We focused mainly on safety riding in a peloton. We will cover pace-line, drafting and race tactics in Team Training Rides, which are open to anyone interested.
Here is a topics summary we covered in the April 10 Clinic:
- Following a wheel
- Contact with other riders
- Communication in the peloton
- Hold your line
- Touching wheels
- Position in the peloton
- Vocal communication
Not covered in detail in this clinic, and not directly related to safety, but useful skills to read about and work on.
- Drafting in the wind
Following a wheel: To obtain a draft (wind break) you should ride no more than three feet behind the rider in front of you; six inches is more common and much more effective. Following that close can take some getting used too.
Contact with other riders: In a peloton, incidental contact will occur. If it does, don’t panic. The main thing to remember is that you should always attempt to hold your line. If a rider leans into you, lean back!
Pointing out hazards: In a peloton, sometimes, all you will be able to see is another rider’s back. Therefore, if you are at the front of the pack you should point out hazards such as potholes, road kill, a rock, some gravel, etc… Point down to the ground on the side on which the hazard is, and if you need to, gradually steer to avoid it. If a rider in front of you points, do the same and follow his wheel closely. Presumably, he or she is avoiding the hazard so by following him or her closely you should avoid it also.
Communication in the peloton: It is ok, and even encouraged to communicate with other riders in the peloton, especially to let them know of a possibly dangerous situation coming up. For example, if you are coming up to a corner and you are on the inside, but slightly behind another rider, you should let that rider know that you are there; so that he or she will leave you room to make it around the corner. You can say: “I’m on your right (left)!” Even if there are no corners coming up, if a rider did not see you and starts to squeeze you to the side, threatening to push you off the road, let them know your there. Sometimes you can do this by simply putting your hand on their hip to let them know that you’re there. Communication does not have to be vocal.
Hold your line: While in the peloton, do your best to always hold your line. If one rider moves left or right, a domino effect occurs and the last rider in the peloton will be run off the road. If the peloton is not riding smoothly, be ready to slow down, with hands on your breaks. In a peloton, “steer and avoid” is not a good idea. If riders in front of you slow down, you should hit the breaks and slow down also. The riders behind you will have to do the same. If the peloton is obviously slowing down you may hear riders say: “slowing.” Know what that means.
Touching wheels: Of course, no one wants to rub wheels, but it can happen. If it does, and you have your hands on the breaks you can slow down to “unlock” wheels and regain your balance. If you can’t break, be patient, eventually you will pull back and be able to unlock wheels.
How to avoid touching wheels: Coming up on a hill, it is likely that riders will stand up. As they do, their body moves forward, and their bike moves backward (relative to you). If you are following very close they can back up into you. They will be fine, but you won’t. If you are coming up on a hill, give the rider in front you a bit of room.
Position in the peloton: The safest position is directly behind another rider. The worst position is to be “half wheeling” another rider (but can be acceptable in the wind, see below). This means being on the side and slightly back. In this position, the rider cannot see you and could make a “lane change” directly across your front wheel, taking you down.
- “Slowing!” (The peloton is slowing down)
- “Car back!” (A car is coming up behind, more common in training rides)
- “Car up!” (A car is coming from the opposite direction, mostly used in a race situation, especially as the peloton is coming around a corner)
- “Up up up!” (Only in races, if a rider is attacking, to let other riders know to respond to the attack. Don’t say anything if your teammate is attacking!)
- “Left (right) turn!” (To let people in the peloton know of an upcoming turn)
- Pointing (hazards such as potholes or road kill)
- “Wave” behind your back (to let riders behind know that you are passing a slower rider, a parked car, or another large obstacle on the side of the road)
- Pointing to a gap in the pace-line ( to “ask” to be allowed to slide into the line)
- Elbow high, hand down, palm facing back (slowing down)
- Hand on your hip (hold your line, a rider’s telling you that you’re cutting him/her off)
Other issues (Not covered in detail in this clinic, and not directly related to safety, but useful skills to work on)
Drafting in the wind: The wind resistance you are subjected to is the sum of:
1) The actual wind
2) The wind you effectively fight because you are moving through the air.
For example, if you are moving north and wind is coming from the west, the wind you feel is coming from the northwest. You should try to ride just south east of the rider in front of you. With time, you will be able to feel the “sweet spot” where there wind resistance is minimal. The faster you go, the more important this becomes. Beware of “half-wheeling” in a side wind as you are putting yourself in vulnerable position (see “Position in the peloton” above).
Pace-lines: In a break or while chasing a break, organizing a good pace-line among riders is critical. It is mostly an issue of efficiency (not so much of safety). Nonetheless, a rider who does not understand how to ride in a pace-line can be a “liability”. This could easily be the topic of another clinic, or two or three.
Tactics: If riding solo, you tactical choices are limited. Try not to get dropped, get in a break if you can, save some “juice” for the end of the race. When riding as part of a team, there are several tactical options to get you or one of your teammates at the finish line first. The best ways to learn are to race, or to participate in the race training rides. Observe and learn. After the race, discuss what happened with your teammates, and how to improve your tactics.
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