Sometimes when racing you are in a field of riders, and you may know very few other people there – how do you tell a steady/safe rider from an unsafe rider? Many times I can tell first by their pedaling stroke. Are they a smooth pedaler with little upper body movement?
Smooth, fast pedaling is the key to riding a bike like a pro. You can always recognize
experienced riders. They steadily sit in the saddle, upper bodies nearly motionless, while their
legs spin beneath them. There is no wasted motion, just an elegant application of power.
Then as I watch the rider, I notice whether or not they swerve at all while they pedal. Not always, but often less experienced cyclists will swerve as they pedal, and have trouble maintaining a straight line. More experienced riders can maintain a straight line no matter what the riding conditions are.
A smooth rider will not make any sudden movements during the ride, unless it is a reaction to another rider. They will most likely move smoothly and steadily around the pack. You know what they are going to do by their actions. Direct and deliberate.
Use these tips when you are doing the next group ride with riders you know and see how the results compare to your experiences.
But remember, even the best riders may crash at some point.