never ride at the front

I have said it, and I see that others are posting articles or info about it. The problem is maybe too many people are taking it too far.

Do not ride on the front should not be confused with NEVER ride at the front.

Too many people seem to just sit-in – on ever ride, year around. Bah!
Too many people never do any work – whether they are afraid they will get dropped, feel they aren’t strong enough.

Sometimes you need to move, do something, stir things up. Sometimes that is for the group & sometimes that is just for yourself & your training.

It’s interesting how the group dynamic of a ride can change – week to week and sometimes during a single ride.
Not long ago, at the ‘Wednesday night World’s’ the group was being shy. There were only a few people rotating & it was often that if you rotated you would have to sit on the front for awhile before someone else would come around.

What happens next is that the stronger riders and/or opportunists attacks the group. Sometimes this is enough to stir things up, sometimes the ride will continue along in the same manner watching that person increase the gap until they are ‘out of sight, out of mind’. As this keeps happening all the stronger riders & some opportunists are ahead on the road and there isn’t enough people strong enough or willing to work to bring them back.

I watched this happen a couple times and tried to shake things up myself by rolling past the group on a downhill and along the uphill on the other side – what this caused was the group finally sped up and started getting more aggressive.

Remember, “Don’t ride on the front” is different from “Never ride on the Front” there are good reasons to rotate and pull-through, and there are good reasons not too. Sometimes the group is hammering along and you should conserve your energy for later. Sometimes you should rotate just to get others to rotate also, sometimes it is to keep the group going.

One of the best ‘team blocks’ I had ever witnessed was by Scotty Weiss – we were racing a 1Km pan flat crit in N.C. His team mate jumped the pack with another racer and they were rolling up the road – well most team mates would go to the front and soft pedal or not even pedal at all – but not these guys, Scotty went to the front and kept the field going at a steady pace. He knew if the group slowed down too much there would be attacks and his team mate would have less chance of winning the race. So, he kept the pace slow enough that his teammate was still going faster than the group, yet just fast enough that no one would attempt to attack the group! At that time I was a fresh Pro1,2 rider and at first I was bewildered that his own team mate was on the front doing the pace-making. It took me about 5 laps before I realized the plan.

Most everyone knows the basic tactics, but when you can mix things up that is when you are racing intelligently!

Why cyclists dont stop at stop signs

A situation that has been addressed around the Atlanta area is cyclists ‘blowing through’ stop signs. I think what the motorists don’t realize is that the front cyclists slow down and check traffic and that the group goes through the stop sign as a whole. Although it is not legal, it is to most motorists advantage to get this group of cyclists out of their way faster.

I was out on a metro-Atlanta road and came upon a construction area that was single file. Before moving into the next lane, I looked over my shoulder and saw that over 100 feet back there was a car approaching. So I went from a leisure training ride into putting in a solid effort to rush through this construction zone.

After getting through it the car behind would not pass, and now I noticed that there were 4 cars that had backed up behind this 1 motorists. So, again, I pedaled in earnest up to the stop sign, slowed nearly to a stop, checked both directions and made my right hand turn.

Then about 200 yards up this road, a pickup truck pulls up next to me and starts yelling ‘if you want to be taken seriously as traffic, then obey the stop signs’, and of course sped off before I could reply.

Here I was trying to stay out of the way, not get hit and help the flow of traffic, and I got yelled at anyway.

What I don’t think most motorists realize is that cyclists do not want a car following behind them just as much as most motorists don’t want to have to drive behind a cyclist.

Another thing that motorists don’t realize is that historically those stop signs are there to regulate speed, not right of way;
Now, since only elite cyclists average over 22 mph – whose speed are they trying to regulate?

Here is a great video that explains the reasons why most cyclists do not stop at stop signs.

I agree with what the video says, cyclists are ‘usually’ more cautious around other motorists because we realize how distracted motorists are these days. Also, in an accident between an automobile & a bicycle, a cyclist realizes he has the most to loose.

What I would add that cyclists yielding to stop signs allows for better flow of traffic for everyone on the roads.

Something that I try to keep in mind is that motorists hate anyone else using the roadways, especially if it slows them down.

Safe Travels!

Are cycling helmets effective

I have an internal debate about helmets. I don’t particularly care for them, maybe it IS the coolness factor, maybe it is about feeling more like a kid. I do like the idea of protection for what I have as a cranium…. is it a false hope?

96 degrees, climbing at about 7mph, sans helmet

I’ve done many easy rides with out a helmet. I’ve done some Long Slow Distance group rides with out a helmet. If I’m slowly climbing a mountain on a hot day, I may take off my helmet. If it was just me by myself out on the road, I would probably do just what I did for many miles as a kid – not wear a helmet. But the truth is I often wear a helmet because of the unknown actions of others around me. Whether that is squirrels, kids, cars, joggers, or other cyclists.

I ALWAYS wear a helmet when doing a fast paced group ride. However, I have recently seen someone forget a helmet before and they just sat at the back of the group. Not having a helmet on the ride make me more cautious around other riders. If I had my helmet I would have ridden in the pack, therefore riding more aggressively amongst other cyclists.

Here is an oddity: In South Carolina you can ride a motorcycle with out a helmet; but you will get a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt.

I’ve crashed a couple times & ‘saving Face’ took priority. Would not wearing a helmet during a low speed crash prevent an head injury any more than the person’s natural instinct of preservation to not hit head first?

I will still be wearing my helmet the same as I have done before. But an interesting point of the article was that motorists act differently around cyclists that are not wearing a helmet – why?! But is that a false sense of security? Think about that and read this article.

Are bicycle helmets the cyclist’s talisman?
Aug 11th, 2010 by elliott.

The Mom mentality of protecting you from the world. Are helmets the same?
Should you wear a bike helmet every time you ride or not? The helmet debates have been ranging in the cycling community for years and seem to be as entrenched and as bitter as the Israelis and the Arabs. One side says helmets save lives and make us safer. The other says the science behind the safety of helmets is dubious and point to mandatory helmet laws as a cause for reducing the number of people cycling, either by creating the idea that cycling is dangerous or simply creating an equipment barrier to entry. Personally, I usually wear a helmet but have to conceded that in the countries with majority culture acceptance of bicycles as transportation helmets are a rarity yet there is no epidemic of brain injury.

Recently, Tom Vanderbilt, the author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), recently hosted a guest post on his blog from British researcher Ian Walker. Walker made waves a few years ago with a research study that looked at interaction of cars and cyclists on the roads of England (as European countries go, a much more car dominated country like the U.S.) His findings were shocking in that he found cars tended to give less room to and behave less carefully around cyclists wearing helmets. In his guest post, he expands on this by looking at probabilities when thinking about what really makes you safest on the road and in life. After questioning the ability of a helmet to save your life in a crash involving 2 tons of steel at high speed, he makes the simple point that your chances of dying from a bicycle accident are infinitesimally small compared to the more than 50-50 chance you will die from heart disease and cancer. Yet the focus of our fear is on the unlikely here and now instead of the very likely off in the future.

Walker muses on the idea that from the cyclists point of view avoiding an accident is far more important that what you are wearing. This is a far different way of looking at safety than with the automobile where you have lots of material designed to protect you. In a car, crashes at 20-30 mph are not that uncommon and most people survive these with little in the form of personal injury. Yet that same crash with a bicycle can be fatal. Walker suggests that when you wear a helmet, it gives you a sense of safety that means you take more risks. Add to that the research he did about how motorists react to you, and you could be looking at a greater chance of being involved in a crash simply by strapping that lid on.

The focus on bicycle safety in this country has been on wrapping the rider in protective garb for the inevitable crash (a policy that sells an awful lot of widgets by the way.) Go down the aisle of children’s bike equipment, and you’ll see gloves, knee pads, and elbow pads sold with most helmets. As a species, these physical totems give us comfort when confronting the fear in front of us. In the most American of sentiments, “If I just have the stuff, I’ll be OK.” It’s psychologically easier to hand over our fear to an object than confront it and make a rational choice.

As one local bike advocate likes to say, “Stop assigning magical qualities to styrofoam.” While our current helmet-focused safety policy makes us feel good and helps the balance sheets of some companies, it is doing little to actually put more people on bikes and get them where they need to go safely. Good infrastructure, not the latest helmet, is what we need. Bike paths and bike priority streets will do far more to reduce injury and death. When you elevate the bicycle to an equal footing in importance on the road to the automobile that will change the way motorists view the bicycle. Plus more people will use bicycles to get from A to B increasing the likelihood that that driver is also a cyclists. All of these things reduce the likelihood of crash.

As Walker says, avoiding the crash is the most important part of avoiding injury and death. Kind of a simple concept. Think we can get it?

Here is the direct link to the article on helmet usage

Is Rubbing Racing?

There has been some debate recently about whether or not ‘rubbing is racing’ in the cycling world. Although it may seem that rubbing is not (or should not) be involved in cycling and racing, the fact of the matter is that it is involved, and the reasons may not be what you would think…..it’s for safety!

on the right you can see 2 guys bump in this sprint finish of a cat4 race

Ever watch a big stage race on TV, and see the overhead shots of riders along the narrow streets. They seemed like they are packed onto the road in a sardine container. They are so close to each other that 1 potential slip would cause a pretty serious crash, which often happens when you get about 180 cyclists on the road. Tension is high. Riders are moving around the pack, domestics are dropping back to get bottles, jostling for position before a climb, riders have to grab feed bags as they go through the feed zone, there is a rotation of riders at the front of the peleton that are doing the most work, teams have to gather and organize for sprint lead-outs.

All of this moving around with in the pack, this pack that is in constant motion, not only externally, but also internally is another reason that rubbing is racing. In both racing and many group rides, riders often bump into each other, but I would bet that crashes per bump ratio is pretty low. In fact, I would be willing to bet that riders bumping into each other causing crashes is much more rare than when riders over-lap wheels!

photo by Jon Woodruff - www.TwoToneAtl.com

As you become a Stronger Cyclist and ride more group rides and especially if you race, you will at some point either be bumped or bump someone else. Riders may bump for several different reasons. The difference is A) how hard someone is bumped. If a rider is crashing, there isn’t much you can do. If a rider slowly shifts left or right then you may get bumped. B) the intention and C) the way it is handled.

The Intention: Often times, riders will simply shift slightly left or right and if you happen to be on that side of a rider, then you may bump into each other. Usually the little bump is neither planned nor intentional. The riders merely touch, separate and that is the end of it.

Sometimes this is a safety measure to let the person ahead of you know that you are on that side of them.

Sometimes in racing someone will bump into you attempting to move you over and/or take your position. Although this is more intentional, it is a legal move as long as their hands stay on their handlebars. In fact, this is a very common practice in a Velodrome race called the Keirin. (And much easier to take pictures of!)

photo by Carleton Hall - http://www.flickr.com/photos/carleton_hall/

If you ride in a group, you will more than likely get bumped. So here are some guide lines of how to handle it.

Guide Lines of getting Bumped:
A) Try not to freak out.
B) Do NOT slam on your brakes!
C) Attempt to hold a straight line

photo by Carleton Hall - http://www.flickr.com/photos/carleton_hall/

If you want to practice bumping, it is best to talk it out with a friend ahead of time, so you both know it is going to happen. Start by cycling in the grass, as you get close, try to barely touch elbows. Your goal is not to hit them or move them, but to just make contact.
Next time try to reach out with your elbow and attempt to touch the other person’s hip.

If you are not used to be bumped while cycling, there is a good chance that it will freak you out the first time. But if you handle the situation well, it really will become 2nd nature after a while. After a while you may find that like I did, I would bump my friends that I know how to handle the situation and I knew don’t mind, so much that eventually I would bump them and with out them seeing me, they would say ‘Hi Stephen’.