Feature: Group Ride or Free for All?

Paul Burgoine has some fun writing about the British group ride, a ‘steady interval’ session or not …

You know how it is. One-by-one, everyone turns up at the meeting point and it’s all quite civil but you know that’s going to change.  After leaving the designated meeting point, several people go flying off up the road while others are still standing around chatting, and have to do interval training efforts to get back on.

After a good few kilometres, the group eventually manages to ride two abreast as tight as you can to the kerb and drains. We are a complete hindrance to the majority of the impatient motorists and some pass us with inches to spare shouting profanities and tooting their horns as they pass.  Eventually we reach the so called countryside….  more like urban sprawl. It’s almost impossible to keep all motorist’s happy but we do try as hard as possible.

Horses have been an issue in the past, but as a group we seem to have that one covered, and have learned to live with the equestrian lot (this is a major achievement). We have more of a harmonious relationship with them, but more work is needed to convince your average motorists.

The pair on the front increase the tempo as we reach the traffic lights, and fail to look behind – leaving the rest of the group who have done the right thing and stopped and waited for the lights to change to green again before calling on their interval type efforts again.

As we eventually settle into some kind of rhythm, a small amount of people are left to do the majority of the pulling on the front, whilst others behind try every trick in the book to avoid doing any work whatsoever.

Avoidance tricks include: drifting to the back at traffic lights, junctions etc, calling for a nature break then joining the group at the back again (you know who you are). If all these fail, there is always the option of taking a cheeky shortcut. These people will also attack on a hill, then immediately drift to the rear again to rest for the final few kilometres to sprint for the best seat at the cafe.

When the pair on the front are completely worn out, either one or two of the riders pull off the front. This is bit of a hit and miss operation as those behind never know, if just the one of the riders will pull off or both will, until it happens.

When riding in a group, two abreast is an acceptable rule except when on a climb and the testosterone kicks in – and up to four abreast is a common site, and it’s every man or woman to themselves.

Individuals within a group are always concerned with the welfare of themselves and on the odd occasion, others. If you can be bothered, it is considered good form to call out – point out pot holes or obstacles. People further back lose interest in this discipline so beware – at the rear you could be down a hole before you know it.

If you are lucky and it’s not raining or we are not too close to the cafe, the group may wait for you to fix a puncture. If you are a respected member of the group or don’t like getting your hands dirty someone might help you (hold your wheel or bike etc). If you are having a bad day, we will wait for you once then that it you’re on your own…unless you hold the kitty money for the cafe or the only one who knows the way home.

Half wheeling is encouraged during the winter months but is banned in the summer.

God forbid you don’t have a long enough mud flap on your mudguard and someone gets a bit of mud on their top so they go home and get a good telling off by their mum, like you did when you played football in the park when you was SIX.

Group rides are not races….But you don’t want to lose so always be ready to go with the breaks as the tempo can go up unexpectedly at any time. Don’t forget to stay competitive while having your coffee and never never  relax …