Whether this is your first event, or one of many, it is always helpful to review your ride strategy. Create a plan for how you want to complete the ride. No matter how many times you have ridden the same event, every year will be different, with unique challenges.
Unless you have planned to ride with friends, the riders around you won’t help you – unless you help yourself.
So how do you do that?
Unlike your commute to work, most riders in a fondo are happy to have you pull them. They will remain glued to your back wheel until you get tired and start to lose speed. Once you begin to show signs of blowing up, they will just as happily leave you behind, looking for someone new to follow.
Your first instinct is to get angry at this mooch who stole your energy. But they aren’t bad people. They are just riding smart. So instead of getting angry – ride smarter.
7 Tips to Riding a Smarter Fondo
#1. If you are riding in an organized paceline (which does happen when riding with experienced riders), take your turn at the front. But don’t pull any harder than the average pace/power and stay in front for only a few minutes. Stop pulling before you get tired, not after.
#2. When you pull out of the line, pull FAR away from the other riders, so they don’t follow you. Most riders will pretend they didn’t see your signal or don’t understand, which may be true. Either way, get away from them and quickly move further back into the line where you are protected again.
#3. If you are afraid that the faster riders will pull away while you are stuck at the back, then signal after about 5, 6, or 20 riders (depending on how big the pack is) and move back into the line, closer to the front. But remember this means you will be pulling again soon. The more often you pull, the more exhausted you will become.
#4. At some moments, you may be riding three or four people abreast, with riders in front and behind you. The group will move more like a school of fish and not an organized line. If you aren’t paying attention, you may quickly find yourself at the front and doing more work than you would like. Try to avoid this by paying attention to the speed and where people are moving. If you stay glued to the wheel in front of you, you should stay protected, i.e., always behind someone else.
#5. As the event progresses, the group will break apart as people drop off and faster riders sprint away. If you are hoping to stay with the faster riders of your group, try to assess who these riders are and keep in close contact with them. Stay close without doing all the work for them. Be ready to make a move when they do.
#6. Fatigue accumulates over time. Even if you feel strong at the start, eventually, the effort will build up, and fatigue will set in. Even if you are a faster rider than your group, pulling too much, too hard, or too often will ultimately fatigue you faster than the riders you are pulling. If you are doing all the work, they will continue to ride fresh. As you near the finish line, they will have more energy than you. They will thank you for the pull and leave you to finish in their dust without any of the glory you deserve.
#7. It should feel easier drafting, so don’t get fooled into thinking you can ride faster than the pack. Unless you started in the wrong group or had a flat, it is best to stay with a group than to venture out on your own, at least until the last 10km or so.
Riding in a pace line is the best way to save energy, and when mastered can make cycling more fun! But, to keep a group safe, everyone must know what their responsibility is, and commit to working together.
The following are 10 tips that will help you on your next group ride.
When leading or pulling, maintain the average speed of the group to keep everyone together. You WILL need to look over your shoulder often, especially on hills, to make sure you haven’t dropped anyone. If you drop a few riders on the climb, wait for them at the top.
Point out obstacles that may be harmful such as rocks, gravel, cars, glass, etc. Pass this information down the line.
If you are getting too close to the person in front of you and need to slow down, try to do so by moving to the right or left of the tire in front of you and sit up taller on your bike to slow yourself down. If this doesn’t work, try to LIGHTLY squeeze both the brakes so your decrease in speed is not sudden or extreme. Do not jam on the brakes as this will cause a domino effect down the line and be disastrous to those in the back of the pack – ie: they will crash.
Remember that the person behind you can only react to what you do so you must ride predictably and avoid any sudden movements or changes in direction. ALL riders must ride in a straight line!
If you are within 1/2 a bike length from each other, ride through intersections and roundabouts as one “vehicle”.
Everyone MUST pull when it is their time or you will confuse the order. If you are tired, you can take a shorter pull – even if it is only 10seconds. If you are a strong rider and can hold the pace easily, you may take a longer pull such as 1 -10 minutes, depending on how long your ride is, and what the group decides is fair.
Do NOT drink, eat, adjust your bike or do anything EXTRA when you are pulling. You have the entire group trusting your judgment and cycling skills so you need to be alert and consistent. If you need to eat, drink or adjust something, pull out and move to the back.
Communicate within the group, letting the lead rider know when they have dropped a rider or when the pace is too fast.
No matter which position you are in the group, pay attention to the road and what is happening in front, behind, and beside you. Do not blindly follow the leader.
When you have finished your pull, move to the left away from the rider behind you, then slow down to allow the group to ride past you. You want to quickly get back in the draft and out of traffic which is not only safer but will also help preserve your energy. NOTE: If you find yourself out in traffic with a car coming behind you, indicate to the rider beside you that you would like to move back in. This rider can slow down and once an opening is made, you can move back into the middle of the line.. You now have a new order – which is fine.
Before you can think about climbing faster, you need to make sure that you have first built your aerobic foundation. As the saying goes, “you can’t run before you learn to walk”. To read more about building an aerobic base please go back to the newsletter titled, Building an Aerobic Base.
So once you have set your aerobic base, how do you get faster on hills?
1. Ride lots. Ride lots of hills.
2. When climbing think of form: efficient pedal strokes and relaxed upper body.
3. Learn to pace yourself for the entire length of the climb. Learning what your pace should be will come after riding lots of hills 🙂
4. Give the appropriate amount of effort for the type of hill /ride/workout you are doing that day. Example: In a Spanish Banks workout of 5 hill repeats, you will likely be putting out maximum effort on each – that’s the goal of the workout. But for a long training ride, where Spanish Banks is just one of many on the ride, slow down your pace and take it easy or ride at a pace you can handle, as you still have a long ways to go.
In this newsletter, I’m going to focus on point number 4, which relates to effort.
During training it is important to give the appropriate amount of effort, appropriate for the workout.
In the Kits Energy workouts, your coach will tell you how much effort you should be exerting. If you want to get faster, and get the most benefit from the workout, it is important to follow the instructions. To improve, you need to work beyond your comfort zones into new territory, which should feel uncomfortable. Through proper and adequate (24-48hrs) rest and recovery, your body will adapt to the stress and grow stronger. It is through this process, repeated over and over, that you will gain increased strength and endurance.
BUT….. here is the caveat.
But, if you try adding intensity without a solid base, other rides to support your intensity ride, or you try to progress too quickly, you run the risk of breaking down the body, instead of building it up.
You may get away with it for a month of two but eventually, if you try to increase intensity without a solid base and other rides to support it, it will catch up with you. Your speed and strength will become stagnant and/or you may notice that you are actually slowing down!
When this happens, the tendency is to do more training, with exacerbates the problem.
You may also notice several nagging symptoms that don’t seem to go away. These symptoms are usually a combination of: loss of strength/endurance, chronic fatigue, chronic muscle pain, insomnia, depression, irritation, weight gain, and frequent illness such as colds and flus. If are feeling any of these symptoms, back off on your training for a few weeks until they subside.
When you return to training, build up slowly and create that base again. Always listen to what your body is telling you. If it is too much – back off again. Use the weekly workouts as endurance training instead of a interval training. I know it’s hard on the ego – but your body will thank you in the long run.
Remember, cycling is a lifestyle choice and one that you want to do for as long as your body will let you. Think long term.
Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Here are some common “what if” scenarios that you should be prepared for in a cycling event.
You get a flat tire or a mechanical issue Getting a flat tire is unfortunate but should not completely ruin your event. Carry all the necessary tools, including a tube that fits your tire (even if you ride tubeless). If you know how to change the tube on your own, get to work. If you don’t know how to change a tire, you will need to wait for a good samaritan to stop (which is less likely in an event) or wait for the event/first aid car. Keep your head up and watch for the event vehicle, as they may not see you. Expect to wait for at least 20 minutes. If you are close to an aid station, walking there might be faster than waiting.
You lose the friends you were supposed to be riding the event with It is challenging to keep tabs on friends, especially in a mass start event. If your goal is to ride the entire event with your friends, make a plan ahead of time to regroup if you lose each other
You get dropped from your group and are now riding solo You have four choices: Choice #1: Change your strategy and your pace, expecting that you may be riding alone for most or all of the event. Choice #2: Take this opportunity to stop at the next aid station, use the bathroom and refuel. Then get ready to jump into the next group when it rolls through. Choice #3: Ride slow, take some time to recover, and wait for the next group to catch you. Choice #4: Continue to ride at your race pace. When you catch up to a rider (who is not suffering), ask them if they would like to draft behind you. Continue to pick up riders this way until you have at least 4-5 riders in your group. Help them get into an organized pace-line and then take a break at the back. If you work together, you may even catch up to a larger group.
You are in a great group but have to stop at an aid station Ideally, you only stop when others in your group stop. Talk to the people around you. Chose a few riders who ride well, similar to your fitness level, and ask them if they want to stop with you. Then wait for them at the aid station so you can ride together again.
You have to stop at several aid stations If you are a rider who needs to stop regularly to stretch, eat, pee, etc., then plan on riding most of the event on your own or with a group of friends who also stop frequently. Take your time and enjoy the day.
You run out of water If you are riding for under 4 hours, you should be able to carry enough water to last for the duration. Place a water bottle or two in your jersey pockets, so you have one bottle every hour. If you plan on riding longer than 4 hours, you will need to stop to refuel. See above for strategies.
You bonk or get heatstroke Ideally, if you prepare for the weather and pace yourself, this won’t happen. But if it does, stop at an end station, seek shade, and refuel. Call the medical staff to get a ride back to the start if you feel faint, nauseous, or dizzy. Don’t forget to text your friends waiting at the finish line for you, so they don’t worry about you.
A term used to refer to the clips and pedals that have replaced the earlier system of toe clips and straps. In a clipless pedal system, the pedal has a mechanism that locks it to a cleat screwed into the underside of the shoe.
All road riders, wanting to ride in an organized group ride, must be comfortable riding with clipless pedals.
For this reason, our first lesson in the Intro to Riding group is learning this skill.