Today we have a guest blogger of a sort, as Linda found an excellent article by South Carolina lawyer and avid cyclist Peter Wilborn. The scenarios he describes rang so true to us we thought it would be great to post here and Peter was kind enough to grant us permission:
“Every so often, I’ll ride a recreational group ride. I love the comraderie of cyclists, the talk, the last minute pumps of air, the clicking in, and the easy drifting out as a peloton. “I miss riding in a group,” I’ll think to myself…….”
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“Lost art of the group ride”
To his great credit, Peter does not just chronicle the often disturbing trends in cycling these days, he recalls some of the “lost” fundamentals that, if observed, would solve many of the problems he has noted.
The timing of this article coming to our attention could not have been better. After our ride Sunday we met up with long time CCB member Stan McLean. Stan was very active in our club as a rider, CCB Team racer and dedicated Freewheel Editor before moving away several years ago. He reported that the clubs in his new area ride so poorly that he would never bother joining one. Then last Tuesday night was the first weeknight CCB ride of the season. At the best of times these rides are little more aggressive and less disciplined than weekend outings. The early ones are often the most nervous. To make things worse last night I found myself with a group that just came together on the road, no pre ride agreement in the parking lot on what we were doing nor where we were going. Many other things were working against us from the start. There was a wide range in experience, 2 to 25+ seasons with the club, riders relatively new to groups mixed with very experienced racers. There was also a wide variation in mileage this season. Herb Nebbs was well into a season that started down South, Peter Brennan had been to a training camp week with his team in South Carolina but some of us were below par even for an average stay at home year. Finally, though many of us had ridden together at some point before, some had not and we had certainly never ridden in this particular combination before.
So what happened? A great ride happened. We certainly rode hard, there were many times when some of us were at the limit. But we stayed safe, everyone rode smart and we never broke up for an instant through almost 50km. It was absolutely amazing. Alan Hunt probably could have ripped the group apart at any point, but he never did. He rode at the right pace for the group rather than his limit every time he pulled. Everyone did their bit when pulling, and hung in when behind.
Afterwards I was thinking that this kind of experience has been my dream for the club for 25 years: To be able to get a random group of riders at a given level together in an improvised group and have a fantastic ride because everyone knows what to do and does it. It was particularly fitting that Herb was in the group last night because he was in my group for my first Beaconsfield ride about 25 years ago. That ride was a shambles. So was every single other “fast group” ride for the first half of the year. Then things started to change.
For the last 25 years what has defined this club are the effort it has made so that all members have a chance at having safe and enjoyable group rides. It is through the efforts of Herb, Peter, Alan and Luc who were with me last night and and dozens, if not hundreds of others by now. They have volunteered their time to come out to clinics and teach new members. Every year they regularly give up their regular groups to guide others as group leaders. And what are they teaching these new members? Exactly the fundamentals Peter mentions in his article. At the core of this club is recreational group riding. What guides us are Old School riding values. Not because we are attached to the past but because these rules are dictated by the laws of physics when bikes ride in a group. There is no better way to do things. And there is no other way to learn them than in a club setting. These skills are not taught in our schools and simply studying them on your own is useless. Through 25 years of organized programs and individual efforts many experienced riders have not just used the club as something that organizes their activities for their amusement, they have given back. Sure we are far from perfect and too many of our rides still end up much too close to what Peter writes about above. But last night makes me think we are getting somewhere.
The last word goes to The Boss and friends with some great advice for group riding:
(We miss you Big Man)