–By Bobby Munro
Road bike racing is a dangerous activity. It is arguably the most dangerous type of bike racing—except for maybe our distant cousin, downhill mountain bike. Below is four things to do at your local race to make sure the pack stays safe. Admittedly, this list primarily helps to keep others safe. But, if everyone can abide by a code of conduct then we will all benefit.
- Practice contact
Coming in contact with other racers will happen. When it does, DO NOT PANIC! Hold your line, avoid the brakes, and counter the force if need be. Leaning into the other person is a skill and it must be practiced. Don’t wait until you are going 25mph to practice it. Find a friend and practice while going slow (I’m talking 5mph, granny gear slow). Just a little practice every few weeks or so can turn you into a pro.
2. Hold your line in corners
We have heard it a million times to “hold your line.” I trust that if you are reading this you know what that means. That being said, I think we could all use a reminder on what your line actually is in a corner. Your “straight line” in a race will seldom have you riding parallel to the curve. Try to follow the line that the rider in front of you took. When you deviate from that line then you cause others behind you to change course as well. This causes a snowball effect that can lead to someone being pinched on the outside or the inside. Also keep in mind the riders to your side. Try to keep them at the same distance they were going into the corner. The natural tendency is to fan out.
Dive bombing corners is not ok. Don’t be that guy. This tactic can be effective but it can be a dangerous one. If you are passing on the inside of a corner then it your responsibility to observe the pack first. In particular, try to predict the line that the person you are looking to pass will take. If there will be a gap, go for it! But if it is going to be tight then it is best to play it safe. The best way to predict what line someone will take is to look at the person who they are drafting (you may need to look a few riders up). If they are following the line of the person ahead of them, then it should be a good predictor of where they will go.
- You should (almost) never cross wheels
Another basic of group riding etiquette. The problem is, this is not a group ride, and this is a race. There are literally tens of dollars on the line! When the bunch slows down it can be easier to avoid the brakes a little and cross wheels. This is completely understandable. Just do so at your own peril (and the peril of those behind). If the rider ahead looks unstable or if he looks like he may dart outside to go for an attack, be weary. However, if you are crossing wheels of someone who has a rider on either shoulder, you are probably safe. At the end of the day, it’s your front wheel, so protect it.
- Sprint responsibly
The final sprint will be hectic. It your responsibility to be safe during the final meters of the race. The biggest thing to remember is to not make wild movements to the side. Be predictable! Once you have a clear sight at the line, hold your direction. This is not a professional race and we should not be blocking. End of story. If you can’t fend off an approaching rider then you need to improve your sprint, not put another person’s life in danger.