Question: I’m a new rider, age 46, and have fallen in love with cycling. I’ve begun to do local weekend group rides. I’m improving fast. But I’m amazed at the amount of etiquette (for lack of a better term) in this sport. I used to play golf, and that game’s traditions are nothing compared to cycling.
I often draw other riders’ ire by doing things that I have no idea might be offensive — like standing to stretch in the paceline. What gives? How do I learn this stuff? — Walter M.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: There’s a good reason for the etiquette that surrounds group riding. In golf, you won’t get hurt if you violate protocol. Play tennis? You’re not in physical danger when breaking customs.
When you ride with others in a paceline, however, your fates are linked. Each person’s actions can mean a smooth ride for everyone — or a crash and serious injury for one or more riders. That’s why your riding companions are wary of your skills and a bit brusque at times.
Make no mistake — riding at 25 mph in a large group, shoulders nearly touching and wheels inches apart, is serious business.
Add cars and other road hazards to the equation, and teamwork becomes even more important. Done right, paceline riding is safe and a thrill like no other. The shared effort, the effects of drafting, the camaraderie — all combine in a magical way.
You can learn the rules by asking questions and riding observantly. Once your riding companions know you’re serious about learning, they’ll be helpful.
Good training books have this sort of information throughout. We call it “technique,” but it could be called “etiquette,” too. Check out the RBR eBookstore for helpful titles.