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.
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.