What to expect when joining group training rides

The perks of training as a group

Whatever your triathlon goals are it’s always nice to be part of a group to grind out the miles and kilometres with. So what can you expect when joining a cycling group in your local area?

Will Clarke

Written by Will Clarke

Will is a British triathlete. He's a former U23 World and European Champion, competed at Beijing 2008 and has twice been British national champion.  He now competes on the World Ironman 70:3 circuit.

Triathlon is a big enough sport now that you can be pretty sure that there is going to be a decent triathlon club or cycling club in the local area. Each of these clubs will run decent group rides, certainly at the weekend, but also most probably during the week. Get in touch with them to find out when, where and how far they ride and what level the groups are. It’s more likely that they’ll be expecting you and therefore be more welcoming when you meet up with them for the first time.

Usually the club rides will run anything from 60km to 120km-plus, and each group ride will have riders of different abilities. Find out which group you’d best fit into as it’s no use turning up to a group of elite riders when you’re a beginner –  they probably won’t be particularly welcoming and you’ll very easily get dropped!

Etiquette is really important for cyclists: it’s for your own and others safety but also for the comfort of all the riders plus a bit of snobbery. Just as a heads up, if you ignore most of these golden rules then you probably won’t be the most popular rider in the group! Although triathlon groups are often more accommodating and patient, it’s best to try and stay on their good side by following these rules:

  1. Don’t half wheel – This means you should ride with your front wheel level to the person next to you. Any group ride you do people will ride in pairs so stick wheel to wheel with the rider next to you and try to spark up a good conversation.
  2. Turn up with well maintained equipment – If you have really bad equipment then there is a much higher chance of you having a mechanical, most likely puncturing and therefore holding the whole group up. In my eyes more than one puncture and you should make your own way home.
  3. Be self sufficient – Goes without saying really, take your own money for coffee stops and bring enough spares for you to be able to change your own puncture.
  4. Fit mudguards – I don’t bother with these because I usually ride in pairs and wouldn’t really want to ride in a group in the rain, but if you turn up to your average wet group ride and you don’t have mudguards then people won’t be happy sitting on your wheel getting covered in spray and whatever else flies up off the road.
  5. Stay off your aero bars – Either take them off completely, or especially if you’re riding on the wheels – don’t use them at all, it’s dangerous as you’re too far from your breaks and less stable.
  6. Share the work on the front – You should both take your turn on the front in the wind but at the same time don’t hog it. Ride next to your buddy and don’t hit the front for more than 15 minutes before giving the next row a turn and rolling to the back. Most people want to do some work on the front. Also worth pointing out that when it’s cold you should ride a bit harder otherwise everyone behind you will be freezing!
  7. Point out all holes – Not much more annoying then hitting a pot hole and fixing a puncture in the cold because the person in front didn’t point it out!
  8. Don’t burden a group that is too fast for you – Make sure you ride in a group that matches your ability. If you join a group that is too fast for you then they’ll be burdened into looking after you and you may ruin their ride.

I hope you find these tips useful and you enjoy your group rides. You’ll soon start to see the benefits of all the hard work you are going to be putting in on two wheels.

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