uickWhen riding or racing in groups inevitably someone is going to behave like a squirrel. The small mammal called the squirrel inevitably runs across roads right in the path of cyclists changing direction several times usually. By now you have ridden with some one labeled as a squirrel or maybe you have been called a squirrel.
So if you don’t want to be labeled a squirrel follow a few tips and you will be riding or at least looking like a seasoned cyclist.
Keep the speed consistent
When riding in large groups you need to ride like everyone else. Speeding ahead of the group is a major no, no. While this in itself may not put anyone in danger you will look like a jerk and be called squirrel. Instead try to keep your gearing and pedal cadence similar to others around you.
Do the least amount of work
Like the above keep the pace consistent and when you get to the front of the group do as little work as possible. Especially if you are new to group riding. You will have more left “in the tank” at the end of the ride and aren’t as likely to get dropped. Instead “Pull through” by riding at the same speed as the group and gently pull into the wind after 10-30 seconds on the front. “Drift back” to the back of the pace line slowly and when you get to the last writer you should speed up just as you pass there bottom bracket and pull in behind them.
Ride a straight line
It’s very important to hold your line when riding in a group. This simply means that you are riding straight and not making line changes. If you are not looking were you want your bike to go and are instead look at the wheel in front of you are more like going to have to make an abrupt line change. Instead look over the rider’s shoulder in front of you and look down the road towards where you are going to go. Look at everything and fixate on nothing.
Don’t steer your bike
When you do need to move around in a group because you want to move up or are coming off the front of a pace line keep it subtle. Your bike is not a car so don’t steer it like one. Doing so will lead to abrupt line changes. Instead use your shoulders, elbows and hips to make small corrections to keep you and your bike in line. Do this by dropping an elbow, hip and or shoulder you will be surprised how effective this is. Practice by yourself first.
Bicycles don’t come with ABS
When you are riding in large or small groups don’t grab hand fulls of brakes. I promise you, you won’t be called a squirrel you will however get cussed at. Squeezing your brakes like this will cause you and your bike to go into a skid. I have seen very few pull out of skid with out hitting the pavement, hard. Instead feather the breaks LIGHTLY. Think of this as scrubbing speed not braking. You can also sit up and slowly pull into the wind to scrub speed.
Keep the bike going forward
When climbing in a group you may need to stand to pedal up hill for all kinds of reasons. More often than not new and some not so new riders doing this at the front of the group will throw there rear wheel backwards! This can of course cause the person behind you to brake, slowing everyone else down or worse cause the rider behind you to run into your wheel. Instead you can stay seated and tough it out, only stand when climbing in smaller groups or towards the back and my favorite shift up 1or 2 harder gears before standing.
Eating and other personal issues
If you find yourself needing a drink, a bite off your power bar or need to blow your nose do not do it at the front of the group! Doing this could mean being distracted which equate to lower reaction times which could lead to a crash and you taking everyone with you. Instead when it’s your turn to drift back to the back of the group you can take slug of sports drink, blow your nose or eat something.
While by no means is this an exhaustive list of squirrel behavior modifiers it is a great start to some of the most common squirrel like riding scenarios. If you have others I would love to hear them and your experiences with dealing with them.
Have a great ride and HOLD YOUR LINE!