Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Group Rides: A Study In Human Psychology

"One person goes on a ride. Two or more people and it's a race."- Anonymous

Once I became comfortable riding within a group I began to discover not only different types of riders. Which there are so many.  But also different mindsets about other's behavior in a group.

The classic "half-wheel" is a great example. It's when you have two riders next to each other with one constantly keeping a wheel's length ahead of the other person. When the person that's lagging behind tries to speed up to come even with the other rider. The other rider simply speeds up again to stay at least a wheel's length in front. It's an age old announce that has gone on, and will continue to do so until bicycles no longer exist (A very scary and sad thought...)  I've always chalked it up to being competitive or showing dominance towards another rider (IE Dick measuring.). Even if it's only on a subconscious level.

But why does that even occur?

I'm sure a lot of it can be just put down as people having a competitive spirit. But does that really count if the people that you are riding with aren't even trying? I guess to me that's the difference between a ride and a race. In racing the end goal it's to beat as many people as you can. Weather that's just one or a hundred. In a group ride it strikes me as a point at which the social and physical fitness portions come more into play.

I was thinking about all this as I let my SSHW and I slip off the back of the Scott's group ride while we were riding our tandem.  The funny part is that we was taking part in the "competition" of this particular group ride up to that point. I was participating in the may lay partly for fun. But also in an attempt to keep the group in some kind of order.

There is a lot in keeping a group of any real size together. Sure you need to have regrouping points along the route. But there is more to it than that.

If you're in the lead of the group through a lot of corners once you're out the other side you can't maintain that speed or you will cause an accordion effect and blow people out the back. If there is a small group in front of you that your trying to bring the rest of the group back up to you have to ramp up the speed at a very smooth and slow pace or you're going to loose people that way too.

The solo break away is another interesting phenomena. A single rider fifty feet in front of the group going the same speed will be left alone. However, if that person goes past the 50' leash the group will pounce on them. In that same scenario, if a second person bridges up to the long rider the group will think the game is on and close the gap.

There are a lot of rules...

But the thing is that some people don't abide by those rules. Or even think about them. Maybe they don't even know what's going on at all and are just trying to hang on for dear life.

In this particular ride we had a little bit of all this happening all at once. And I guess, really, all group rides have this to a certain extent on every ride. It's just with nice weather comes a wider array of cyclists and abilities. It's just more apparent.

Here's the thing though. I really don't care if people go out on a group ride to rip each other's legs off. I really don't. I understand that people join in on a group ride for different reasons. Some do it for the express purpose to ripping head's off and shitting down necks. Other's are there to hone pack riding skills. Some are there just for exercise. Even more are out there for the social aspect of it. There have been time's when I have been there for every single one of these reasons.

I know that's all kind of rambling and I guess it is. I'm just fascinated by the dynamics that are involved when you bring together a large group of people all doing the same thing in a confined area.

Just thoughts....

Until next time.

Rubber side down,

Big E

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