As we entry another cycling season group riding skills always need a little polishing. Over the years I’ve developed what I call my “25 MPH Rules” to help communicate the concepts. One acronym discussed in a 2010 post is “SPAR”, another is “1522″.
This acronym describes the general flow and timing required when riding an echelon. An echelon is typically thought of as a group of riders in a formation diagonally across the road. An echelon in reality can also be riding parallel to the road. What makes the formation an echelon is that there is a continuous rotation of riders. in a paceline riders after taking a pull riders immediately move idividually to the back of the group. So what does “1522″ mean and how is it applied to riding an echelon?
“1″ means one foot apart side to side. When riding near race speed, about 25 mph, the advancing line riders about 1 foot to the leeward side of the receding line. During gusty cross wind this distance is increased for safety reasons. The 1 foot creates a great draft but more so allows riders to “see” other riders more easily in their peripheral vision or under their arm. It also makes the transition from one line to the other smoother and much easier.
“5″ indicates how long it should take the lead rider of the advancing line to overtake the rider who just transitioned to the receding line and to make the transition themself. In reality this transition may take up to 7 seconds. If the transition is less than 5 seconds the lead rider is surging or the receding rider is slow too much. A transition longer than 7 seconds means the lead rider is “blowing up” and needs to rest or that the receding rider is using echelon tactics on them.
The first “2″ indicates how much the receding rider slows after transition. At race speeds and gearing 2 rpm equals about 0.5 mph. Slowing even 0.5 mph is too great a difference causing riders in the receding line to slow abruptly. This is a safety issue! Riders at the back of the receding line must also accelerate hard to get on the back of the advancing line. The end result is very erratic speed within the group.
The last “2″ describes the reference point for the end of the advancing line. Whne you’re in the advancing line make note of who is 2 riders in front of you. Why 2 riders? During an extended hard effort our mental processing slows down. When we reference off the rider directly in front of us when brain dead we miss the back of the advancing line. By referencing off 2 riders in front of us we compensate for the slower processing.
Aplly these concept in a safet fashion and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to ride fast!
Great fun at Northfield yesterday; my first crit of the year. Racing has to be worth the effort and there’s no course like this one to get the blood pumping: super-fast corners and great flow. The tight turn into uphill corner 1 is absolutely the most thrilling part of the whole course. It just makes me excited typing about it. Since Northfield is also my college town it is always a good trip.
The group was riding well with pretty decent lines being taken and speed kept high most of the time. The theme of the day was humidity. The rain had just stopped and the roads were starting to dry off a bit as I began my warmup, but with no breeze it was torture sitting on the trainer with the sweat just pouring off in buckets. But arriving at the start line warm was a great thing because we shot off right away and it felt good to have some efforts in the legs already.
What a difference from last year; the legs felt great and I had enough power to feel totally in control of position and effort. Things were going very well and we were poised to have a very snappy close for the race as we began to reel in two riders who attacked too early and wouldn’t hold their gap. But just before that close, several laps from the finish the cramps just hit like, *BAM* and it was full-stop. Both hamstrings shrunk to baseballs as I stood to power over the hill with the pack. I hope whatever I yelled in pain was kid-friendly because there were a few spectators nearby! I realized I hadn’t replaced electrolyte after the long steamy warmup and I was paying the price. After standing up to stretch, and punching the baseballs into submission ,I TT’d and managed to finish a respectable gap behind the group. There was a crash at the front of that group in the final turn, which was nice not to be caught up in. The crowds were great and that buoyed the whole effort. Thank you, organizers!
Minnesota Road Racing Academy
What is your spot on the bus?
As developing riders, we often believe that once we have adequate fitness we’ll be able to ride with the fast group. Certainly adequate fitness is a key component of riding with faster riders, however a concept I call “earning your spot on the bus” is even more critical. Most of us at some time in our lives have ridden a bus to school, sporting events, for travel or other situations. On the bus people tend to congregate with other of like personalities. In my school days the rowdy kids always rode at the back while others rode at the front.
In bicycling a similar phenomenon occurs. In a large group of riders with mixed abilities the more skilled riders tend to ride at the front while developing riders tend toward the back. This “front of the bus” phenomenon is the results of those front riders having confidence in the skills and thus feel safe riding near other skilled riders at the front. When less skilled riders move toward the front, the pace will likely increase or other tactics applied will effectively rebalance the “spot on the bus”. By gaining group riding skills and an understanding of the unique dynamics of each group, developing riders can easily earn their spot at the front of the bus.
When riding with a larger group individual riders are responsible for the safety and well being of all riders in the group. The MRRA has developed some acronyms and other analogies which help communicate concepts of group riding skills. The acronym SPAR stands for SMOOTH, PREDICTABLE, ANTICIPATE, and RELAXED.
Smooth. When riding in a group I often make quick or abrupt movements, snapping my bike around a pothole or from one line to the other in a rotation. This signals to others that I don’t understand the group dynamics or that I have little concern for their well-being. Abrupt movement is often caused by a quick turning of the handlebars and steering the bike from one place to another. When I turn my handlebars the gyroscopic forces on the front wheel cause the bike to lean the direction opposite of my intended turn. The result is I go left momentarily before going right or vice-versa. It higher speeds this “porpoising” increases and is very dangerous. A method to correct porpoising is to turn the bike by rolling your hips, shifting your weight slightly on the saddle thus leaning the bike slightly. The result is a very smooth and controlled turn which gets you accepted at the front of the bus.
Predictable. I like my bike because it is nimble; in a paceline it allows me to jump from position to position or perform panic stops when blasting up to stop signs. OK I’m kidding, riding in such an unpredictable fashion is unsafe and I value my safety and that of my riding partners. Being predictable means riding in a fashion that people expect, gently slowing as you roll up to stops signs, crossing roads as a group, not accelerating into a gap in the paceline or sitting on the lee ward side if needed. Riding in a group involves inherent risks and at times evasive actions may be required. During those times riders will instinctively bail out in directions where others should not be, such as the windward side of an echelon.
Anticipate. Potholes, road debris or other hazards are common occurrences on any longer ride. Staying with our bus analogy the people at the front of a paceline are driving the bus. As Drivers, it is their responsibility to be sure the back of the bus can get safely around the hazard. This is best accomplished by smoothly moving out and around the hazard with adequate time so the back of the bus can see the hazard. It is common practice to point out a hazard however in some cases such as when in an echelon riders near the back can’t see the hazard nor the hand signals. Leading the group with adequate time is the desired, safe method.
Relaxed. Riding in a tight paceline is exhilarating. When everyone rides in a smooth, predictable fashion, very little effort is required to go surprisingly fast. In these situations gusts of wind or undulations in the road can cause individual riders to move slightly side to side and contact between riders will occur. By riding with a relaxed upper body, arms in flexed position, will allow each rider to absorb this contact as if it never occurred. As a test to see if I’m relaxed I will keep[ my hand on the handlebars and flap my elbows like a duck flapping it’s wings. If I can’t flap my wings I am not relaxed.
Good ride yesterday! I hope everyone enjoyed it; speed was pretty fast and the winds were low. Kevin started us off with a good paceline discussion. The 1522 chat had a noticeable effect. I’ll have to see if Kevin can post a writeup recapping that chat.
Some observations from the ride:
- We were watching our lines a little better in the sprints and that helped quite a bit. When the pace in the line is faster it helps avoid bunching too.
- We encountered some road signs and cones where we passed too closely. We should take the group a little wider around such obstacles; folks in the back just can’t see around the group and we have to be their eyes.
- There’s still a little confusion on who’s in and who’s out of the rotation, making the back of the line sketchy. This ripples up the line and leads to the surging effect. If we watch our 2′s (second-to-next wheel) and know what to say, we can keep it tighter.
So for fun, here is some of our paceline vocab:
“Wheel” This is what you say to the person who is pulling around the back and about to advance through the line, to indicate you are their wheel. This is used when you are either joining the rotation as a new member, or when some members have left and it may be unclear to the last rider who their follow-wheel is. It helps to say this to the person rather than shouting to the whole group, or it loses meaning. If we had a rotation where all members remained in the entire time (say for example in a small group setting or a breakaway), we would seldom need to say “wheel” because everyone would already know who their wheel was. If you have the extra breath, add a name like, “Wheel, John.”
“Up” If you are leaving the rotation to catch a breather and you intend to rejoin in a couple pulls, you would say “up” to tell the next person you are just sitting out a turn or two. This is unlike “fill” because it’s not an emergency; it’s a planned move you make to sit out, and you’re telling others who may not realize you’re out for a turn. You should only say “up” a couple times and then jump back in. If you’re out for longer, say “sitting” instead.
“Sitting” This is what you say when you leave the rotation and intend to sit on indefinitely. This tells people not to expect you back in for a while. It’s like saying “ignore me now”. If you are sitting and decide to join in again, you must announce to others that you are rejoining the rotation. See “Wheel” above.
Here’s how I view it: if I’m in the rotation and I’ve been following the same wheel around, pull after pull, that’s MY WHEEL and no one gets it unless they call it. This is about safety and predictability, especially when we’re going full-tilt. All you have to say is “wheel” just before you pull back in, then that wheel can become yours instead.
“Fill” An emergency command when you’ve missed your pull-through, to prompt the next receding rider to grab the available wheel you can’t quite catch. For example: I am the last rider in the receding line but I am suddenly tired and just can’t pull through. Or maybe there was a surge ahead of me and I can’t cover it fast enough. Chris is the next rider following me, and now I’ve left him a gap. I would say “Fill” or “Fill, Chris” the instant I realize that I can’t pull through. This would tell him that I’ve left a gap, and he would jump on the pedals to close the gap so the rotation doesn’t fall apart. If the gap were large enough, the rider ahead of him would need to fill it.
“Switch it up” A phrase spoken or substituted with a raised pointer finger twirling gesture, to indicate we are changing direction (clockwise or counterclockwise). The person at the front when we take a turn checks the wind and makes this happen. But we should all know this before we make the turn.
There may be a few other things we say from time to time, but these basic words cover nearly all the bases for a safe rotation. Combine this with some good hand signals for road hazards or stop signs and that’s how we “talk” Minnesotan at 30 mph!
The team ride yesterday evening was another great one. We squeaked it out between two storms and made it back just in time. Our small but capable crew kept the speed up, especially in the final K’s. I feel lucky to have such a great group to ride with. We all push each other hard and the quality of the workout is very good. Thanks all.
I love Wednesdays! The reason is the Tongue Wagger and July 29 was a great example. About 15 riders, most feeling frisky plus calm winds results in a smooth rotation and a fast pace. This time with speeds often nudging 35MPH. Christian (a Cargill employee from Brazil who raced in Belgium) was a first timer on the ride. he seemed to realy enjoy the effort.
A couple observances. Spacing between the advancing & receding lines was tighter, riders would hold their speed better when pulling off. These reduced the surginess.
MCT Off Road — a tale from the phat side. OK, OK, I’ll skip the drama. MCT has a group of riders who do a great job on the dirt. Notable results include Rebekka Nolan’s second place finish in the MNSCS at Elk River & third at lincoln park in Duluth. Mark Rathbun used home field advantage to score a first place at Elk River with Todd Nezvold close behind. Hopefully Bekah, Mark, Todd and others can provide some details.
On the multisport side…
I scored my first multisport win at the Paul Bunyan Triathlon long
course in Bemidji MN. The long course was a 1 mile swim, 21 mile bike,
5 mile run. It was very windy big waves in very cold Lake Bemidji. I
had the 4th fastest swim split overall. The wind was a factor on the
bike, kind of a slow bike split, but I made up for it with a PR run
You might want to check in with Jim Schultz, I believe he had an age
group podium finish at Chisago Lakes 1/2 Ironman. The mens 1/2 Ironman
had close to 600 racers, with huge age group numbers.
Just to round out an impressive weekend.
Below is a quick update from the races this past weekend. (July 25 – 26)
Numerous MCT riders battled gusty winds and short, rhythm-busting climbs at the State Time Trial Championship on Saturday. Most notable were rides by Benn Hulbert and Alex Meyer. Benn, riding the 40km cat 3 race, rode a stock bike at an average speed of 38.6km/hr. Alex notched his fifth state championship title; four TT, one crit, in less than four years of racing. Alex’s average speed was 42.9km/hr. This is very notable as it was the forth fastest speed of the day.
Welcome to the Minnesota Cycling Team blog. The purpose of this site is for members to post race results, ride/training recaps, coaching notes, and achievements.