Every riding group has certain unwritten rules that govern its rides and riders. This is an attempt to actually write them down for us, so that newcomers will at least be somewhat aware of how we do it here.
Our riding philosophy is not very complicated. We ride together because it is more fun than riding alone, and we socialize as much as we exercise. The group contains “fast” riders, some who also race, and “slow” riders. Some riders have lots of experience, and some none. There are the silent types who you have to think about afterwards to remember if they were even there, and those you can’t possibly forget despite trying. There are some who are always happy and some who constantly complain about their age/joints/equipment/weather/prior evening/diet/riding partners. As you can see, it is like every other group. The common bond is that we want to ride together, and we want to get home safely afterward.
We generally do not do planned routes, although there are exceptions. This means that the entire group must stay within sight of each other in order to not miss turns. We don’t expect that people know how to get home by themselves. So we require that riders take responsibility to make sure they do not get out of sight of any riders behind them. This is called the Gap Rule. A rider must keep a rider behind “within sight” or slow or stop, regardless of what the riders ahead of them are doing. This cascades until those on the front have to slow or stop as well. Eventually, if there is a problem like a flat tire or other breakdown, it will be discovered quickly and the group will stop. And yes, this means we stop for every flat or mishap.
Complying with the Gap Rule is hard for new riders, who tend to focus on those ahead while riding. Nevertheless, it is important to learn to be aware of who is dropping back, and ultimately, to know if you are the last rider. It is very important to be aware if you are on the tail end of a subgroup, because that means you are responsible for the gap for that group. If you note that someone behind is getting out of sight, you should call out “gapping” or “slowing” to everyone that can hear you so they know what is going on. It is NOT the responsibility of the person being gapped to do this. If you are in a pace line, and you reach the back, that is the moment to check for gapped riders and act accordingly. And we aren’t talking about those people who are 10 yards back. The Gap Rule is about those who are actually about to disappear.
The fact that we need to stay together implies that we need to ride at compatible paces. This means that riders going way above the average are discouraged, and riders going below, and causing gaps by pace alone, are discouraged as well. This does not mean our rides are ponderous affairs always going 15mph. There are jams and there are lulls. Hills and town lines are particular jam points. But we all understand the need to regroup after these things, and big-time escapes just aren’t permitted. If you are a racer, our rides are not quite fast enough to be quality training rides, although they are good base rides.
Of course, most newcomers have one overriding question: will I be able to keep up and/or go the distance? We get this question all the time. The bottom line is that our true moving averages, go from 15 to 19 mph. This is based on actual cyclometer results, not guessing. The distance is usually two hours, a bit longer in the summer. Some riders meet earlier and then join the group at the regular time to extend their hours. Some ride a fairly good distance to the ride and back to get additional miles in.
The speed is high enough that drafting is essential. More on that topic is available here. Briefly, we expect proper drafting, signalling, and safe riding from everyone. Nobody wants to crash or die, especially those who have. If you are misbehaving, expect to get called on it. You don’t have to be perfect; nobody in our group is yet. We all sometimes hit the brakes too hard, swerve, fail to spot a pothole, etc. It happens. We don’t hold each other liable for goofs. We note the event and keep moving.
1. We stay together
2. We follow the Gap Rule
3. We strive to be safe and tolerant
A note about Landry’s rides
The local bike shop, Landry’s in Norwood (Rt 1), holds Saturday morning rides during the season for cyclists of all abilities. Many Sharon riders also ride at Landry’s (our rides are designed to not conflict), and consider Landry’s “our” shop. Their fastest ride is (much) harder than a typical Sharon ride, averaging over 20mph, but their second-fastest is about the same or a little easier. There is also one or even two more rides at correspondingly slower paces. The styles of the Sharon and Landry’s rides are quite different. Landry’s rides almost always take the same route (or very nearly the same), and jamming is discouraged in favor of a more steady tempo style ride. Sharon rides are seemingly random collections of roads and speeds. Even the leaders don’t know where they are going!
We strongly encourage riders who find Sharon rides too fast or too slow to ride the appropriate Landry’s ride for their taste.