One mid-spring Saturday morning a friend and I met up as planned. He was looking for someone to ride with to show him some new routes, and I was looking for someone to introduce me to the culture of group riding. He was up for the teaching opportunity and I was looking forward to showing off the rolling hills of the Upstate. It was the perfect match.
We took off to the Clemson Experimental Forest Fant's Grove area. The ride was pretty solid beginning ride - a few hills, beautiful scenery, little traffic to compete with and beautiful weather. If you haven't had the opportunity to ride in the area, I'd highly recommend it.
The 20 mile journey was a great time to learn the basics of group riding. Here's a few of the things I learned.
- The lead rider is responsible for guiding the group, setting the pace and can ultimately set the tone for the ride. A good leader can make (or break) the ride.
- On some rides, the last rider hangs back at the end of the pack, making sure no one gets left behind.
- Pass on what's pointed out. Potholes, stormwater grates, debris and other things that should be avoided should be pointed out as you pass it by. Pointing it out allows other riders behind you to "see" it.
- Hand signals are the most effective way to communicate when the wind is whizzing by your ears at 20 mph.
- Ask the group if there are common key words or phrases that the group uses. For example, the phrase "car back" is used to let other riders know that a car is approaching.
- Things to bring. It's always handy to have a snack, water, cell phone and extra tube and/or pump with you. Like a boy scout, it's always good to be prepared.