Tempers Flare as the Noon Ride Heats Up

Click on image to view interactive map of the Noon Ride in Palo Alto, CA

The Noon Ride got a little chippy today as tempers flared. Essentially, the issues centered around basic Group Ride etiquette. Without going into too much detail about today’s ride in particular, there are some basic, unwritten yet clearly understood rules that apply to all Group Rides. That being said, we’re all competitive beings and sometimes the adrenaline gets going and riders take unnecessary risks. Hopefully not too many, too often as unnecessary risks put not only the offending rider in harms way but the rest of the group as well.

Riding bikes in fast moving groups has certain inherent risks but when individuals take unnecessary risks on a regular basis, this is where the group must step up and point out the offense. Here’s a short list of basic etiquette based on what I saw on the Noon Ride today. These rules should really go without saying but I’m still amazed when they’re not understood or flat out ignored.

Here’s an additional thought after the original post: I want to clarify that these points of etiquette have not been invented by the author. Actually, all of the posts on this blog having to do with Group Ride etiquette are simply collective wisdom that’s understood by most cyclists who frequent Group Rides of all sorts. In other words, my comments here are based not only on my personal thoughts and experience but also on what I heard expressed from other riders during the Noon Ride. If you disagree with any of the points of etiquette below (or any listed in previous posts), I would actually love to hear about it. This blog is open to all kinds of questions and comments are encouraged (see comment box below).  I would ask that comments keep a generally positive tone. My purpose for writing this post is not to bash, judge, or call out anyone in particular but simply to re-emphasize that it’s up to the Group to keep things in line and safe.  Furthermore, I’m also not claiming to be perfect! At one time or another in my riding life, I’ve violated different rules and etiquette. My hunch is that we all have at one time or another. When possible I try to own up to any of my offenses and apologize when necessary. When the air is clear, we can all get back to the business of having a great, safe ride.

  1. Riders should never blow through stop signs. That being said, it would be hypocritical to say that we never run stop signs. There are a few stop signs on this ride in particular that we roll through (the front riders calling out “all clear” or “car” whichever the case may be) and everyone knows which ones they are. For example, there’s one at a dead end right turn deep in the back roads with little traffic (I’ve never actually seen a car there). The stop signs I’m talking about are at busy intersections where the Group is clearly slowing and stopping for other traffic on the road.
  2. If sitting 20 wheels back when the group slows for a stop sign, it’s considered poor etiquette to fly up alongside the group and blow past the front riders in order to gain an advantage as the group accelerates slowly out of the stop .
  3. If a rider is in a paceline and finds themselves on the front, that rider must do work like everyone else.  If a rider is in a break, everyone must work. If a rider isn’t strong enough to work in a paceline or in a break like everyone else up there, then that rider should sit in the bunch rather than upset the tempo on the front.
  4. If a rider wants to hang around on the front but isn’t strong enough to do an equal share of the work, there’s a simple solution: Ride more and get stronger.
  5. If a rider is on or near the front, it’s the duty of that rider (and others up there) to point out branches, soda cans, traffic cones, baby strollers, etc for the rest of the group. It’s not optional. It’s the responsibility of the leaders of the ride. The best Group Rides have trustworthy leaders.
  6. If the majority of the group has to slow for a car or other obstruction, it’s poor etiquette to attack. If the group splits because of an obstruction, it’s good etiquette to wait for everyone to safely pass before dropping the hammer again. The last riders to pass through the obstruction should give an “all here” call.
  7. Don’t get tactical. There aren’t any trophies, podium girls, or photogs waiting for us at the end. “I’ve got a teammate in the break” is not an excuse for not doing work. Which brings me to my final point…
  8. I’ve written HERE about what a Group Ride is and HERE about what a Group Ride isn’t. Bottom line, it’s not a race. It should be hard, competitive, and challenging but it’s not a race.

When these things happen, my personal feeling is that it’s up to the group to hold one another accountable to safety and basic etiquette. I’ve written previously HERE and in other posts about the character of Group Rides. The character of any Group Ride is defined over a long period of time by a well-known psychological concept called Group Think. This can be a either a really good or really annoying truth. No single rider defines the character of the ride, but rather it’s the collective consciousness of the group itself. And it’s this collective consciousness that needs to define and enforce safe parameters for a fun, challenging, competitive and safe ride.

The Noon Ride is a great ride with great group of riders – and it’s generally safe and very challenging. A few guys stepped up today and pointed out to offending riders where unnecessary risks where being taken and poor etiquette was being displayed. It usually comes down to the veterans and leaders of the ride to speak up. We’re all out there to have fun and get some good training after all.

Be respectful. Ride safe. Ride hard. Everyone wins.

Ride on…

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