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Century peloton etiquette

Old 04-07-19, 08:32 PM
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NoWhammies
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Century peloton etiquette

I have ridden in many different century rides over the years. Many times I've arrived at the events solo and usually I've found a peloton to tuck in with. I'm careful to who I hook up with, keeping an eye out for sketchy riders and whatnot.

When my turn comes up to take a pull, I do my pull and then back off. There of course some people who just suck a wheel and never take a pull.

That said, I'm curious what the consensus is (if any) when it comes to joining up with a peloton at a century ride? All of the century rides I've done are for fun. They aren't races/timed events. That of course doesn't mean I don't like to ride with a fast group.

Thank you.
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Old 04-07-19, 08:44 PM
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When I was riding these kinds of events (STP, Ramrod, Apple Valley Century) back 30 years ago I always found it was a matter of course that you'd be doing some paceline riding with folks you didn't know and everyone was fine with it. Don't know if things have changed. The danger is all for the person in the back, so coming on behind someone shouldn't be threatening for someone in front. Rotating out of the front one has to be clear about their intentions, holding a steady pace, not slowing until in the drop lane. But hey, this is all part of the fun of group rides.
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Old 04-07-19, 11:58 PM
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These kind of rides, as well as many other sportives/gran fondos/charity rides/etc, typically attract all sorts of individuals with all levels of experience -- from newbies to experienced riders to wheel suckers just looking for a train to latch onto. So I don't think you can put down any sort of rule or expected behavior, other than expect the unexpected. There'll be groups that are well-oiled group-riding pelotons which you want to be in, a bunch of riders who don't exactly know what they're doing which you want to stay clear of, as well as those who will just suck your wheel until you're tired and then they drop you to go find another wheel to suck on.

So only thing you can do, use your eyes and your judgement, and look out for... uh... not sure what the usual term is but our local term is "sotong", the malay word for squid (for whatever reason), describing the newbies or inexperienced riders who don't always hold their line and may veer left and right, a common cause of crashes.
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Old 04-08-19, 07:15 AM
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I appreciate when I have the opportunity to draft someone of compatible speed and I am happy to provide that service to another person at another time, but race etiquette does not really apply.

In brevets and other long distance rides I will sometimes be drafting another person for a fairly long time if the course is flat or downhill. At other times different people will be drafting me. If it was a race and you were on a team then it would make sense to rotate turns at the front on a schedule, to maximize performance. But brevets and most other centuries aren't races and it's all up to individuals what they want to do.

BTW, I have always hated the term "wheel sucker". It makes it sounds like one person was leaching off the other person, as if one person's gain was the other person's loss, which is not what it is at all according to the laws of physics. In a team of even just two people riding closely behind each other, *both* will expend less energy to hold the speed they're going at than they would individually. The more people, the more energy will be saved. Of course the person(s) at the back gain more than the person in the front, but all gain compared to riding under "no drafting" rules such as in triathlon. It's not a zero-sum game but a win-win.
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Old 04-08-19, 07:26 AM
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I won't get within three bike lengths of the back wheel of a rider I don't know. If I set out to do the ride, I set out knowing I can absolutely do it on my own. Any draft I encounter on the way is a bonus and nothing more.

I've had strangers draft off of me before, sometimes for miles. I don't care. I'm big and I knock a lot of air out of the way. They're not slowing me down, they're assuming all the risk, and I'd personally rather not have them in front of me.
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Old 04-08-19, 07:43 AM
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That said, I'm curious what the consensus is (if any) when it comes to joining up with a peloton at a century ride?
Unfortunately, most of the time there is no consensus - at least not among the entire peloton. And trying to discover what other cyclist's goals are - - while riding with a "fast group" is usually a luckless quest.

A better strategy is to arrive at events early enough to seek out cyclists and discuss whether anyone else want to ride as a group. Since the length of a Century ride demands some level of experience and fitness it is generally best to look for riders that are equal to your abilities.

Having a single compatible ride partner (or two if you are lucky) can be far more beneficial and satisfying to riding a Century than mingling into and out of groups of riders with unknown goals and abilities.

But hey - whatever makes your tires squeal...... no rules just right......
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Old 04-08-19, 07:51 AM
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Hold your line, don't accelerate when you pull through. Don't let gaps open. That's pretty much all the etiquette that you need.
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Old 04-08-19, 10:17 AM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
Hold your line, don't accelerate when you pull through. Don't let gaps open. That's pretty much all the etiquette that you need.
You forgot don't ever jam on the brakes.

I don't ride organized centuries, but I expect they're pretty much the same as every other spontaneous group formation. If I find myself in a spontaneous group, I always pull alongside the line and have a chat with a few of the guys to introduce myself, let them know I'm there and make sure they are ok with me joining the group for a while. Usually they are, occasionally they're not. If the group etiquette isn't obvious to me, I ask. Chances are in those cases, nobody knows what the etiquette is because it was a spontaneous group. Sometimes just asking the question can get the group a little more organized which is nice. I'll ride with anyone. I don't care if they have experience riding in groups or not. Nobody is born with experience, and the only way to get it is to ride in a group. Communication in a spontaneous group really helps a lot. If you're new to riding in groups, let the other riders know and ask for pointers and feedback on how you're doing. Don't feel like you have to take a turn at the front, just stay in the back. The guys at the front of a spontaneous group won't care that someone who isn't as strong or doesn't have as much experience stays at the back. Better than having an exhausted or inexperienced rider at the front.
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Old 04-08-19, 11:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Richard Cranium View Post
A better strategy is to arrive at events early enough to seek out cyclists and discuss whether anyone else want to ride as a group. Since the length of a Century ride demands some level of experience and fitness it is generally best to look for riders that are equal to your abilities.
This is a good plan. One I think I will put in to place the next century ride that I do. I've never done this before, but is a good idea.

Originally Posted by kingston View Post
You forgot don't ever jam on the brakes.

I don't ride organized centuries, but I expect they're pretty much the same as every other spontaneous group formation. If I find myself in a spontaneous group, I always pull alongside the line and have a chat with a few of the guys to introduce myself, let them know I'm there and make sure they are ok with me joining the group for a while. <snip>
Another great idea. I do this sometimes. I need to do it more often. As you've indicated, I'll ride up along the group, chat with them for a bit, and then join the ride. It's good to let them know I'm there and to make sure they are ok with it.

Originally Posted by randallr View Post
When I was riding these kinds of events (STP, Ramrod, Apple Valley Century) back 30 years ago I always found it was a matter of course that you'd be doing some paceline riding with folks you didn't know and everyone was fine with it. Don't know if things have changed. The danger is all for the person in the back, so coming on behind someone shouldn't be threatening for someone in front. Rotating out of the front one has to be clear about their intentions, holding a steady pace, not slowing until in the drop lane. But hey, this is all part of the fun of group rides.
Those are all awesome rides, and I've done them myself. I'd say nothing has changed. The way you describe the events and how pace lines setup is pretty much the same. And you're right. It is all fun of the group ride. I've ridden in some great pace lines and some not so great ones. The latter of those lines I usually leave as they are not safe.
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Old 04-08-19, 11:47 AM
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Originally Posted by kingston View Post
You forgot don't ever jam on the brakes.

I don't ride organized centuries, but I expect they're pretty much the same as every other spontaneous group formation. If I find myself in a spontaneous group, I always pull alongside the line and have a chat with a few of the guys to introduce myself, let them know I'm there and make sure they are ok with me joining the group for a while. Usually they are, occasionally they're not. If the group etiquette isn't obvious to me, I ask. Chances are in those cases, nobody knows what the etiquette is because it was a spontaneous group. Sometimes just asking the question can get the group a little more organized which is nice. I'll ride with anyone. I don't care if they have experience riding in groups or not. Nobody is born with experience, and the only way to get it is to ride in a group. Communication in a spontaneous group really helps a lot. If you're new to riding in groups, let the other riders know and ask for pointers and feedback on how you're doing. Don't feel like you have to take a turn at the front, just stay in the back. The guys at the front of a spontaneous group won't care that someone who isn't as strong or doesn't have as much experience stays at the back. Better than having an exhausted or inexperienced rider at the front.
This. It's not a race so no one should care whether they've got passengers. And this happens at every group ride I've ever been in. They'll be a group of strong riders rotating at the front and a group sitting in. As long as the rotation isn't disrupted, no one cares.
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Old 04-08-19, 02:35 PM
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When I rode PBP, someone started riding on my wheel when I was making my way through a batch of zombie riders (this will make you feel fast, even if you are going 15mph). I just dropped him on the next little hill. I was grumpy that whole ride. After the first day, I didn't want to ride with anyone. I think I had more wheel barnicles because I had better lights than about 75% of the riders there. I expect that ratio will have gone down this time.

Originally Posted by kingston View Post
You forgot don't ever jam on the brakes.
I thought this was self-evident, but I know people don't start riding as teenagers nowadays and nobody tries to educate them on paceline riding. Something that isn't as self-evident is how to stand up in a paceline. It takes a little effort to stand up smoothly, and nobody does it unless they have someone following them. The way most people stand up, the bike gets thrown back, and that may be enough to hit the front tire of the rider behind.

Last edited by unterhausen; 04-08-19 at 02:49 PM.
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Old 04-08-19, 03:17 PM
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What's been said above. I'd just add that if riding in such a pick-up peloton, if the group is approaching a red light where the leader signals to slow or stop, don't be splitting right and left to run the light, passing around riders who are stopping. Dangerous on a lot of levels.
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Old 04-08-19, 08:10 PM
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Oh right... hand signals. Completely slipped my mind about that. As long as there's someone behind me I will always use hand signals, especially to indicate hazards, also for slowing and stopping at red lights and intersections, and also for turns in case people weren't paying attention to their cue sheet. In a good group it is expected for hand signals made at the front to be propagated to the people at the back.

Of course, can't expect that from people you randomly come across... expect the unexpected, after all. Sometimes even after a bit of communication people may forget, maybe because they're not used to it when they normally ride, and this can be dangerous with road hazards like potholes where the reaction to point it out may be spontaneous. So always a good idea to hang back a bit with a new group and see how they work together.
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Old 04-09-19, 10:57 AM
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Originally Posted by kingston View Post
You forgot don't ever jam on the brakes.
I'm going to +1 this because I got taken down from a rider not paying attention and grabbing enough brake to skid his real wheel on a uphill while we were single-file on Sunday. My front wheel got dinged into his derailleur and down we went. Near as I can tell he was stem staring and panicked, stupid. Also a nice reminder to me not to follow recreational riders I've never ridden with before at friend/racer distance.
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Old 04-09-19, 11:25 AM
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For me:

1. Please do not use a frame pump that just kind of velcros to the clip or carelessly clips in. It needs to be really secure or in a bib pocket.

2. If you don't routinely (like every week) ride in a paceline of some kind, wait till you're off the back from your turn to drink/eat.

3. No tri/tt bikes in a peloton while in the aero bars.

4. If you're on front for a downhill, suffer it down then pull off just before the bottom so the next person has the energy to keep it smooth at the start going uphill. Don't force the folks behind you to squeeeeel their brakes. I won't ride with a group that has the leader soft pedal downhill.

5. If you're going uphill, don't surge over the top creating a bungee cord effect of folks having to hurt to latch on over the top.

6. Cough/spit into your own kit or use the opportunity of pulling off the front to the left to do so to the left. Or off the back.

7. The next "wannabe pro" I see lob a bidon at a road sign or onto the roadside at a fondo or sportive I'm going to get your bib # and make sure the organizing group bans you from their fondo series.

8. Don't surge.
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Old 04-09-19, 12:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Spoonrobot View Post
I'm going to +1 this because I got taken down from a rider not paying attention and grabbing enough brake to skid his real wheel on a uphill while we were single-file on Sunday. My front wheel got dinged into his derailleur and down we went. Near as I can tell he was stem staring and panicked, stupid. Also a nice reminder to me not to follow recreational riders I've never ridden with before at friend/racer distance.
I mentioned it because it happened to me a few years ago with a guy I have ridden thousands of miles with and knows better. We were on a brevet at night, he overshot a turn, forgot there were riders behind him, and hit the brakes. Some dinged up bikes in the pile-up, but thankfully nobody got hurt.

@burnthesheep, probably best for you not to join a spontaneous group on a recreational ride. You'll be really disappointed.
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Old 04-09-19, 06:03 PM
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So I do have a serious question about downhills.

I'm a decent climber but I do not bomb downhill. This is a challenge for me as I will pass people on up hills but then have people pass me on the downhill. I'm ok with this.

My question is, what's the safest way to deal with this? I am aware of other riders behind me - pace line or just plain riders - how can I have a controlled decent that's safe, without worrying about screwing up the riders behind me?
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Old 04-09-19, 06:58 PM
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Originally Posted by NoWhammies View Post
So I do have a serious question about downhills.

I'm a decent climber but I do not bomb downhill. This is a challenge for me as I will pass people on up hills but then have people pass me on the downhill. I'm ok with this.

My question is, what's the safest way to deal with this? I am aware of other riders behind me - pace line or just plain riders - how can I have a controlled decent that's safe, without worrying about screwing up the riders behind me?
Seeing a rider in my mirror approaching from behind while going down Hogpen, Wolfpen or other descents during Six Gap I would stay right, hold my line and if possible wave them on to pass left.
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Old 04-10-19, 04:49 AM
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As the guy who frequently bombs downhill, I refrain from passing during corners and only pass on the outer side on the straights, therefore I'd appreciate if the people I'm passing hold their line and don't ride too far out that I'd have to cut into the opposite lane to pass them. And as @OldTryGuy advises, I'll appreciate the wave to pass as well.
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Old 04-10-19, 10:16 AM
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I join spontaneous groups whenever it looks like it'll work out for me. Usually one that passes me with about a 2 mph differential. That's about right. I get on the back and see what happens. I always say "Wheel!" when I join on. If it's a long line, usually the front has a few friends who are rotating and the rest of us leave a gap for the one who's rotating back. If that's not the case and folks are rotating all the way back, I'll see them as they come back and then take my turn if the group holds together that long. If the terrain is at all rolly or hilly, these groups usually fragment and reform with different folks many times. It's different than the usual club or friendly group ride where people have a social obligation to hold together and will put themselves out in order to do so.

I've never found success in trying to form a pickup group before and event. Never works. Even trying to ride an event with friends is usually a mistake unless you've ridden together on similar terrain and are well matched. OTOH I've had good luck with seemingly ill-matched friends when we had an upwind leader, a downwind leader, a climbing leader and a descent leader, all specialists and totally worth hanging with.

If the ride's not too hilly, I like to find myself a young guy the size of a refrigerator who's moving right along and do whatever I have to do to stay with him.
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