Last year Peter Wilborn’s article lamenting the current state of group riding was spread about the country through a variety of cycling list groups and facebook postings. I first ran across this article when a fellow club member posted it to the Oakland Yellow Jackets email list and the poster agreed with the article and also bemoaned the current stated of club riding. I responded with the following letter, which I am reposting here.
I have several issues with the yellowjackets group riding habits and people who know me will be familiar with my rants. I like riding in groups and I like the yellowjackets, but I prefer not to paceline with them. The advanced group vacillates between being aggressively fast pacelining or chatting pacelining. The aggressively fast version is often hostile and unfriendly game playing, not simply fast. We would be faster if we were behaving in a more efficient manner. During the chatting pacelining, people are simply not paying enough attention to the road and other riders and is dangerous for the obvious reasons. However, if that is what the group wishes to do, then that is what we will do. I will just ride off the back.
Despite these reservations, I have received a huge amount of support, information, skills from other cyclists and continue to do so. I do not think that the art of a group ride is lost. I have learned so much from other people and still do. I am very thankful for the cyclists, with whom I have been lucky enough to ride. These people are still around; they didn’t disappear 10 or 20 years ago.
I spent Sunday riding with my friend Jack. Jack is like the color white; he hits every frequency. He is constantly irregular. His speed varies greatly and he often coasts, though at irregular but very frequent intervals. You try riding 100 miles with him and not become a more attentive cyclist. Despite these quirks, Jack is a great cyclist. He has put down about 10,000 miles a year for the past 10 years. He knows a lot and you can learn a lot from him. He is friendly and interesting. The route I rode this weekend is one I would never have known about or done. He figured out the route and did the reconnaissance. It was 111 miles of beautiful roads and not a foot of “junk miles”. We actually had a stream crossing. Jack wanted to cut out an ugly and slightly dangerous section of road (dangerous due to boat trailer traffic). He found the site of an old, now missing, bridge and we crossed a stream by foot at that point. The route was unbelievably pretty and the roads had almost no traffic. It was one of my favorite rides ever. I would never have done this route on my own and I am very grateful for knowing Jack and for him inviting me to do this fabulous ride. I don’t recommend pacelining with Jack, but he has many other redeeming qualities and my world has been broadened by knowing him.
I ride weekly with a gpc group. Bob is a font of knowledge about rides and routes and riding with him is great. Mark is my favorite wheel. He is the most constant and steady wheel I know. I do whatever Mark tells me to do and that policy hasn’t lead me wrong yet. He has been helpful to me in both hints on how to be a better cyclist and by demonstration. He has been very supportive of my cycling and I am grateful to know him. Michael, my regular partner in crime for during-the-week short rides, has also been very supportive and enthusiastic, introducing me to other groups. Riding with this group has made me a better cyclist, a faster cyclist, and a happier person.
Despite my complaints about the yellowjackes, I love riding with them. The group is full of people I like and respect. Alexis, Chrissie, and James immediately come to mind. However, I would like to especially thank Charleston, who literally taught me how to be a cyclist. Other than Jason, my husband, Charleston has been the most supportive of my cycling. Charleston is also one of the smartest cyclist I know. He reads traffic well, he picks good lines, and he is constantly paying attention to the situation and environment. He was very kind to me when I first started cycling and I will always be thankful to him.