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For most triathletes, riding the bike more frequently remains one of the best ways to become a better racer. During peak build phases and racing season, specificity is paramount, and riding in the aerobars at precise intensities should represent most of your ride time. But during the fall and winter, you can enjoy a bit more freedom when it comes to your choice of bicycle, terrain, effort level and the company you keep. Join some group rides over the next few months, and you’ll quickly make new friends while enjoying a surprisingly vigorous workout.
But if you’ve been flying solo for most of the season, it may surprise you how different it is to ride in a group. A head-on-a-swivel mentality is a must, as any changes to speed, terrain, or trajectory require immediate attention – swerving to miss a pothole, for example, is a move that affects not just you and your bike, but everyone around you.
Here are a few keys to having fun and staying safe when you hit the road in a pack:
In most U.S. cities, the laws require you to ride in the direction of traffic, as far to the right of the road as you’re able to do safely. In most cases, this should easily be to the right of the white line. While much of the fun of riding in a group is riding “two up,” or side by side, if all of you are not able to do so safely to the right of the white line, then either ride single file or select a better route that includes wider shoulders. Note that while it is sometimes technically legal to ride two up, even to the left of the white line, it is neither courteous nor safe to do so in most instances.
Stay Out Of The Aerobars
When riding with others, consider using a road bike if you own one. Your hands will be positioned much more effectively for both shifting and braking, and road bikes generally place you in a more balanced position for enhanced comfort and handling. If you do ride your tri bike in a group, avoid using the aerobars within 20 meters of any other rider. If you must get in a little “aero time,” then drop back several bike lengths in order to do so, but keep a good eye on the riders ahead for sudden turns, stops or road debris.
Move As A Bus
One of the very best ways for your group to ride safely is to move as one large bus as opposed to a dozen or more individual vehicles. This is especially useful when interacting with easily distracted drivers who may otherwise choose to slip in between riders in your group at the wrong time. Moving as one cohesive unit becomes even more critical when the time comes to make a left turn: Make sure there is no more than a bike’s length between you and the rider in front. Then when it is safe to do so, take up the entire turn lane (just as a bus would), making your intentions abundantly clear to the drivers both behind and approaching.
Break A Sweat
The ebb-and-flow dynamic of most group rides will usually provide plenty of opportunities to explore assorted training zones without the need to be a slave to your power meter or heart rate monitor. Plus, with the usual healthy level of competition on a group ride, you’ll likely end up with an even higher-quality workout compared to a solo ride.