Road Cycling Peloton

Lost art of the group ride

This is an archive copy of the article written by Peter Wilborn of BikeLaw and originally published at I made the editorial decision to publish it and added its title. I was glad I overruled the other editor considering how it struck a strong cord with many cyclists. It went viral and turned out to be the most popular content we published on CCN.

Every so often, I’ll ride a recreational group ride. I love the camaraderie of cyclists, the talk, the last minute pumps of air, the clicking in, and the easy drifting out as a peloton. “I miss riding in a group,” I’ll think to myself.

The magic ends by mile 10. The group will surge, gap, and separate, only to regroup at every stop sign. I’ll hear fifteen repeated screams of “HOLE!” for every minor road imperfection. And then no mention of the actual hole. Some guy in front will set a PR for his 30 second pull. Wheels overlap, brakes are tapped, and some guy in the back will go across the yellow line and speed past the peloton for no apparent reason. A breakaway?!

I curse under my breath, remembering why I always ride with only a few friends. Doesn’t anyone else realize how dangerous this ride is? How bad it is for our reputation on the road? There are clear rules of ride etiquette, safety, and common sense. Does anyone here know the rules? Who is in charge?

But no one is in charge, and the chaotic group has no idea of how to ride together. As a bike lawyer, I get the complaints from irritated drivers, concerned police, controversy-seeking journalists, and injured cyclists. It needs to get better, but the obstacles are real:

First, everyone is an expert these days. The internet and a power meter do not replace 50,000 miles of experience, but try telling that to a fit forty year-old, new to cycling, on a $5000 bike. Or, god forbid, a triathlete. No one wants to be told what to do.

Second, the more experienced riders just want to drop the others and not be bothered. It is all about the workout, the ego boost, or riding with a subset of friends. But a group ride is neither a race nor cycling Darwinism. As riders get better, they seek to distinguish themselves by riding faster on more trendy bikes; but as riders get better they need to realize two things: 1) there is always someone faster, and 2) they have obligations as leaders. Cycling is not a never ending ladder, each step aspiring upwards, casting aspersions down. It is a club, and we should want to expand and improve our membership.

Third, different rides are advertised by average speed, but speed is only one part of the equation. This approach makes speed the sole metric for judging a cyclist, and creates the false impression that a fit rider is a good one. Almost anyone can be somewhat fast on a bike, but few learn to be elegant, graceful cyclists.

Fourth, riding a bike well requires technique training. Good swimmers, for example, constantly work on form and drills; so should cyclists. Anyone remember the C.O.N.I. Manual or Eddie Borysewich’s book? They are out-of-print, but their traditional approach to bike technique should not be lost. More emphasis was given on fluid pedaling and bike handling.

Before the internet, before custom bikes, and before Lance, it was done better. Learning to ride was an apprenticeship. The goal was to become a member of the peloton, not merely a guy who is sort of fast on a bike. Membership was the point, not to be the local Cat. 5 champ. You were invited to go on a group ride if you showed an interest and a willingness to learn. You were uninvited if you did not. You learned the skills from directly from the leader, who took an interest in riding next to you on your first rides (and not next to his friends, like better riders do today). Here is some of what you learned:

To ride for months each year in the small ring.
To take your cycling shorts off immediately after a ride.
To start with a humble bike, probably used.
To pull without surging.
To run rotating pace line drills and flick others through.
To form an echelon.
To ride through the top of a climb.
To hold your line in a corner.
To stand up smoothly and not throw your bike back.
To give the person ahead of you on a climb a little more room to stand up.
To respect the yellow line rule.
To point out significant road problems.
To brake less, especially in a pace line.
To follow the wheel in front and not overlap.

The ride leader and his lieutenants were serious about their roles, because the safety of the group depended on you, the weakest link. If you did not follow the rules, you were chastised. Harshly. If you did, you became a member of something spectacular. The Peloton.

Written by Peter Wilborn of

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  1. Apparently, “[c]ycling is not a never ending ladder, each step aspiring upwards, casting aspersions down”, except that it is okay to look down upon and denigrate triathletes. Those five words were absolutely unnecessary to the points of your article, AND those five words cheapen and somewhat undermine the article.

    Btw, I am not a triathlete, nor do I aspire to be one.

    1. As a tri-geek/roadie-scum,I did not really see it as denigrating; he concluded that “No one likes to be told what to do.” And he started the list with “a fit forty year-old, new to cycling, on a $5000 bike.” Seems he just squeezed triathlete in as another example of those who do not like to be told what to do (on a bike) with a little, God forbid, exaggeration.

  2. Great article, however, I think for new cyclists 2 parts conflict – brake less & don’t overlap wheels…. if you are truly riding with a peloton, wheels will be overlapped, but it shouldn’t be unsafe unless you are riding w/ less experienced riders. Which sadly is often the case w/ most groups.

    But spot-on post!!

  3. It’s not too late. There are plenty of us out there who still remember what these rides were like and how it felt to be taken in by a group of experienced riders. Forget the race rides in the winter and early spring – we owe it to the newer riders!

  4. Oh so true. The days of the benevolent local group ride leader are gone. Too many people are too sensitive. Sorry pal my life is just as valuable as yours, get over yourself and learn how to hold your line!! I was lucky enough to learn from several, and was chastised many times as I learned the ropes. There are real reasons for the leadership within the peloton. First and foremost, you can get hurt just as bad if not worse on the local ride as you can in a race. The most unsafe place to ride are the rides that take place on flat terrain (ie coastal SC). The hills, curves and demands of fitness can separate the ride very quickly due to skill and fitness. Unskilled and unfit riders can hang on for too long in the pack on flat rides. I truly think the safest rides are those that go straight up hill from the get go, it takes care of the squirrelly unfit rider as well as the surge of adrenaline seen in the early part of the ride.

    Remember it is better to ride safely so you can ride tomorrow versus riding just for today. …


    1. Dawson,

      I feel like you’re missing the point, though. Rides starting up a hill from the get go drop the new riders, who ARE the ones that need to learn HOW to hold their line. You’re basically saying the opposite of this article…. coaching these riders is what makes them better. Not getting rid of them so they never come back. How can they learn etiquette if they’re not in a group? The bigger problem is turning the ride into a hammerfest every ride. That makes people squirrelly trying to keep up.

  5. I usually…okay, 99.9% of the time ride by myself. I enjoy the solitude. However; I have done some rides with others and find that this article is dead on.

  6. I remember when I started my first group ride in South Africa. Was 15 years old, cocky as hell, think I could drop everyone. The patron was an old italian ex-pro (old at that time to me, he was 55). Moved to South Africa from Italy, he was in the marble industry. Only rode Campy C-Record on a custom Messina made from Columbus SL tubing. He rode up next to me within the first 2 miles and took me to the back of the group (where I belong according to him). He told me that he is going to show me how the handle the bike before I can ride up front. I think that is only part of it; he wanted to teach me the unwritten rules of the group. Said the first thing I should learn is how to ride without hands. He put his hand on my back and told me to take my hands off the handlebars. Only for 2 seconds at a time and only 1 inch above the handlebars….And so it started.

  7. Hit the nail on the head and its why I seldom ride with a group larger than my tandem stoker…

  8. I have stopped attending group rides for all the same reasons. I ride for the love of riding, not to show off my new bike, or to keep pace with the fastest riders. I will forever be a purist.

  9. Great article. Certainly some advice to keep reminding our riders as they learn the art of the paceline for the first time on our trips.

  10. Thank you Peter for so succinctly articulating what I believe a cooperative group ride should be about. I wish everyone in my cycle club could read your article (and to that end, I confess I posted a link to it on our message board).

    It needed to be said, & it needs to be read. Bravo!

    1. Bob – thanks for posting it on our nycc message board. I’ve also emailed it to people I know who may not read the msg board often.

      It should be required reading for everyone in the SIG at least!


      (Oh, and thanks to Peter for writing a terrific article in the first place)

  11. Reading your essay made me smile as it brought back memories of when I stepped my toes into group rides back in the late 70s & early 80s. I think to some extent we’ve been a victim of the bicycling explosion – many more cyclists out there wanting to push their own envelopes without the knowledge, skill sets or attitudes it takes to be respectful of the sport and of others.

    Don’t know if you ever had the opportunity to meet Phil Whitman from Gaffney, but I was fortunate to meet him shortly after moving to SC. When you mentioned elegant and classy in your article it immediately made me think of Phil. He was about 10 years older than me and held most of the SC road and TT records for his age group, but you would never know from his low key and polished manner on the bike. He was an excellent mentor who taught many of us in the Upstate about the art of cycling. Sadly, he passed away too early to continue to share his knowledge with others. I continue to participate in group rides on a semi-regular basis, and continue to make the efforts with other experienced cyclists, sometimes with some success, other times without, to share what’s been passed down to me about the true joys and responsibilities of cycling.

  12. Well… busted. I enjoy riding hard with a group, have participated in triathlons, and am stuck riding my tri-bike while building up my road bike as money allows. The 10 yr old road bike frame cracked & replacement needs newer parts. I cannot stand riding alone much because single cyclists get so little respect on the road. I just feel safer in a group even with the less skilled newbies. So many points in the article are well made and give me much to ponder. There really is a glaring need for more communication pre- and maybe post-ride and certainly during it. There is a vacuum of leadership. Thank you, Peter for the article and spirit in which you intended it.

  13. I am not sure if I have ever been on a group ride…

    more of a mountain biker than a roadie
    more of a fred than a roadie

    did I win the jersey?

  14. Excellent article. States the exact reasons I started riding in group rides long ago and the reasons why I do not currently do group rides now.

  15. I grew up in Union County, NC, and I had the great benefit of riding with a lot of older guys (who I would probably consider peers today) when I was a teenager riding in the late 80s. George Smith and John Collins taught me to ride the right way. No yelling, no cussing, just subtle pushes foward when I was dropping off the back or gentle “hold ons” when I pulled off the front, both of which were usually followed by a Shaefer Light in a dusty parking lot. It was a collective effort, and no one was better (or worse) than the pack. I really struggled getting back into riding this year. In the past decade it appears people have only watched Lance Armstrong ride the TDF, and then only the last few miles (I would probably appear cooler if I said kilometers) of the race, long after the real work was done. Hopefully the beauty, fun and efficiency of a smoothly transitioning pace line is not gone. If they are, they will be missed.

  16. My wife rides in a “C” group ride and I’ve been joining her lately. I hear what you’re saying about the “fast guys at the front”. This group ride is AWESOME, it is the Mary Hughes ride and she gets it JUST right. She lets the fast riders go first, then the medium riders, then the “normal people”. My wife rides with the normal people. They are all caring and help each other ride better. The fast riders at the front do exactly what you mention. If you don’t like all that testosterone and angst, ride with the last group in a “C” ride and you’ll see the camaraderie it sounds like you’re looking for.

  17. Very much appreciate the article! Excellent points made that everyone, roadie and triathlete alike, need to be reminded of. Yes, even triathletes can be capable and safe riders in a group!!

  18. I am in The Big Wheels Bike Club, Buffalo New York.
    We are an old-fashioned club, theme “no one left behind”.
    Our goal is to attract the new riders, teach them the rules of the road and to enjoy our rides. We stop for coffee, shoot the breeze, and keep in shape. I wouldn’t exchange the camaderie for the solo ride. Long rides are alot more enjoyable with someone along the way, to talk to, to be there in case of an emergency. I use my bike alone for short errands and the occasional short ride… but nothing like the group for the 30-60 milers.

  19. good article, there is definitely a time a place for a big group ride but I keep them to a minimum, to maximize my safety and to try to minimize the chance of crashes

  20. Great to think about. Well said! Let’s stay smart, safe, and never lose the joy of riding with one another!

  21. Also – please keep writing articles like this one. I see more and more people in Charleston riding by themselves and it’s sort of frightening.

  22. Unfortunately, this piece captures the dynamics of social groups in any number of settings. Not just group bike rides.

  23. Just finished reading the article.
    ANYONE who cycles with a club and doesn’t see themselves in some part of this piece…needs to read it again!
    I cycled competitivly and trained with the same group of guys week in and week out.
    We ‘knew’ each others moves.
    There was NO tolerance for hot shoes who couldn’t maintain pacelines and even cadence.
    “How” In Gods name I digressed so far in the intervening years is beyond me but there I was in almost every line.
    Time to regain the ‘good’ old habits.

  24. Peter – excellent article overall. I think all of us can use a reminder of the principles you raise, though I was a little disappointed to see you perpetuating the stereotype about triathletes lacking the bike handling skills necessary to safely participate in group rides. I have been training for and racing in triathlons for 25 years now, regularly participating in group rides, including pace lines. My experience has taught me that a person’s skills in a group ride depend primarily on their hours in the saddle alongside others and their willingness to learn from their more experienced clubmates and not whether they happen to enjoy other sports in addition to their commitment to cycling. I’m sure there are also plenty of pure cyclists out there who spend far too much time riding alone and as a result never manage to acquire the skills needed to ride safely in a group.

    One final plug for cyclist/triathlete harmony – the mere presence of aerobars on a bike is not an inherently dangerous situation. Aerobars are only dangerous if the person with the bars insists on trying to use them when riding in a group, proving themselves to be an idiot. This comes down to simply knowing and trusting the people you ride with and the skills and attitudes they bring to each ride. Ride safe.

  25. Why the bagging on triathletes from the roadies? I hesitate to tell other cyclists I do triathlons for fear of banishment from a group ride before I ever get to know anyone. I pay attention and work to learn, and I don’t show up with TT bars.
    I equate this to my days in construction as a framer/carpenter. NO WAY I was going to tell that crew I was in college, much less for Architecture. My experience with other triathletes is not that of prima-donnas, so I’m left confused. Please elaborate.

    1. If you’re a triathlete the reference should simply make you laugh. Being a triathlete myself, I’m used to the ribbing I get from cyclists, It’s all fun. This was a great article.

  26. Thank you for writing an article with detail and consideration to every rider. This article is thoughtful and heartfelt. This is what it should be.

  27. Thank you for an excellent article. You are absolutely right that the etiquette of the group ride seems to be lost nowadays. More cyclists should read your list of what to learn from a group ride.

  28. Very well said. If those 14 rules were followed, we would all be riding more safely and enjoyably

  29. Very nice article. As a rider learning the ropes (I say this after 5 years of solid experience), I appreciate the explanation of the peloton. Thanks for the clever breakdown!

  30. Thank you for this article. My wife thought I wrote it. So much has changed in the twenty five years I have been riding. When I first moved to Columbia I was fortunate enough to hook up with the kind of group you describe; If you kept coming back and were willing to learn, you got to stay around even if you weren’t very fast. I learned a whole new vocabulary of swear words while apprenticing and to this day I will have an aneurysm before I let a gap open up because of me. All is not lost I have met a few people who receive guidance and are grateful when they see noticeable improvement from some advice you offer.
    There are still plenty of knuckleheads who look down on me because my Pfeiffer steel(OX Platinum) frame is so old fashioned, but I just smile thinking about how nice it is to ride a bicycle that feels like a musical instrument. I continue to be thankful for those who have nurtured me and those who are willing to learn.

  31. Why rip on Tri-geeks- cause there is truth in the sterotypes. Sure some can ride fine with a group but many 1. admit there fear of groups because of their poor bike handling skills and 2 add fear to a group when they join in. Much of tri-training lifestyle is exactly the opposite of the point of this article, Its all about solo exercise and doing “PR’s” The mentality is different. Group rides are about the group.

  32. I think the rip on “Tri-Geeks is funny. I’m one of those Tri-Geeks and I enjoy a good group ride every now and then. I don’t mind the ribbing I get from roadies because I sort of understand why they develop a stereotype. My first group ride was when I participated in a charity ride with 500 or so riders and I ended up PULLING a cyclist that was dropped by his group. That turned out to be one of the lead groups and I pulled that team 33% of the ride. I learned a lot that day so I guess I’m the excpeption to the “Triathletes don’t want to listen” rule.

  33. Your article really hit home. When I see some of the unconcious riders out there – 3 across and sometimes riding in the wrong lane there are so many of them, refusing to single file on small roads – I understand why accidents happen. As a beginner road cyclist (after several years of MTB trail riding) I’m extremely careful about the rules of the road.

    The idea that riding is/was/should be an apprenticeship also got me. As a beginner I want to learn, except I’m finding that there are few people who want to teach. Most seem to want to show you how good they are, but few want to share how they got there.

    And as for equipment, it’s one upmanship all over the place. I’m looking for a road bike to get me started so I don’t want to invest huge amounts (especially as I don’t planning on giving up on my MTB). My “new” bike will either be new but entry level range or a used mid range bike. And I’m almost embarrassed to admit this given people’s reaction as though I have the ability to make the most of a $4000 bike vs. a $400 one.

    I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I will find someone willing to teach and guide me rather than making me feel stupid or inept or insufficiently equipped !!

    1. I feel you… this a note to many…
      I am a non-elitist all-arounder rider/racer who also teaches indoor cycle and outdoor skills classes to beginners and up. I implore you to FIND a “nice” local shop that fits your style (family oriented will be less elitist, but have some limitations), or a NICE recreational riding club (not a racing club/team), and find out when the beginner-friendly rides are. I’ve lived and ridden allover the country and have found LOTS of group rides of different levels to enjoy – and learn or mentor, depending…

      Oh, for $400, go used – good news is that it probably won’t lose any more value in a year or so of riding while you figure out if it’s a long term relationship. Enjoy the ride!

      A group ride with “A/B/C” is great! Most will have some sort of leader and a range of experienced riders often ready to share/teach what they’ve learned.

  34. Great piece. Strikes all the right chords that all new cyclists need to know. I used to do large group rides, but because of all the problems that the author points out, the risk is greater than the benefit. I ride with smaller groups of friends whose riding is predictable, yet who all want to get a good workout, and that works for me.

  35. Before the internet, before Lance it was still the same. I’m in the latter half of my third decade of serious riding and, without question the behavior cited in the article is just in the nature of the wannabe.

  36. Boy, I feel very lucky!! I didn’t realize how bad a group ride could be. I ride in the Detroit area and we must just have really good ride leaders. With our group of 20-30 riders, we stop on stale green lights. We don’t have people trying to drop other people and we ride with just a murmur of what we did last night, without yelling “hole” how many times did you say?

    I guess I feel very blessed that I was taken in several years ago with encouraging comments, intermittent lessons, and welcome arms. I have gotten stronger, wiser and am enjoying every minute of my newfound friends.

    If you are ever in the Detroit area, try a ride with the Wolverines. You will be pleasantly surprised, I guess, after reading this at how cohesive our group is. — then see “Calendar.”

  37. Peter,
    What a beautifully written post. It captures the essence of what recreational roadl cycling should be about. However, having said that, I’m not opposed to a little quality suffering dished out between friends. Ride on.

  38. Great article. Foundational stuff for the roadie. I was lucky enough to start riding with someone that came up as part of a team, and he began laying these points down with me as a foundation right from the outset. When he invited me out for the local A-ride and I hopped on to my first paceline, I was really glad to have been oriented to these basics. Happily that ride does have a good leader who does a great job working with everyone, even the strongest and most experienced riders, to keep things fluid for everybody. We all win when we do it this way.

  39. This is exactly why I have never done much group riding. I’m a novice, a triathlete on a humble road bike. I want to get good before I get fast, which is not the way most people think. I only graduated to a road bike after riding an ancient hybrid for several months, and the vast majority of the 2,300 miles I’ve put on it so far have been alone or with one friend. Cyclists make me more nervous than motorists!

  40. I first started to ride in 1974 and at that time cycling was in its infancy but everyone was learning and enjoying the ride but then over time ( the last 20 to 30 years ) it got to the point that the joy was replaced with the I’m better then you and I can drop you instead of the Nice ride WE really enjoyed that part of the ride.
    I’m fortunate enough to have a hand full of friends that have been riding together since the good ole days and we still have plenty of nice rides where we all stick together. I can tell you when my buddies are going to get up and out of a saddle on a climb and know how they will react on a ride, I’m sure there are plenty of us out there but I think the majority don’t have a clue about such small things that mean so much !!!!

  41. I love this article. I’m a beginner cyclist who gave up group riding for these exact reasons. I want to learn, I want to be welcomed in and mentored but nobody wants to bother with me.

  42. The year was 85′ and it was the Saturday morning grp bike ride from the shop. All new the two breasted pace line was to be tight, steady and those that took a flyer were made fun of. And that’s the way it was. : )

  43. Truer words may not have ever been written about what the group ride has become. I miss riding with guys who knew what they were doing. The beautiful wagon wheel with 10-30 second pulls was a work of art, and safe. Now the group ride is more like a 16 year old learning to drive a clutch for the first time.

  44. Great article, Peter, and spot on. I occasionally ride a group ride which is always prefaced with “obey the rules of the road”, but that doesn’t include stop signs or riding more than 2 abreast… I wonder where the law and these rules of the road intersect.

  45. There’s no doubt that we need more group rides like this, rides that will encourage new cyclists to continue to grow in the sport and challenge themselves. Thanks for wording this so well, and I hope we can see more of this happen in my area (Milwaukee, WI).

  46. Perfectly stated. Another way to supplement group riding skills is to work with a good cycling coach who has years of experience as a professional. That will definitely help with paceline riding, etiquette and energy conservation (smooth pedaling and pulls). When riding in a group it’s about the group not the individual rider. It’s ok to be told what/how to do something. In the end you will be a better rider for it.

  47. Great article Peter. Sounds like those of us who are newer to the sport really missed out on a good scene in the earlier days.

    I definitely focus on being faster and keeping up more than anything else. I also always point out holes in case someone isn’t paying attention, perhaps too often.

    From my own perspective I try to ride with the fastest people I can get through a ride with because I like the feeling of speed and I want to be as good as the people I look up to.

    Recently though, I started solo riding again because I felt i had lost touch with cycling for fun. Now I think I see why.

    Great great article

  48. I run a Junior racing team. I’m going to make them memorise this and they WILL be tested.

  49. The Obstacles you listed are:

    1. No one wants to be told what to do.
    2. It’s all about the workout, ego boost, or clicks for experienced riders.
    3. Rides are advertised by speed insted of more criteria.
    4. Good riders don’t work enough on form and drills.

    And the only one of these that can be addressed by a group is #3.

    What was the point of listing the others besides a meaningless rant ?

  50. Thank you for mentioning the primary difficulties involved in all group riding I have encountered. Conclusively,your artical hits dead on the problem that group rides are facing in concerns with accecptable riding speeds and rider conforming with widly held pace line rules. Speed is the culprit that”s driving group rides apart and speed ,as you stated, is the least important aspect of a good workout and safe group ride. Education seems the only solution and we are hopeful of your continued interest in this activity as well as riding. Thank you for the excellent artical!!!

    1. Anyone who rode and grew up in the 70’s and 80’s was part of an activity that no longer exists. The only way to replicate the joy and fun of that era is to limit the participants to those willing to ride according to a long forgotten set of rules. I’ve tried the education approach, but alas, one loose screw will bring the whole group down. The actual cause of this sorry state of affairs is not often discussed, it is so un PC.

  51. I recently started something to build group ride in my bike club, Wheeling Wheelmen, a playing card team. I bought a deck of bicycle cards from Walgreens. At the start of our Sunday ride, we cut the deck to determine what the suite of the day is, say hearts. Then I get people who want to joint the “hearts pace line” and give a numbr card to each member. We skotch taped the card to the seat tube or bag. The rules are to be point for 2 miles or less and then peal to the back of the line and maintain a 1/2 to 1 wheel gap. The first week was a disaster. There were 45 people who came to ride that day. I gave out the ace to queen cards. I ended up with 2 riders after a 45 mile ride. The second week was a little better. Started the ride with 9 members and ended with 5.

  52. Hmmm… i wonder who is “casting aspersions” here? Sounds like you don’t like tri-athletes, powertaps, high-end bikes, and 40 year olds.
    The way i look at it… manners, courtesy, and skill have no bearing on how old you are, what your athletic activities consist of, or how much you paid for your bike. Sounds like what would solve the problem you speak of is to have an ‘exclusive’ bike club with strict ground-rules. Membership will dictate no 35-45 year olds allowed. No bike will cost more than $2000 (receipt or affidavit required). Don’t advertise your group rides, and make sure that everyone is single-file and never exceeds 18mph at any time.
    After the ride be ready for inspection to ensure you have removed your bike shorts.

    1. Focus on the main point of this essay and you will be a better rider. Or, stay home and armchair analyze! Either way, the group will improve.

  53. I’m not sure if you were saying this with a little tongue in cheek, but be careful of stereotyping “God forbid, Triathletes”. Many of them have been on two wheels since the days of Eddie B and before and have plenty of experience riding in a peleton. Some triathletes might be novice cyclists. Some might have more miles under their wheels than you.

    1. It is a big problem when cyclists keep their hands on the aero bars in a pace line. Triathletes can be their own worst enemies.

  54. Great article, reminded me why I wanted to be a cyclist in the first place, reminded me of my infancy in the Major Taylor Iron Riders, reminded me of group rides with said club.
    Some of the problem in cycling is snobbery, whether its a rich dude on his 10k Parlee or some Cat 5 hotshot who is intent on becoming Lance, my 6 years in cycling have introduced me to many fine people, cut from the same cloth as my motocross brethren (20+ years, 1 Am championship) , however, on a daily basis I am confronted with people whose self worth is highly over aggrandized. I usually wave at other cyclist but more often than not, I get a response that resembles a glare more than a stare, and absolute rudeness as if my wave were interpreted as some foreign language.
    That’s the first thing cycling needs to fix. IMHO. 🙂

  55. Please don’t get me wrong, Im not judging all of cycling by the guy who take themselves way too seriously. Ive seen mx racers die, and this year Ive seen top pro cyclists die and in the end ya know what, how fast they were on a bike was the least thing mentioned… how were you as a person is more important that how fast you rode a machine. I was a cyclist (BMX) long before I was a motorcyclist. And now life (thru mx injuries) have taken me full circle. I spent 4 yeas training to race and after 1 Crit, 1TT and 1 mountain stage RR I am convinced I DONT have what it takes to go any further. Heading back to what I know Im good at, MX, but cycling is ALWAYS a part of me and I (God willing ) will never not be on my bicycle. Im sure Wouter Weylandt and Josh Lichtle would agree with me. BOTH gave all for the passion in their lives. That mutual passion is why we all ride, snobbery is childish and keeps potential newcomers from feeling welcomed in a very difficult sport (cycling.). Josh Lichtle and most mx pros are also road cyclists, best endurance training out there.

  56. Absolutely fabulous article on the dying skill of properly riding in a pack. If only every new roadie was forced to learn these skills through a truly organized club, I might consider racing again with the chance that my old, lugged steel bike would make it back to my garage intact and my flesh free from splintered shards of carbon-fiber.

  57. Not really sure if group rides are any worse now than 40 years ago when I started racing. Maybe as we’ve aged we’ve gained a bit of riding wisdom (only a bit) and maybe more likely some riders have slowed down, mellowed, and switched a bit to cruise mode (not anything wrong with that).
    There’s always been bozos in the pacelines and always will be. Its life.

  58. Its Borysewicz not Borysewich. Very thoughtful article. It is the responsibility of the seasoned riders to bring new blood in the fold. It takes a peleton to raise a squirrel.

  59. After a 15-year hiatus off the bike, I was saddened to find that cycling etiquette had all but disappeared when I resumed my passion. Self-proclaimed “cyclists” would buzz by me without the courtesy of a call-out. Never mind that it’s rude, but how about also unsafe? Moreover, most of these Lance wannabes treat EVERY ride as if it is a TDF qualifier. Not fun.

    There are many more group rides in our area (SF East Bay) than there were in the 90’s, most of which usually result in some poor schmoe losing a few layers of skin, changing the direction of a limb, and causing a few thousand dollars damage to their one-year-of-college-tuition bike. Fortunately there are still a few local rides that only permit riders who respect the lore of the peloton. I’ll choose the latter.

  60. Perfect. I thought it was just me. After many years in the saddle racing and clowning around, the art form of the sport startes to dissipate but you just reminded me why I like my “team” and the dipilined riding we expect from our younger guys on every ride, maybe something will wear off…..

  61. Brillant!!! I am a triathlete and had to laugh out loud and nod in agreement with everything touched upon in this article, even the point about triathletes. God forbid if you are a female cyclist and happen to casually ride past a guy on a hill or on a flat its off to the races on the guy’s part. Everything seems to be a competition or a race to nowhere. When I ride I want to enjoy the experience and I am always open to learn. I am a Roadie and I ride off road. In general, Moutain Bikers are better group riders than Roadies and the riding experience is supremely better, blissful friendly and fun.

  62. Yvette you are so right. I was riding with Katherine Bertine last year on a parkway they close for cyclists a couple times a year, she was riding in recovery mode, 15-17 tops, and every time a guy would roll up and realize she was a girl they went apeshit…wtf is up with that. Are they so insecure they need to prove everything to a woman cyclist…c’mon guys. I know many roadies and by and large I think we are all good people but trust me, if I had had the welcome I get from other roadies on the road when I stepped into motocross in 1981, Id have taken up golf or something else. MX took me in life I was family, even though Id e the only Black guy at the track and sometimes only one racing at that. Its much different now, demographics-wise, but the openness and welcoming attitude still prevails, and as you say, MTB riders are also friendlier. I still dont understand it and will continue to suffer the indignities when other fellow roadies snub my simple wave, I got big shoulders and can handle it. If they wanted other people to run or stay away from road cycling, then keep doing what yer doing fellas. :-/

  63. Do a couple of C and D level rides if you want to rediscover the fun of bicycling. Yes, I said FUN, which seems to be a forgotten concept among too many roadies. There’s the camaraderie, looking at the scenery instead of the pavement and the rear wheel ahead of you, the deli stops, and the excitement of a novice rider who’s just discovered that he/she has ridden farther and faster than he/she though possible.

  64. Wow! Great article. Written so clearly and eloquently. Put down my thoughts and concerns better than I could have expressed them. You described part of why I have to ride solo. Thank you for boldly saying what needs to be said by every group that has a leader.

  65. I am one of the “New Riders” and I am quite frankly afraid to ride in a group. I ride alone or with my daughter because I see other cyclist in groups going the other way almost get hit by cars, or worse cars that pass me on blind curves and then meet oncoming trafic. I think there are to many riders and to many drivers that feel they have some entitlement to the road.

  66. Your article really hit home. We must have learned from the same guy. I will always be grateful to those who helped me in my first years of cycling and who continue to make me stronger, safer and smarter. My only desire is to pass on what was so freely given to me.
    Viva la Gruppe.

  67. I learned the “Art of Group Riding” through the Charles River Wheelmen’s “Paceline Clinics.” I showed up and there were three groups identified. The fast (36 miles), medium (24), and slow (16). I chose the slow/short ride. We pulled out of the parking lot and our designated leader introduced herself. “I was asked to lead this ride because I have experience and a very smooth cadence.”
    The other riders also introduced themselves and said something about their riding or desired skills. I introduced myself (the only male rider in the group), “I’m Dave and I’m good at being yelled at. You can correct me at any time. I’m here to learn.” That comment really broke the ice in the group.
    The ride leader responded, “Well, I guess we checked our male ego at the door today.”
    I had a great ride, learned a lot, and became a regular while I lived in the Boston area.

    Thanks, CRW!

  68. Peter, Thanks so much for this; very insightful. I’ve posted links on our club forum and fb page. This is one of those rare “stop and think a moment” writings – to help us realize why we truly lead the club rides and how those new to group riding must feel.

    Thanks! – and if you’re ever in Frisco, Tx – we’ve got a spot for you on one of our rides… Shawnee Trail Cycling Club

    1. If you ever come to Plano, Texas, be sure to look up the Plano Bicycle Association. We are a club of about 575 cycling enthusiasts whose motto is Fun, Challenge, and Safety. We have nine official leader-led PBA rides ranging from Novice to Elite leaving every Saturday morning, along with other rides during the week. We work hard to keep everyone safe. Please go to our website and scroll down to the President’s message. Then click on the PBA Ride Rules link on the right to see how we try to keep the rubber side down.

  69. Please share ways and ideas you implement safety Natalie, always looking for useful tips. I can only imagine the challenges with the large numbers.

  70. Overall and I like this article, but I see some issues with some of what is being said. Although I have “only” been riding for 5 or so years, I am now a certified USAC cycling coach and a cat2 racer in 2 years of racing. My skills were learned from a good group of pack riders. The ride was “C” paced. One Saturday I was kicked out and not because they didn’t like me, or because I wasn’t following rules, but because I’d “outgrown” the ride. They told me where I needed to go and before I knew it I was riding the “A” rides… Only to find out there are some fast guys that can hang with the “a’s”, but lacked the skills learned from the slow and steady guys. I am also a safety advocate. The ride can be fast and safe. Speed doesn’t always equate to dangerous, but dumb riding skills does. Lastly, some group rides are billed as training rides. If I’m on a 63 mile training ride and someone in the group can’t keep up, usually the “leader”, than maybe this isn’t the training you need. There is nothing worse than someone saying your going too fast when you’re keeping a solid 222+mph/avg pace. I think is why most seriously competitive cyclist don’t train in groups unless it is part of a race planned work out.

  71. the guy on far left 2nd pic orange tires is LEGALLY BLIND he had to ride with the pros to stay safe people in back of that ride thought it was TDF and they were chasing GEORGE great story

  72. I was surprised by this article. The group riding you describe is not the group riding I recall from 30 years ago, when I road with touring clubs all over the US. This specific advice about riding in a peloton is applicable to racers’ training rides. It seems to have little to do with bicycle touring, which comes very close to being a lost form of recreation, if not an art.

    The Greenville Spinners, in South Carolina, like most touring clubs of bygone times, would feature multiple rides every weekend, with maps and cue-sheets, to various destinations. RIders would chat amiably, maintain no more than two abreast, regroup as appropriate, and perhaps stop at a country store for refreshments. Much of the interest was in exploring new places to ride and enjoying the scenery.

    Now riders follow the same routes over and over, with a primary emphasis on training, and the kind of touring I describe occurs only a few times a year, regarded as a special occasion.

  73. Nice post – couldn’t agree more with most of it. I suspect certain groups of riders stay together for the same reasons we hang out with our friends while shying away from others – whatever those things are.

    It’s a good thing that we are not all alike, ride alike, train alike, eat alike, etc. etc. etc…. makes life interesting (even if is is sometimes exasperating!)

    Thanks for writhing this though – I enjoyed reading it.

  74. I recognized this problem when it was developing and I was coaching the Los Angeles Racing Team more than 25 years ago. I watched as it continued to get worse and finally wrote an e-book, “A Better Way To Train”, to help bring back this “lost art” and teach much more. There is an entire section in that e-book titled, “Professional Riding”, which teaches the lost art of riding in a peloton with just a few hours of reading. It is designed to help increase riding safety,efficiency, save some skin, and increase fun and is the equivalent reading material of a regular how-to-book for cycling AND it was written by one of those old guys with lots of experience (63 next month.) The art isn’t lost, you can find it at my web site,, along with a lot of other helpful information, some of it free. AND you don’t have to spend years learning this lost art, all you have to do it spend a few hours reading and then practice what it teaches. 🙂

  75. Wow. Pander much, people? This is nonsense. Living in S. Florida gives one the opportunity to ride in all manner of group ride dynamics. There are the hammerhead rides that push you to the limits of your speed and endurance, but stop at lights and try to follow road rules mostly. There are the little old lady group rides. There are social, let’s stop and eat in the middle of the ride, groups, and there are the nasty, every man for himself, F road rules, “What light?”, hang on for dear life while your heart is leaping out of your chest or get dropped halfway into the ride, group ride – which is my absolute favorite. So pick your poison, but for Me sake (I’m a biking god in my own mind) stop the bitching and whining, Nancy. No one is forcing you to ride in a group you don’t like to ride with.

  76. James Miller: Have you buried any bicyclists? Been to their funerals? Peter has, and he knows what he is talking about. It is literally a matter of life and death. And short of that, I think Peter’s message is that the ill-behaved groups that apparently are more prevalent outside your region are spoiling the enjoyment of group riding. My takeaway is that more experienced group riders should speak up and should be mentoring those who are coming along; and they should not allow anarchists to hijack rides and ruin the experience for everyone else.

    By the way, “whining” is a lame and inarticulate way of saying you just don’t like what someone else says.

    1. It’s not about “liking” what was written, I just think he’s wrong. This is a cry baby, “get off my lawn” article, pure and simple. You can’t make everyone do things the way you think they should be done – or the way they “used” to be done. People die biking all the time – even ones who are “doing it right”, so that’s a moot point used only for shock value. If you don’t like the group you’re riding with – change your group. It really is that simple. Ever raced before? It’s organized chaos and very dangerous. Some of these group rides emulate racing ON PURPOSE because the people in the group are training to race. If that’s not what you’re looking for then move on, don’t complain about it.

      1. I live and ride in SoFla as well. James’ attitude is exactly what the author is referring to and is indicative of racers that don’t know how to train and don’t have an ounce of common courtesy for other vehicles and pedestrians, nevermind the peleton’s safety. We have a group of riders that keep a fast, rotating paceline and obey lights and watchout for each other on dangerous roads. Our goal is to ride as a group and not drop as many people as possible (we actually will regroup on certain turns). We ride harder on weekends and, as wimpy as it sounds, we actually go easier during the week to recover. The riders that James hangs out with ridicule us. Yet, very few of them can stay in our rotation for 3 hrs straight. They sit-in a pack of 80 riders, 4 across with over-lapping wheels, then attack at a road obstacle. Because… they cannot separate a group ride from a race. It’s a selfish group riding style. The problem we have is that these James types come to our ride because it is so consistent and “clean” and then they pull the same stunts as on “their ride”. When you ask them to either respect our ride or find another ride, they get pissed and further ridicule us. Why come to a “real” group ride if you want James’ “organized chaos”? The only thing worse is when they bring their TT bikes to your group ride and try to prove how strong they are, staying in the aero bars in the paceline and accelerating the front any time they rotate. And, their favorite line, like James, is “shut-up and ride”.

  77. i, as a new rider, went on a bike ride with a cycling group here in The Woodlands, TX and was totally turned off by them…all they wanted to do was go out fast and ride hard and it was totally unenjoyable. I don’t want to pander around, I definitely want to ride consistently, but with nice people who talk once in awhile…after all, if I wanted to ride by myself I would. But that’s why it is called a ‘group’ ride, is it not? No one talked to me or acknowledged that I was a ‘new’ face. They all knew each other and kept to themselves and I remained an ‘outsider.’ I would love to find a group that would welcome me and make riding fun again.

  78. James Miller: if there are bad actors in a group, yes, one can bail out, but there is another choice. It’s called leadership. By speaking up and showing there is a better way, it is possible to change the group dynamics. If I don’t like the way a school is run, yes, I can transfer my child. But what does that do for all the other kids whose parents don’t have the resources or knowledge? Better to improve the school. If no one tries to change anything that’s less than the best, civilization just goes into a downward spiral. Leadership is not whining; it is showing there is a better way.

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