Etiquette – or babbling from a curmudgeon

Wrote this for ECV in 2010

As the riding season gets into high gear, I’m reminded of how great group riding can be. After miles & miles of winter solo rides or time on the trainer, hammering with your friends is a blast and makes you faster. If the ride has experienced riders with good bike handling skills, you learn a lot as well.

As this sport has grown though, the disappointing part of group rides rears its head: those who come to rides without knowledge of or care for ride etiquette.

Back in the day when I started riding, many of my group rides were with CCB. They’ve been around forever (really, those guys are old as dirt – but still fast). Riding with these guys was an education every ride. Most group rides have an agenda or at least unspoken rules: here’s how long we warm up, here’s where we start a pace line, here’s a no-holds-barred sprint. In the CCB rides, I can recall many a time getting yelled at for pushing the pace at the wrong time or messing up a pace line by attacking at the wrong place – and justifiably so. When there’s 25 other guys in the ride why should my agenda trump theirs?

The past year or so I hear more and more of riders showing up at SpanKom or other ECV rides and letting their agenda trump that of the group. At SpanKom, the format is pretty easy: there are sections of the course where you go hard. Some are flattish sections (sprints) other are hills (KOM, hence SpanKOM). The etiquette which is usually discussed at the start of the ride is that the pace between sprints and KOMs is easy, or certainly not more then a tempo pace line.

Last year I heard of instances of guys grilling it between sprints. I haven’t been on a SpanKom yet this year so I can’t comment.

If you join a ride and unilaterally decide that the warm up is going to be a 27mph drop-fest I have some news for you:

You’re not impressing anyone and you’re certainly not making any friends.

I encourage everyone who’s newer in the sport to check out as many group rides as you can. Learn the sport. Back in the day when Tim Johnson and even further back Tyler Hamilton used to train in New England during the winter, I was lucky to be able to ride with these guys. I can remember many a time when a hand would grab my jersey on a climb and I’d hear the guy who just months ago did the Tour de France tell me “hey go easy on the climbs – keep it around 14mph”.

For the newer guys, if the current ride isn’t living up to expectations, maybe find another ride that fits the bill. One other thing, don’t be afraid to learn a thing or two. There are a lot of experienced riders in the North Shore.

For the ride leaders and more experienced riders: don’t be afraid to speak up when the new guy is treating the warm up like the Tour de France Prologue.

-paul B

 Thanks to Patrick Cochran for the photo

photo: Patrick Cochran