find many rides of varying lengths and locations.  As riding goes, I love variety, so this is right up my alley. 


My experience taught me a lesson that I’d like to share with my fellow Chainlinkers.  So, here goes:


I used to ride with a cycling club named Smokin’ Spokes exclusively when I began riding back in 2010.  That group was great at teaching you good habits which will help you last for long bike rides.  This group was a great one for me to start because it helped me to learn to navigate the streets and bike trails safely.  I still employ many of their customs despite not having the opportunity to ride with them very often anymore.  In 2011, a friend of mine invited me to a ride with the Elmhurst Bike Club.  I attended the ride and had a terrific time.  But, the Elmhurst Club has some different customs than Smokin’ Spokes.  For example, Smokin’ Spokes is a small, intimate club of friends.  So, when one person drinks from his water bottle, they all do.  When riding with EBC, each cyclist drank at his/her own leisure.  Then, I took to the internet and found many other groups that had interesting rides.  I then rode with GoodSpeed Cycles.  Many of the people on that ride were racers with the South Chicago Wheelmen.  On this ride, I learned that there are different interpretations of what “no drop” means.  Smokin’ Spokes has everyone ride with the slowest rider at all times.  GoodSpeed Cycles will have someone wait for you at the turns or ride with you, but not the entire group.  Then I began to realize that I wasn’t taught some universal group riding laws.  I was taught how Smokin’ Spokes rides.  Not that it’s a bad thing, but I now know to expect different customs when I ride with different groups. 


Having said that, I think that there is value in riding with many different groups, and formulating your own, informed opinion about how group rides should go.  And, if and when you are called upon to lead or sweep a ride, you will do a great job.  Also, you will have a greater appreciation for when a group ride is done very well.


I know that there are many good group rides out there, but I just wanted to point out a few that I have done in the past. 

  • The Major Taylor Skill Development Ride is a good one on Monday and Wednesday mornings.  Chuck Webb does a great job leading this ride and keeping it together.  Austin Pope also helps with this ride.  His wealth of knowledge and experience is evident on this ride. 
  • The Rapha Open Ride is a fantastic ride! Troy Brown was a terrific ride leader and showed me a few new roads to get to Highland Park.  Thanks, Troy! 
  • The Road to Hegewisch is a fantastic ride by the Chicago Cycling Club.  George Vrechek does a great job showing you the sites in Hegewisch. 
  • One of my favorite group rides is with XXX Racing.  Their Saturday morning ride is a great way to wake up your legs.  Triple X is very particular about how you ride with them.  I highly recommend that you read about the ride before attempting it at their site.  Also, if you have not done a group ride before, this is probably not the best one to start.  This one is more for experienced cyclists. 

The Chainlink also has two weekly training rides on Tuesdays and Saturdays that leave from Turin. Check the calendar on The Chainlink for the next rides.


Hopefully, we will all have a great year enjoying some fantastic group rides.  If we all get a better understanding of what constitutes a good group ride, then we can turn those good group rides into great ones.  Please consider trying one that I’ve suggested.  And, if you have a favorite group ride, feel free to post it in the comment section below.  I love new rides.


Shawn Conley is a Chicago native who loves road cycling.  He has a passion for helping others discover their cycling legs, which he typically does through the Major Taylor Cycling Club of Chicago (MTC3).  Shawn was chairman of MTC3, and also is a member of the Chicago Cycling Club (CCC) and the Friends of the Major Taylor Trail.  When he is not on 2 wheels, he coaches track and field, and is a real estate investor.  He is a Chainlink Ambassador who has an affinity for pizza and ice cream.  Follow him on Twitter: @ShawnGeauTigers and on Instagram:  antonlove1.


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Comment by Shawn A Conley on May 21, 2017 at 8:26am

Thanks for the comment, Geoffrey.  And, I'm glad you've mentioned the Johnny Sprockets ride.  I've heard good things about it so I will be sure to make my way to one of their rides.  If you, or anyone else, has any other great rides that they do, please post here.  I love doing new rides with new people.

Comment by Yasmeen on May 19, 2017 at 9:41am

Johnny Sprockets is a great ride. Thanks for mentioning it! It's included on the Chicago Area Group Rides:

Comment by Geoffrey Harding on May 19, 2017 at 7:33am

Great article Shawn! The first group ride that I ever went on was the Johnny Sprockets ride on Sundays. Great group of people and Manuel does an excellent job keeping everyone safe. They have three intermediate sprints so if you want to practice being in a lead out train or sprinting for the win you can. If you don't, no big deal, the group will wait for everyone at the next light. Ride usually leaves at 8am from the Lakeview shop but check the Johnny Sprocket Facebook first.

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