Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Getting ready for group rides

BWL Column
The News-Press, 7/20/2017
by Ken Gooderham

Illustration: Pinterest
Interested in riding in a group? There are some significant skills you’ll want to master beforehand, but it isn’t as daunting as it can appear.

First, there are at least two kinds of group rides: One where you ride AS a group (as in an intentional and organized group ride) and one where you ride WITH a group (as in when single riders happen to run into other single riders in a common lane or path).

The latter is the simpler to explain: In this instance, you as the cyclist have three duties:
  • Be polite. Yield the right of way as necessary, greet other riders as appropriate, acknowledge drivers who acknowledge you as a show of thanks for their consideration.
  • Be predictable. Follow the common rules of the road and ride smart (no weaving or other boneheaded moves).
  • Be proactive. Signal your intentions, either by hand or voice. Ride defensively, and be ready to act to ensure your safety. Assume the worst, and be pleasantly surprised when it doesn’t happen.

If you’d like to try riding as a group, check out your options… which, around here, pretty much is the Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club (although other group rides are available). The club offers more than 10 rides per week, and they are open to most (although you should plan on joining the club if you want to make this a habit).

However, group riding takes some skills and savvy, at least if you want to be invited back (or be allowed to participate at all).
  • Know your abilities. Most rides will state up front the likely mileage and pace for that particular route – and if you can’t do either, then that ride is not for you. Typically, a more accessible ride is offered for the novice (including “no drop” rides, where no rider will be left behind)… but these still require some stamina, so don’t attempt this on your first time back on the bike.
  • Know how to ride as a group. These skills include both hand signals (to warn the riders right behind you of imminent action) and voice signals (to inform riders around you and down the line of potential hazards, obstacles or issues). You also need to be comfortable riding in close proximity to others (which makes the riding easier for all) and how to share the biking burden via a paceline (where riders take turns leading out the group so everyone shares in riding into the wind). This takes skills to ride consistently, maintaining proper speed and knowing how and when to move up or back in the line.
  • Be prepared to ride. This means both having the necessary equipment to deal with mid-ride repairs (think flat tires, mostly) and knowing how to use them (although other riders may offer to help, you should not expect them to do it for you). This also means being ready to head out at the appointed time – not showing up late or lacking some essential ingredient for cycling such as properly inflated tires, hydration/nutrition and more. Oh, and have a clue about where you’re going… most rides include maps and, if they do, look at one beforehand just so you’re ready for whatever may be ahead.

It goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway) that good road manners include getting along with motorized traffic. It may also include certain requirements… in the case of many clubs, helmets are mandatory and you will need to either be a member (to be protected by the club insurance) or sign a waiver (so the club is protected if you hurt yourself). You can find out more about the Caloosa Riders at

Critical Mass rides deserve their own mention, since they are a unique and accessible event which focuses on fun over fitness. The pace is slower, the route is shorter, rides can include themes and pre-ride parties (and adult beverages can be involved). You still have to play by the rules, but the rider organizers make it a lot easier and safer for anyone to be involved by controlling surrounding traffic and working with police and more skilled riders to clear the way. It’s a fun time and a good way to pass a pleasant evening with fellow bike enthusiasts.

A Critical Mass anniversary


Speaking of Critical Mass, the group celebrates its fourth anniversary with a special Saturday night ride in Fort Myers on Aug. 5. Festivities kick off at 5 p.m. at Centennial Park in downtown Fort Myers. Expect food and fun, plus raffles and music… and the usual ride, which sets out at 8 p.m. Helmets encouraged, lights required and don’t for get to bring a good attitude… and join the fun. Details at

Ready to ride or run?


Run? Summer has dried up most organized running events, but there’s a few stalwart souls: The Eagle Lakes 5K will be held on Saturday, July 29, at Eagle Lakes Community Park, Naples. Details at

Ride? You can always count on Critical Mass rides: Friday night is the Estero ride, massing at 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 28, is the Cape Coral ride at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, July 29, is the monthly Slow Roll ride in downtown Fort Myers ay 9 a.m.. Lights are required for night rides, helmets recommended, and details and sign-up info is online at

Both? Willing to drive a little? There’s Tri Sarasota (sprint and international) on Saturday, Aug. 5, and Tri at Siesta Key (sprint and super-sprint) Sunday, Aug. 6. Nearby, there’s the Naples Junior Triathlon on Saturday, Aug. 12, at North Collier Regional Park (, and the Galloway Captiva Tri weekend Sept. 9-10… kids events in three age groups on Saturday and the adult sprint on Sunday (

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Ken Gooderham writes this on behalf of BikeWalkLee, a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County — streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Information, statistics and background online at 


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