Question: I have adequate pack riding skills. I even won our local criterium last year. But this year I rubbed tires and went down. How can I practice for the close quarters of pack riding? — Mike A.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Over the years, lots of riders have increased their pack riding skills by practicing the following three techniques.
You’ll need half a dozen large paper cups or traffic cones, a large grassy field, and several friends who want to learn these things with you. Wear your helmet and gloves for protection.
A few sessions spent working on your pack riding will help your reactions and confidence in races or group rides.
- Bump and lean. Ride side by side with a friend at slow speed. Start by touching elbows and shoulders. Get comfortable with this contact. Then get more aggressive and bump each other. Soon you’llbe able to lean heavily on your friend and recover. Make a game of it—try to knock the other guy off-balance by bumping or leaning. Keep the speed slow and make sure the grass is soft! One other rule: You must keep both hands on the handlebar.
- Touch tires. Ride behind your friend. Practice overlapping his rear wheel with your front and touching his tire with yours. You’ll quickly learn how to steer into his wheel (not away from it) to keep from going down.
- Do a grass crit. Set up a 6-corner criterium course with the cups or cones. Keep it short with about 75 feet between them. Challenge 3 or 4 friends to a race, using a gear restriction to keep the speed down. A good choice is 39×19. Ride the course like a regular crit, attacking and chasing. You’ll learn a lot about pack riding, bumping, and cornering with mild consequences if you fall.
Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred's full bio.