If you’re new to cycling the language alone can be intimidating. Experienced cyclists don’t often naturally dumb it down for those new to the group, so it helps to know some basic terminology before you head out for your first group ride.
Here’s a starter pack for you!
A guide to the language of group cycling
Paceline: A line of riders forming a straight line, in which riders draft off one another and take turns in the lead (larger groups will form double pacelines or circular pacelines).
No-drop ride: This means the group stops for mechanical problems, flats, nature breaks, accidents and emergencies. Members of the group will drop back to ride with slower riders.
Drop Ride: A ride in which the group is not obligated to stop for slower riders for any reason (exceptions include accidents and medical emergencies). The group is going to ride fast, and if you’re too slow, you’re riding home by yourself. You better have an extra tube, know how to change your tire, and bring a cell phone.
Acceleration: A group ride will feature several accelerations in which the pace will increase by several miles per hour. These last several hundred yards or several miles.
Peleton: The large main group in a road cycling race. Riders in groups save energy by drafting off each other.
Aero bars: Handlebar extensions that allow the rider to rest his elbows and improve aerodynamics.
Criterium: A race on a closed, short distance course with multiple laps.
Drafting: Riding closely behind another rider to make use of their slipstream and reduce wind resistance
Getting Dropped: When a rider can no longer maintain the group pace and slips behind.
Echelon: A riding formation used to combat a crosswind in which riders form a diagonal line across the road, like migrating geese.
Average Rolling Pace: The speed a group of riders will maintain on a flat road with no wind.
Average speed: The speed of a group of riders over the course of the ride.
5 Things To Do Before Your First Group Ride
1. Learn some basic bike maintenance – how to change a flat, fix your chain, adjust your brakes. Bring a spare tube and a bike tool.
2. Ride at higher speeds, close to other riders. Start with a partner, or a couple of friends, and work on maintaining a line and keeping yourself off their rear wheel.
3. Practice riding predictably. You don’t want to have a quick trigger-finger on your brakes, and you need to be able to hold a steady line that others can follow.
4. Get your miles in. You don’t have to be putting in hundreds, but it’s gonna be a rough go if you show up for a 50 mile ride without ever doing 10.
5. Wear cycling gear. Yes, it’s hard to do the first time, but the lycra and other gear you’ve made fun of for years makes a big difference on the bike. Wear it.