Does bicycle education work?

January 18, 2018 Comments Off on Does bicycle education work?

I cannot believe I am sitting here writing a blog post about bicycle education. If there is anything more boring, I don’t know what that might be. Oh, wait, yes I do: Uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance and how it can protect you on your bike. That’s way more boring.

But like the Santa Ana wind dryness of insurance blather, bicycle education blather is a matter of life and death. It is dorky and requires you to slow down and pay the fuck attention, spend some time doing something other than shopping for bike porn. Like taking the time to buy and charge and put on front-and-rear lights, it’s well-spent time.

I sat down with Gary Cziko, bible-thumping evangelist for Cycling Savvy, but the testament wasn’t written by a bunch of goat herders out in the desert, it was written by people who have a lot of bicycling and traffic engineering experience when it comes to staying off the grills of Rage Rovers. Cycling Savvy uses various instructional paradigms to allow riders to ride anywhere. Streets, sidewalks (where it’s lega), you name it. Although lane control is the default technique, the idea behind bicycle education is that people ride bikes all kinds of places for all kinds of reasons, and there should be a way to address their riding with sensible, practical, safe techniques.

Increasing bicycle education

Gary is now in his fifth year of teaching as a Cycling Savvy instructor. The number of actual courses and actual people who have been through his courses is shockingly low; more about that later and why it’s less important than you might think. After about 13 courses and upwards of 130 participants, I asked Gary what he thought the biggest obstacles were to increasing bicycle education in Southern California.

He didn’t miss a beat. “Two main problems, those who think they don’t need the education because they don’t ride on streets, and those who think they don’t need it because they have a lot of experience.”

Gary knows about that last part. “I was an edge rider for years but Cycling Savvy makes it easy and safe and it decreases the risks.”

“How are you going to expand that?” I asked.

“Cycling Savvy wants to exapnd. We have two online courses but need additional funding to market the curriculum. We’ve hired our first full time administrative employee, an associate executive director. We’re looking into partnerships with charity rides, SCNCA, USAC, and affiliation with clubs, much as we’ve done with Big Orange. We’ve worked with Sean Wilson at SCNCA to develop a complete skills system, from racing to training and riding on the road.”

Still, with only a few courses having been taught, along with a few hundred people who’ve taken the online courses, I wondered if Gary was optimistic. Dumb question. It’s Gary, folks.

“I’m encouraged by getting cyclists in the full on-bike training, not just the classroom, where we work with riders of all skill levels to teach them how to surmount challenging situations. What’s encouraging is that people are changed and enthusiastic and they want to share with others. The Cycling Savvy curriculum started in 2011 and reached 18 states in 3 years. But we need increased funding for courses that reach families and kids, courses for fondo riders, and of course for e-bikes.”

With  5-10 courses planned for 2018, the need vastly outnumbers available resources.

Or does it?

The ripple effect

Gary agreed that more instructors, more classes, more online marketing are crucial. He also pointed out that by educating a few cyclists you can education hundreds more.

“There’s a ripple effect,” he said. “When we started the training in Big Orange, people were unfamiliar with it. Now, even though most Big Orange riders haven’t taken the course, every club ride has at least one rider who has, and those riders take the reins and make sure that the group is using Cycling Savvy principles. By changing even one or two people, you can affect everyone who sees this kind of effective riding and who then tries it out. Of course we need training for planners and transportation engineers, too.”

When I asked him about the dreaded PCH, Gary was emphatic that bicycle education has educated drivers, too. “There’s less honking. Motorists are used to seeing large groups of riders out in the lane. Cyclists are less hesitant to use the full lane when it makes sense. One study found that there is more honking the farther you are to the right, which makes sense because they see you from a long way back and can adjust when you’re in the lane. But with edge/gutter riding they don’t see you until the last second.”

Getting your club educated

If you belong to a bike club and you don’t have a club-wide bicycle education plan, now is the time to get one. Cycling Savvy offers online courses and in-person instruction depending on the area. The courses are cheap and can save your life. Importantly, in our own neck of the woods, the Palos Verdes Peninsula, there anecdotally seems to be a lot less hostility than a couple of years ago; I chalk part of that up to the effect of people being more assertive and educated about where and how they cycle.

No matter how much you know or how experienced you are, these classes will open your eyes.

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About SouthBayCycling.com: This the all-things-cycling blog about cycling in the South Bay and cycling in Los Angeles, maintained and authored by me, Seth Davidson, Torrance-based bicycle lawyer, bike racer, and personal injury attorney.

“Common” sense

December 4, 2017 Comments Off on “Common” sense

We held the final stage in our club’s first ever Galactic Championship bicycle racing series on Saturday. The results were impressive: 52 out of 267 club members signed up to race. There were also a fair number of members racing cyclocross who couldn’t attend, so the total number of Big Orange Cycling members who pinned on a number was probably around 62 riders, a record in absolute numbers and in percentages (23%).

Below are the stage results and the overall:

 

Careful analysis indicates that I got my butt kicked. Hmmmm.

But there were some other things that, if you have any involvement with a bike racing club, might be useful lessons. Here were the main ones:

  1. The best way to get people to race is to provide your club members with intra-club races where they can experience racing in a safe, supportive, fun, educational, social atmosphere.
  2. Creating these racing opportunities is the only way to combat the divisiveness of “racer” and “non-racer” factions within a club.
  3. When the board supports and participates in this kind of event, most especially by board members themselves racing, members who have never raced will show up and try out racing. Nothing speaks to credibility in bike racing like racing your fuggin’ bike.
  4. Everyone loves it. First-time riders gain massive confidence, experienced riders have a blast and mentor others, and your club can have a series of social events organized around your club’s mission: bike racing.
  5. Many members in Big Orange don’t understand that we are a racing club; they think we are a social club that has racers rather than a racing club whose social events are organized around racing. This doesn’t mean everyone races or has to race. But it means that clubs continually reinforce their racing mission by giving people the opportunity to race. Whether they take the opportunity is their choice.
  6. Many members can be encouraged to race by having club races and by giving members the opportunity to first volunteer and “check it out.” I spoke with one member who was unaware that in a time trial riders went off one by one. I spoke with another new member, whose wife DID NOT KNOW that we are a racing club, and he wasn’t entirely sure about what that meant, either, other than he “didn’t want to do crits.”
  7. Shoot for at least one series a year, two if you can swing it.
  8. Have a format that lets people showcase very different skills. We did: 1k TT, hillclimb, 10-mile TT.
  9. Use formats that exceptionally safe, like TTs and hillclimbs.
  10. Don’t allow aero equipment! It will let everyone feel like they had a level playing and not that they were the losers in an arms race.
  11. Tell your new members explicitly that you are a racing club and that you will be encouraging them to race. Not hassling or pressuring, but encouraging through role modeling, education, and annual intra-club series opportunities.
  12. Most racing clubs have no problem recruiting non-racers. But your mission should be to give them the opportunity to race.
  13. I met so many people!!!!!
  14. Sponsors should be urged to show up and help out at club races. They will get to meet their customers, learn about bike racing, take pictures, and understand the value of their sponsorship.
  15. Set a number or percentage for members in 2018 to pin on a number. You’ll never hit a target you don’t aim for.
  16. Don’t be surprised if your event turns out to be the best bike racing you’ve ever done in your life.

Our event went off because board members Greg Leibert, Grey Seyranian, Don Wolfe, Michael Barraclough, and Geoff Loui signed off on it and raced. Patrick Noll did the timing and all of the organization. Kristie Fox brought food, put up tents and chairs, arranged catering, and helped with all aspects of organization. My wife Yasuko, and Jay Yoshizumi, took tons of great photos. Chris Gregory made killer winner necklace awards. Delia Park, Jodi, Jason, Lauri Barraclough, Stephanie Nowak, Mark Maxson, Kevin Salk, Andrew Nuckles, Tom Duong, One Stop Windows and Doors who donated their parking lot for the race, Greg Leibert, Connie Perez, and many people who controlled traffic at the chicane. And of course the wonderful party that Geoff Loui again hosted at his beautiful home put an amazing cap on a great race series.

Check out these these 200+ photos courtesy of Yasuko Davidson!

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Making a difference

September 18, 2017 § 20 Comments

On Sunday I got up and rode to the Center of the Known Universe, where about a hundred fellow lizard collectors had gathered to do the weekly club ride. We left CotKU in a rather unruly fashion, as might have been expected.

I hadn’t wanted to go because I was tired from the day before, and from the day before, and from the day before, all the way back to last Saturday. But it was going to be the annual club photo followed by a club video riding out on PCH. The photos and video were being shot by our club’s biggest sponsor, BeachBody Performance.

bbpl-products-energize

Every year they pour a very significant amount of money into our club. Not fake money, cash money. In addition to that, they provide the club with mountains of their energy/protein/magic powders. One of the mountains is free, the other mountain is at a greatly reduced cost. The total value of the real cash plus the powder mountains approaches six figures. For all I know, it exceeds it.

Our club, unaffectionately known as Team Lizard Collectors but affectionately known as Big Orange Cycling, cannot possibly generate six figures in sales for BeachBody. I know this because scientists have shown over and over that no organism is as cheap and tight-fisted as the serious avid recreational Internet-coached profamateur delusional hobby Cat 4 bicyclist.

What does BeachBody get out of it? For the last few years they have gotten this: A plague of brightly colored lizard collectors swooping through the streets of coastal Los Angeles doing what we lizard collectors do best, that is, have fun. Whether we are in Mallorca, Holland, France, Italy, Croatia, Japan, or home in Los Angeles, we are all oranged-up in our, er, distinctive kits (some of which, for a club called “Big Orange,” are inexplicably all-green), and we prominently display BeachBody’s logo and demonstrate BeachBody’s ethos, which is to go forth and have fun even if you look pretty silly doing it.

This sponsor has been directly responsible for the addition of countless riders into organized cycling. Our club offers skills training, urban riding skills classes, racing clinics, and a weekly club ride that focuses on getting yelled at for five solid hours by Dear Leader G3, which is probably the best simulation for bike racing ever. Some of our most highly talented new riders such as K-Sulk have learned to tell people to “Fuck off!” with the ease and practiced raised middle finger as if he had been racing for decades.

In short, without telling Big Orange what to do, BeachBody Performance has made it possible to expand programs and activities that popularize cycling and that make cycling safer. More fun. More safety. Healthier lifestyle. Have a nice day and here’s a wad of cash to go with it!

And although most people use BeachBody goodies and find them very beneficial to their fake bicycling careers, not everyone in the club consumes our sponsor’s replacement drinks, electrolytes, and radiator fluid. Some people, like me, drink water for the first hundred miles of every ride and bonk for the rest of it, suffering horrible exhaustion, cramps, diarrhea, logorrhea, vomiting, migraines, graphomania, and rectal dysfunction for a couple of weeks. It’s not because we don’t like the sponsored product, it’s because we are simply used to doing things the old-fashioned way, i.e. dumbly.

In the same vein, all riders don’t utilize all of the other sponsors’ services. For example, not everyone gets run over by a car in order to purchase a certain bike injury lawyer’s services. Not everyone replaces all of the windows (Nuckles), breaks all of the indoor plumbing (Penta), or purchases 300 pairs of socks (Torrence) simply to satisfy the sponsor. BeachBody doesn’t care. They only insist that we keep riding and that we keep having fun.

They continue to be a committed and genuine advocate for riding bikes in LA. They make a difference, and it’s appreciated. And as hard as it is for us to go out and ride our bikes and have a good time week in and week out, it’s a sacrifice we’re all willing to make. Thanks!

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PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could.

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Train ’em up

August 26, 2017 § 11 Comments

Last Sunday we were fortunate to have Brian McCulloch and Joy Duerksen-McCulloch come to the South Bay and put on a riding clinic. Brian just finished the Tour of Utah and earlier in the year raced the Tour of Taiwan. Joy is a long-time pro racer on the SoCal and national circuit. They run Big Wheel Coaching in Redlands, and are absolute professionals in the realm of coaching and teaching.

The clinic was in two phases. First we practiced various techniques for riding in a paceline. Later we simulated bike-to-bike contact on a grass surface at a local park. The clinics were geared to beginning-intermediate level road riders, but there was excellent instruction and practice that proved useful no matter what your riding level. The bumping and rear-wheel contact exercises created numerous breakthroughs for almost every participant.

Does your club offer training clinics? I belong to Big Orange Cycling, and in addition to the Cycling Savvy classes that we offer free of charge to members throughout the year, we also offer skills clinics that focus on various aspects of riding. We draw on the expertise of our members and we also hire private coaching for these clinics. The next clinic will feature Methods to Winning on September 30, a racing clinic put on by Rahsaan Bahati and Charon Smith.

If your club doesn’t offer ongoing education and skills training, please consider doing so. It helps new members get comfortable with the rules of road riding, improves intra-club communication, attracts new members when the clinics are open to the public as ours are, and it is perfectly in line with the mandates of most 501(c)3 organizations. Most crucially, it educates riders about how to become safer riders.

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PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could.

south_bay_cycling_awards_poster_2017_final

Simple Simon

July 26, 2017 § 18 Comments

Tuesday is the holy day of the bike racing week and I was praying, nose mashed against the stem, body swaying from side to side like a tree in a hurricane, and great oaths, curses, imprecations, and foul utterances doing everything they could to exit my mouth hole if only I would stop breathing so hard and groaning.

Frexit and Peachfuzz had caught me and Attila the Hun, but what momentarily looked like the champion’s breakaway from Telo had got pulled back by the pack. Thankfully I had a bunch of Team Lizard Collectors teammates in the chase and they had worked mightily to bring back our breakaway, which contained three of their teammates.

I had countered at the catch, gotten free with Frexit on my wheel, and then sat for a lap while he ground out another fearsome gap which, thankfully, wasn’t so great that my fake teammates couldn’t close it down. Two seconds before the actual catch I sat up in defeat and despair, perfectly marking the difference between winners and  losers: That’s the moment at which Frexit made one more giant effort.

Team Lizard Collectors and the slobbering chase group, satisfied at having caught the minnow, sat up and watched the whale swim away. I drifted to the back and tried to collect my broken bits of self-respect which, in truth, I’d had none of to start with.

At that moment it became clear to me: Life is really pretty simple. All it takes to make a Frenchman who is already insanely strong, insanely stronger, is to put him in a foreign land and offer him good, homemade bread.

Because that’s exactly what Ms. WM had done, and we all suffered the consequences. My wife, you see, bakes bread. Her repertoire is narrow; she bakes round loaves, always the same ingredients, always the same shape, and always the same taste.

Those who have eaten it are never the same because bread goes so incredibly deep in our human consciousness. It is the staff of life. It is the thing we earn. It is magical when fresh, durable and sustaining when old. It pairs with every food imaginable, or goes the distance solo, with nothing alongside it at all.

The taste of fresh bread well made, not the unbaked mush sold in plastic bags at Safeway, has no peer, or even anything else in its category. It sits alone atop the food pyramid, King Tutankhamun gazing down at the minions of flesh, vegetables, and other lesser comestibles.

And what is bread? Flour, water, yeast, salt. That, plus the magic sauce of the hands that knead, watch, rise, and bake, and in my home those magic hands have come up with bread perfection. My poor son-in-law is reduced to groveling when it comes off the cooling board. Visitors hang their heads in a spent, abject foodgasm when it crosses their lips. Pot luck party hosts whisper in muted tones of sad begging, “Would you mind asking Yasuko to bake a loaf of bread?”

That is how supremely her bread reigns among those who know, and woe was unto us on Tuesday because she had said that morning, “I’m onna bake some bread and give a bread prize onna Telo champion.”

“No,” I said. “Your bread will not be wasted on those terrible people. It will be wasted on me.”

“You onna just as terrible as they is.”

I couldn’t think of anything to say, except “Okay, but please bake two loaves and leave one here. Please?”

She did, and when word went out on Facebag that Mrs. WM’s Magic Bread would be offered up to the Telo winner, we had a true lineup of hitters, and all the pain I was feeling mid-race was due to the Frexit frenzy of getting a shot at bread he hadn’t eaten since the last time he was home in France.

The fight for second was vicious. Davy Dawg led it out with Hair on his wheel and with me on Hair. Peachfuzz was slotted in behind Pooh Bear ATX, who in the final turn made a power move by slamming his inside pedal against the pavement, causing me to shit a blue streak in fear as this is exactly where Hair had come up on the inside and thrown himself onto the asphalt a few months ago, with me on his wheel. I swung wide to let those willing to die do so, and Hair flew to the finish for a glorious podium finish as everyone else fought viciously for whatever scraps you call the scraps after the first set of scraps.

As expected, Frexit won despite an eleven, then ten, then nine, then eight, then seven, then six-person rotation spilling their guts, lunch, and spittle in a failed attempt to chase him down.

You want to make a French bike champion go even harder? Bread, baby, bread.

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CBR #5–bike racing for fun and not much profit!

May 30, 2017 § 5 Comments

I did two races yesterday, the 45+ and the 35+. This was held on the “left-hand” race course, which is the longer one with four turns and which is almost pancake flat.

The 45+ field had almost ninety riders and there was no wind, so I knew it was going to be very fast. After the race someone said we averaged 28.5 mph over sixty minutes. I don’t know if that’s true, but the handful of times I was off the front it was ridiculously painful.

Two moves that would have worked in CBRs past were the one in which I followed Pat Bos. Basically, once the first salvos have been fired and people are starting to tire, any move with Pat in it is going to be a winning one. We stayed away for about a lap, but each time he flicked me to come through we lost massive speed. The pack seemed to bring us back with ease.

The other move was with Red Trek Dude. I don’t know his name but he is fast and super smart. Same deal, though. They pegged us back after a couple of laps and that was that.

With twenty minutes to go it looked for sure like it was going to be a field sprint, so I slid to the back. It’s funny how a peloton has a group consciousness, where everyone realizes the same thing at the same time without ever saying a word. Sometimes it’s “field sprint,” or “that move is gone,” or “bring it back.” I don’t know how you know but you just know.

I settled back to watch the fireworks because I’m a firm believer in leaving the dangerous, dirty work of sprinting to the sprinters. It’s true I don’t win much but it’s also true that I have a pretty good record of going home with all the same skin I left with.

The second race was slower, I think, but just as ridiculously hard because it was a smaller field. The 35+ race looked like it was going to be a battle between Rahsaan Bahati and Charon Smith, two guys who wrote the book on crit racing. It’s always weird how in one race things stay together and in another race on the same course on the same day under the same condition a break goes, and there doesn’t seem to be a reason why.

I stayed at the back most of the race, where things would have been really easy were I not already gassed. The one time I moved up towards the front to see if any break action was about to happen, all I found was a lot of wind. So I slinked back.

While Rahsaan and Charon were watching each other on the last lap, Robbie Miranda hit out early and beat everyone to the line. It’s always exciting when an underdog beats the favorites, although Robbie wins so much he’s hardly an underdog. I was so tired after two hours of racing in circles that even sitting was a chore.

My Big Orange team tent was the happiest place at the race. We had several riders do their first race yesterday. Kevin Salk and Matthieu Brousseau were incredibly excited to race; Matthieu so much so that he put on a clown suit after the race and wore it on the podium. It was pretty awesome that while other people were fumbling for their podium cap our guy was buttoning up his entire clown suit. A huge contingent of Big Orange racers paid entry fees and raced. I could name them all, except I couldn’t. The NJ Of The Day award went to Andrew Nuckles, who did three races and never stopped talking for seven straight hours.

Sherri Foxworthy came to the race and snapped a ton of team pictures, as did Paul Cressey, so we have two team photogs who are each generously paid in granola bars and all the warm water they can drink.

Team members Delia Park showed up to cheer and chat and encourage, and Kristie Fox put up the tent at Dark AF:00, loaded the tent area with food and drinks, and spent the entire day pinning people up, refilling bottles, changing poopy racer diapers, then going out to race against some very fast women. Denis Faye of Beachbody Performance also came to cheer his wife, and Connie Perez, recovering from a bad fall, was there as well. Marilyne Deckman raced her way to fifth, Lisa Conrad had a strong showing in the 4s, and everyone agreed that Michelle Landes needs to woman up and switch back to Big Orange.

People who want bike racing to be more fun and who think that industrial park crits are boring need to see what happens when their entire team shows up, including spouses, kids, and S/Os.

Because it’s fun AF. Photos courtesy of THE Sherri Foxworth.

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Some things can be taught

March 6, 2017 § 22 Comments

How many times have you seen a group of cyclists spread all over the road like a warm breakfast? Judging from the rarity of organized, disciplined, 2 x 2 pacelines, you might think they are formations that only come into existence after years of practice. And you might think that the only people capable of riding mile after mile a few inches from their neighbors’ bars and a few inches from the wheel in front of them is the mark of a truly expert cyclist.

That’s what I always thought, mostly because the only time I ever saw functioning large groups ride like that they were composed of (accomplished) bike racers.

My club, Big Orange, had a Paceline 101 seminar yesterday. We all gathered on Westchester Parkway, and several of the club’s leaders put on the seminar. There were over forty riders. At least half had never ridden in a 2 x 2 paceline before. Most of the others had been riding for two years or less.

The Big O paceline, when I describe it, sounds goofy because of the silly names. Here they are:

Horsemen“: These are the 6-12 riders at the front. These are the only rotating riders. Their job is to:

  • Maintain steady power. Steady on flats, slower on hills, faster on descents.
  • Give plenty of room around road hazards. Give wide berth to cones, potholes, sticks, big rocks, etc.
  • Call out road hazards.
  • Pay attention to upcoming stop lights. Anticipate when the light will change by watching crosswalk countdowns. Avoid panic stops and avoid running the entire peloton through red lights.
  • Accelerate slowly from stops, remembering that everyone behind is still standing
  • Rotate in pairs. Get off the front if the partner wants off. Left side swings off to the left, right side swings off to the right. Keep steady speed when rotating off the front, flick elbow and take 2-3 strong pedal strokes as you move over.
  • Control the lane. The right hand rider controls positioning and stays just to the left of the fog line.
  • Control descents. This is the hardest part to master, requiring a hard effort to keep speed on downhills until the rear of the peloton has completed the descent. Riders at the front cannot slow down until everyone has completed the descent.
  • Steady ascents: Slowing  too rapidly at the bottom of the hill means those at the end of the peloton will accordion. Slow gradually while climbing and regroup after crossing the top. Gradually lift the pace again after the regroup.

Gatekeepers“: The two riders directly behind the horsemen. Their job is to:

  • Maintain steady power. If the horsemen surge, the gatekeepers allow the gap to open, then slowly close it.
  • Provide space for horsemen who have rotated off the front and are coming back in order to slot back in.
  • Prohibit the peloton from mixing with horsemen. The idea is that one group, horsemen, do the work, and the other group, the peloton drafts for the duration of the ride.

Buffers“: 1-3 pairs of riders, riding immediately behind the gatekeepers. Their job is to maintain steady power. If the group ahead surges, the buffers let them go, then gradually close the gap.

Peloton“: This is everyone else. Their job is to:

  • Stay on the wheel in front. Do not pass other riders. Do not fill in gaps ahead of buffers. Do not get out of formation to bomb descents.
  • Keep handlebars even with your partner. Formations stagger when riders are not even with each other.
  • Change lanes from the rear. When changing lanes, the rear of the peloton should move over first, after checking for traffic, and call out “Clear!” so the riders ahead know it is safe.
  • Anticipate slowing riders in front. When approaching rollers, give extra room ahead. Know the route!
  • Identify final rider position. Last place riders in the peloton should tell other riders “I’m last” if for some reason a rider is rotating all the way to the back of the group. Final riders should also take responsibility for being the riders who check first for rear traffic when getting ready to change lanes.

Before going to the Peloton 101 seminar, participants were supposed to have read this explanation of paceline riding. Once we assembled, a couple of leaders explained it all again in person, took questions, we did a practice lap around the Parkway. There was a lot of talking and some correcting, but no shouting or abusing or screaming. Everyone was told beforehand that we were there to learn, and told not to take anything personally.

Incredibly, no one did.

After the first lap we debriefed, people switched up positions, and we did a second lap, this time at about 22-24 mph. We debriefed again, questions were taken, and we rode a final lap “at speed.” After a final debrief, those who wanted to rolled with the group out onto PCH and practiced pacelining in the lane at speed all the way to Malibu and back.

Here is a link to a video that was taken by Cycling Savvy instructor Gary Cziko from the position of gatekeeper, with the horsemen teaching a first-timer how to rotate.

What amazed me about the practice was how quickly people got it when it was explained and they had a chance to practice. After the second lap the 42-person rotation was so disciplined that, sitting at the very back, I could see all the way to the front through the gap between the side-by-side riders. It was almost perfectly straight.

I wondered why it was so effective, and several things occurred to me.

First, it’s not complicated, but there are organizational elements that need to be explained. I learned to ride a paceline while doing it, making a mess of it, and getting yelled at. Being calmly instructed, gently corrected, and given a chance to practice takes most of the terror out of it.

Second, having roles with names is a huge help to beginning riders. Sure, “horsemen” sounds silly, but it is a defined word with a defined function, and when you’re doing your first paceline with a bunch of experienced riders and you’re so nervous you’re about to crap your shorts, it makes all the difference in the world to have words tied to actual functions and roles.

This nomenclature also makes new riders concentrate on what they’re doing, as opposed to riding in terror that they’re about to crash out fifty people. Even better, once people feel comfortable in one role, they can try a more challenging one, so they not only have a place, but they have the feeling of “moving up.” Roles also have the invaluable function of predictability, which is what safe group riding is all about. There’s never any question about where a horseman is supposed to be, and if there is, you can ask. Compare that to the amorphous glob of riders in which random people do random things for no apparent reason … or at least that’s how it seems to beginners.

Third, holding a more-or-less permanent position throughout the ride means you get to know the person next to you, and the relationships are what makes the experience fun.

Removing the mystery, sharing the knowledge, and teaching skills raises everyone’s ability, including the teacher’s. It also creates a vibe in which people want to excel. Best of all, this method includes riders of vastly differing abilities and solves one of the biggest issues of group riding for clubs, i.e., “How do you integrate slower riders with faster ones without either shredding the slow ones or making the fast ones go so slow that they no longer want to do the ride?”

Every club should look at its mission and if part of the mission is education, improvement, and making road riding more accessible to more people, then a program like this is a winner. Photos courtesy of Joann Zwagerman, Big Orange phenom who was responsible for organizing yesterday’s seminar!

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