In this issue:
1. Bunch Riding Isn’t Easy. 8 Tips To Making It Easier.
2. Today’s quick tip
Whilst riding in a bunch is a lot of fun, it can have its drawbacks. Compared to riding on your own you need to concentrate a lot more and be very aware of what is going on around you in the bunch.
One simple mistake, like looking behind you and deviating from your line, can lead to a fall, which can affect one, or many, riders.
Often you will find that the bunch is travelling faster than you would normally cycle on your own. That’s okay, when you’re riding in a group you’re getting the benefit of a tow from the other members of the group because you are able to ride in their slipstream.
Even with the benefit of a tow when bunch riding, where the bunch is travelling faster than you would like it can be extremely hard work.
Here’s 8 tips to make you ride better in the bunch and to enjoy your bunch ride more.
Tip number 1. Ride nearer the front.
Where you’re riding in a large group there can be very distinct differences between riding near the front and riding near the back.
Often you will find, particularly in large groups of less experienced riders, that the further you ride towards the rear of the group the more “surgy” it becomes.
In other words the rider in front of you seems to suddenly accelerate, you need to accelerate to hold your distance, and then suddenly it slows up. That’s surging.
That’s because a small increase in speed by a rider near the front will become exaggerated towards the back. Surging wears you out faster than cycling at a constant speed.
For that reason, once you’ve mastered the basics of bunch riding and are comfortable in the group, you’re better to concentrate on staying nearer the front than the back.
Personally I like about third or fourth wheel. In other words about the 3rd or 4th row back. There’s a number of reasons for this other than reducing the surging.
There is a lower risk of falling nearer the front. If someone falls in front of you in the group chances are you may go down with them. At the back everyone is in front of you, so your chances of falling are higher.
Near the front very few are in front of you, so the chances of falling are lower.
Not only that but the draft can be smoother near the front than the back, where the group are mixing up the draft more.
There’s another reason for staying nearer the front, particularly in large groups. When you’re new to road riding chances are you’ll find the hardest part of the ride is the climbs. Until you’ve built up your strength climbing is difficult.
If you’re at the rear of the bunch then you begin the climb at the back. You only need to drop your speed a little and you’ve been dropped, and you’re off the back. The chances you get back on are slim.
However if you commence climbing the hill at, say, third wheel, you have some distance to slip back before you reach the back of the group. In other words you can pedal slightly slower up the hill and still stay in the group, where you stay.
Tip number 2. Make sure you eat and drink.
Equally important, and something often forgotten by newer riders, is to make sure you stay sufficiently hydrated, and on a longer ride make sure you eat. It’s very important to take small drinks throughout the ride, and to take along something to eat, such as a banana, or 2 for longer rides. Take a gel as well.
One of the best ways to get dropped is to run out of energy because you’ve had nothing to eat.
Tip number 3. Put in your biggest effort on the hills.
One of the most important things to remember is where you’re most likely to be dropped. It is unlikely to be on a downhill, it’s much more likely to be on an uphill.
So be prepared, where necessary, to put in a supreme effort on the climb to stay with the bunch, and then rest on the downhill.
If you’re riding with a group that doesn’t wait for the slower riders then this simple tip will keep you in the bunch. Putting your biggest effort in on the climbs to keep you in the bunch is very important.
Tip number 4. Don’t let that gap build up.
When the bunch is riding a little harder than you’d like it is very easy to let that gap between the wheel in front of you and your own wheel gradually build up. One moment you’re relatively close, the next moment you’re a few feet back, then 10 feet back. You’re dropped.
The worst time to let the gap open is when you’re at your most tired. The more tired you are the closer you need to stay to the wheel in front of you. Even though it takes a lot of effort to get back onto that wheel it takes much less effort than riding home on your own.
Tip number 5. Learn to draft where it is easiest
New riders assume that sitting behind the wheel in front of you is the best place to draft. That’s not always the case.
Drafting effectively means sitting in the position where you have to expend the lowest effort to keep up. Where there is no wind that means right behind the wheel in front.
However where there is wind, which is coming from the side, the best draft is not immediately behind the wheel in front, it’s more to the side of the wheel in front, on the side furthest from the wind.
When you have a side wind move your position around the little and “feel” for the sweet spot. When you get used to it you will suddenly find the right spot where it seems to take less effort to keep up. Practice looking for the best spot in cross winds.
Tip number 6. Don’t go to the front
Everyone feels they should do a turn at the front, however if you know you’re going to struggle then there is no reason why you should take a turn. That will only hasten the moment when you are dropped.
Put your pride in your pocket, and if you happen to get to the front because the riders in front of you have peeled off peel off yourself. Don’t kill yourself for the sake of your pride and ride home alone.
Tip number 7. Be prepared to work hard
Road cycling in the bunch can be hard work. Don’t expect it to be a breeze. You’re out there to get fit, you’re out there to lose weight, both of them might hurt a bit. It doesn’t matter. Remember, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Tip number 8. For when you are dropped
The day will come when you’re dropped, it’s happened to me often. When you reach the stage where you know you can’t hang on any more don’t just start falling back. Move to the side so that the rider behind you can see that you are falling behind and the rest of the group can safely move up with you out of the way to the side.
Even better signal to them to pass you as you move over.
Bunch riding isn’t easy, but it’s a heap of fun. However learning some simple techniques like these should make your bunch riding a little more fun, and a little easier.
Enjoy your next ride.
Today’s quick tip:
If you haven’t tried eating and drinking on the bike before, give it a try while riding on your own before you try it in the bunch. Some people are scared to reach down for the bottle or into their pocket for something to eat, but it’s just confidence. Practice on your own first to build your confidence.