Posted by: Karen | July 30, 2009

Peloton Training

I went to the Basic Road Skills Clinic with the Cyclo Bellas on Tuesday evening.  Coach MJ and Bobbi taught three of us newbies some great stuff about group road riding.

Before we even started, we talked about basic safety tips, hand signals, the importance of trust in drafting (following) and pulling (leading), what a pace line is, and a basic overview of what we’d be practicing out on the road.

We headed north out of Bragg Creek on Highway 22. When the road shoulder was wide enough, we rode in a double column. MJ helped us find the right gears for a good spinning cadence, and mixed up our pack order once in a while as she offered great tips throughout the ride.

When I rode with Bobbi and Aimee a couple of weeks ago, I learned about the role of pulling. The puller (is that the right word?) needs to:

  • keep a steady pace – a speedometer is very helpful
  • make no sudden movements left, right, braking or surging
  • keep her hands “on the hoods” (near the brakes) except when signaling
  • plan ahead for everyone else
  • look for debris, obstacles, road markings ahead, and
  • signal danger or instructions to those behind, i.e. gravel, bumps, barriers, single file due to turns, merge lanes, etc.
  • signal turns to vehicles

It’s harder to be aware of one’s surroundings when cycling than it is when running. Obviously, one is going faster and you need to take in the information faster, but also, one’s body position is such that it is harder to look around and still maintain balance on two skinny, spinning wheels.

I wasn’t sure I’d like pulling with all that responsibility, but I was determined to give it a go. Once I got going, it felt a lot like running down a rocky trail. There was a lot of information to process quickly, but it was fun to focus on the job from moment to moment and block unnecessary thoughts out. Our pace hovered at around 22-23 km/hr (~14 mph). When it got hard to hold the pace I just signaled to someone behind me to take over and dropped back.

Following (drafting) has its own set of rules:

  • stay consistently close, but not too close
  • watch the hands of those in front of you for signals, shifting or braking
  • repeat the signals of those in front of you to those behind you
  • if you’re in the very back, mention vehicles coming up from behind to those ahead of you

We even learned how to ride as a group through a traffic circle – very interesting. I rather enjoyed the absence of cattle gates.

I got so busy drafting on the way back that I nearly missed the firemen out doing training near Redwood Meadows. They were terribly overdressed, but we appreciated that bit of “scenery” anyway.

After the ride a few of us stayed for dinner at the Powderhorn Saloon and enjoyed some great conversation. MJ and Bobbi are also into mountain biking and cyclo cross, activities which used to totally scare me, but sound more appealing all the time. Group road cycling used to scare me too, but now, not so much.

Thanks a bunch, CBellas! I learned a lot. It is one thing to read about this sport, and quite another thing to try it. I really appreciate your support!

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