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  1. #1
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    Question Afraid of drafting or group riding? Share with me why.

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    I am putting together a curriculum for a road biking skills clinic/series of classes. I am planning 4 classes, one to cover basic mechanics, 2 to work on specific bike handling skills and the last one to work on safe group riding and drafting. It's come to my attention that while a lot of ladies are super excited about learning bike handling skills and basic mechanics, many are very intimidated by learning to ride close to another rider in a group and drafting. I've gotten some feedback from several ladies about why this is but I'd love to hear more opinions from our TE members.

    Keep in mind that what I'm looking for here are your own limitations/fears. It's never safe to ride close to or draft off of an unpredictable rider. What I'm really looking for is why there is so much fear about learning these skills in a safe situation, as in when riding with a consistent and reliable riding companion.

    Thanks for you input.
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  2. #2
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    Well, I'm one of those people, despite the fact I am a group ride leader. So let's start with drafting. I am not a racer, and I am not fast enough to be in the kind of group where serious drafting is going on. The thought of it, just no way. One lapse of attention, and that's it. The only crashes I've had involved someone in front of me slowing/stopping without cueing me.
    As far as riding in groups, I am doing it less and less. And when I do, I try to stay up front, where there are riders with better skills. I tend to ride with 1-4 others, whose style I know well. And the two groups I ride with, I stick to riding around those I know. We've had big safety pushes in both of these groups, but on my last group ride a couple of weeks ago, I found myself yelling, "What part of car back/single file don't you understand?" I know that sounds horrible, but when I lead rides I tend to be a safety nut and I can't get out of that role when I see some of the egregious stuff I see on other rides. I guess since I cannot control the reactions of others, even in a safe and reliable situation, I would rather not put myself there. Risk mitigation is the name of the game for me.
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Crankin View Post
    "What part of car back/single file don't you understand?"
    Been there. Wanted so bad to say that. Thanks for saying it. But I digress...to Wahine's question...

    Trust. If I'm with a small number of riders that I trust to ride consistently and predictably, I can play the pace line game and enjoy it. However, if there is just one squirrely rider, I ride alone or always at the front.

    It took me a long time to get to the point where I would draft and draft within a wheel length, but mostly it was that I couldn't bring myself to draft on an unknown rider. Like Crankin said, it is about insufficient reward for the risk.
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  4. #4
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    For me it's trust. I don't trust my or their skills enough to draft.

    I do group riding regularly, but leave plenty of space. I generally turtle.
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  5. #5
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    I have no interest in pacelining. I'd rather look at the scenery than the wheel in front of me.

    I will ride in a line with people in my club, because I know and trust most of them. If I'm surrounded by strangers, I will typically prefer to drop back or speed up and drop them to ride alone. I've had a couple of close calls with people I don't know stopping suddenly or weaving/riding erratically.

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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Crankin View Post
    And the two groups I ride with, I stick to riding around those I know. We've had big safety pushes in both of these groups, but on my last group ride a couple of weeks ago, I found myself yelling, "What part of car back/single file don't you understand?" I know that sounds horrible, but when I lead rides I tend to be a safety nut and I can't get out of that role when I see some of the egregious stuff I see on other rides. I guess since I cannot control the reactions of others, even in a safe and reliable situation, I would rather not put myself there. Risk mitigation is the name of the game for me.
    That's not horrible at all. It's a big reason why I'm doing this clinic series in the first place. I am personally appalled by the behaviour of most riders around here and I'm hoping to encourage better habits and skills.

    So I hear y'all about not wanting to get taken out by another rider. Unfortunately the only thing that I can teach there is how to identify such a rider and avoid them. Which is what you should do. What I'm wondering is if there are skills that if you knew better, would lead to more confident group riding. For example, better confidence with controlled braking, where you should be in a group, how to move against another rider if they move into your space...
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  7. #7
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    I think an important skill is knowing how not to be a person who causes trouble for others -- riding predictably, calling out obstacles and speed changes (slowing, stopping), recognizing that others may not be comfortable if you pass them with only a few inches of clearance, things like that. And letting people know if they should not follow you closely, e.g., if you plan to stop frequently (such as to take photos) or encouraging them to pass you if you're not comfortable in a large group.

    As for skills, emergency stopping would be good. I've had to grab my brakes a couple of times to avoid crashing into someone who stopped unexpectedly in front of me and ended up fish-tailing both times.

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  8. #8
    Jolt is offline Dodging the potholes...
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    I have never done any paceline riding but have done some riding in more casual groups where we aren't in a tight bunch. For me, riding that close to the person in front of me would just create a lot of unnecessary stress because of having to constantly anticipate what they might do and having very little time to react--would rather have some space and not feel like I am constantly at risk of crashing. Plus, as someone else said, I'd rather look at the scenery than the wheel in front of me...a big part of the fun of riding for me is to explore different places as well as enjoy the fresh air and exercise, so having to focus on what somebody in front of me is doing at all times would be counterproductive. I can't think of anything right now to add to the list of suggested skills to focus on. I am taking a class this weekend (Cycling Savvy) that has a bike handling component so may have some more ideas after that.

    ETA: The other thing about drafting is that for me it would feel kind of like cheating...since I do a lot of my riding solo, I might as well get used to not relying on someone in front of me to block the wind!
    Last edited by Jolt; 07-07-2014 at 05:07 AM.
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  9. #9
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    Jun 2006
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    Most my riding is solo or with my dh who rides a recumbent. The only time I wish I had experience in a paceline is a very windy day on a bike tour. I look on with envy while groups pass me. Being in the central plains there is a lot of wind. I know riding in a paceline in adverse conditions with little experience isn't a good time to learn so I take a deep breath and keep on spinning.

  10. #10
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    I'm not worried when I ride with people I know. Other times, jeeze....

    I don't like it when people act like they are out for coffee with the excessive chatting when they should be keeping an eye on the pace line. If you are riding next to someone in a low traffic area, then talking is okay, but you still have to watch the road.
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  11. #11
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    Ditto, being predictable!!! Communication. Another thing I would point out, regardless of if you are riding in a group or by yourself and you are overcoming another biker USE YOUR WORDS, let them know you are behind and intending to pass. I will be riding along, minding my own business and enjoying the wind in my ears and suddenly a biker goes zooming by me in an all out sprint - not only do they not say on your left, most of the time they don't even say hello. The other day the guy who passed me was really lucky I didn't smack him, was a very pot hole type road where riding in a straight line is not an option and he was damn lucky I wasn't swerving - I had no idea he was coming up behind me.

    Quote Originally Posted by ny biker View Post
    I think an important skill is knowing how not to be a person who causes trouble for others -- riding predictably, calling out obstacles and speed changes (slowing, stopping), recognizing that others may not be comfortable if you pass them with only a few inches of clearance, things like that. And letting people know if they should not follow you closely, e.g., if you plan to stop frequently (such as to take photos) or encouraging them to pass you if you're not comfortable in a large group.

    As for skills, emergency stopping would be good. I've had to grab my brakes a couple of times to avoid crashing into someone who stopped unexpectedly in front of me and ended up fish-tailing both times.
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  12. #12
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    Sky King, I have that happen a bit on one of the roads right near my house. It's a long sort of flat road that is popular with cyclists and commuters. Most of the time I can feel someone coming up from behind, but I have been scared to death a few times. This road is also not in the best shape and while it's a country type road, it is full of cars.
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  13. #13
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    I was always scared at the idea of riding close to others and took measures to prevent that from happening in group rides. Not that it actually mattered, I am a slow rider and was always riding by myself at group rides after 10-15 minutes anyway.

    To be fair and honest, I am unsure if my problem was truly not trusting other riders, or my own ability/skill of dealing with emergency situations if something happened. I was far less concerned about dealing with rednecks on back country roads than I was riding around larger number of cyclists.

  14. #14
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    Sep 2007
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    I've been thinking about this - and kind of dredging my memory since I haven't been riding at all lately - and knowing that I used to be extremely comfortable in pacelines (absent squirrels of course) but came back a whole lot less confident after my faceplant -

    I think a lot of ANY type of vehicle handling comes down to visual skills. That soft focus and total awareness of what's in peripheral vision, "seeing with your whole eyes" as I call it, becomes exponentially more difficult when you're keeping a very close eye on a 21 mm wheel two cm in front of your own. It's soooooo easy to tunnel your vision down to the wheel in front of you. And (as I learned the hard way TWICE, sigh), tunnel vision is the precursor to target fixation.

    Then, seeing what's directly ahead of the paceline is at best difficult, and when you're riding with a lot of people bigger than you are as I typically did, impossible, so learning to read the road and the behavior of other vehicles when you can see them becomes extra important.

    I'm not sure how to teach visual skills, but I know it's important to mention them.
    Last edited by OakLeaf; 07-09-2014 at 05:32 AM.
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sky King View Post
    USE YOUR WORDS, let them know you are behind and intending to pass
    Happens to me all the time when I run on the MUP. (I only run there if I need someplace flat to do intervals, or if I know I won't get my act together to run if I come home after I drive into town for the farmers' market.) I'll holler "On yer RIGHT" as they go by.
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