Group rides are really good fun, enjoy them! Some tips:
Make sure everyone knows that you're new. They'll take the time to show you the signals and give you a run-down on the rules of the group. Every group has a slightly different way of doing things. Around here we normally go double paceline if the road is clear and we're cruising, or single paceline if we're booking it.
If the groups are sorted by pace, go into the slowest group for your first couple of rides. It's stressful riding in a group initially, it's even more so when you're at the limit. Once your comfortable, then move up.
When you're in the group, be nice and smooth. Don't overlap wheels with the guy in front (half wheel). If he moves suddenly, you're down. Learn how to ride in a straight line, especially when shoulder checking. Don't use aerobars. Eat and drink at the back of the group, that way if you fumble your bottle you don't take down people behind you.
Keep a consistent gap between your wheel and the wheel of the guy in front. Don't let a gap open and then sprint to close it - this leads to a yo-yo effect down your line and really annoys everyone. You also get a reputation as a squirrely rider, you don't want that.
When you're at the front, keep the speed consistent. As you come to the front, don't accelerate - hold your speed and you should overtake the rider who's just pulled off as he should be decelerating. If you're tired then rotate off quickly (i.e. take shorter pulls). If you're feeling good, take longer ones, do not go faster.
When you pull off, decelerate slightly or soft pedal. Decelerating gives you a rest and allows the rest of the group to pass you - the only acceleration you need is to catch the wheel of the last rider coming through. Make sure you look behind you to check that the last rider is actually last - over the weekend someone fed back into the rotation that I wasn't counting on and I nearly merged right into him...
In a double paceline you don't need to do this, just follow the rotation. In our part of the world, the tail rider in a double paceline stays towards the centre of the road and calls cars and turns.
But all that said, the only way to learn is to do. Get out there, listen to the more experienced riders and enjoy yourself!
In God we trust, all others bring data.
- W. Edwards Demings
If God invented marathons to keep people from doing anything more stupid, the triathlon must have taken Him completely by surprise.
Specificity, specificity, specificity.
The plural of "anecdote" is not "data".
- Frank Kotsonis
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