Chain Gang Etiquette

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We all love a good group ride and perhaps some of the most beneficial rides are the local chain gang. Having been asked several times recently what it is like to ride the chain gang we thought a video and some notes might be in order. This video is from the Stone Wheelers CG back in 2014, recorded using a handlebar mounted Go Pro which was kindly loaned by Swinnerton Cycles, power and cadence data are from a Stages crank, speed taken from a wheel mounted Garmin speedo and recorded onto a Garmin Edge 510 which were all the rage at the time. The route used is up and down the A34 from Stone to Trentham via Tittensor then back to Stone for a last minute sprint under the railway bridge to the speed camera.


Click here to jump straight to the action and perhaps consider the following observations while watching!


  • 00:30 – Wayne Lacey and I get caught napping at the start and have to get back on the ride even before it has started; notice how Wayne eases up his effort before we reach the group and conserves energy by coasting back on for the last few yards.


  • 01:30 – The benefits of drafting; 200W and 25mph.


  • 04:00 – Everyone has a nice relaxed grip while riding on the hoods, being relaxed in a group ride is a skill which needs to be mastered. Riding on the hoods allows shifting gear and braking with the minimum of delay when required.


  • 05:00 – Nice smooth change, no half wheeling and a constant pressure on the pedals, no surging to get to the front, smooth = fast, 22.8mph lap one and 26.7mph lap two.


  • 11:21 & 11:42 – Point out obstacles, they are obvious to riders at the front but not visible from the back, all it takes is one person to hit a pot hole for the fun to finish.


  • 13:22 – Always check it is safe to move over from one lane to another, this is especially important in larger groups where riders at the front may be a considerable distance from the back of the group and therefore from the danger. Keep communication simple since at speed it is hard to hear.


  • 14:10 – Sam Bills overlaps wheels on the outside to give himself room to move in case Ian Noons needs to do the same, overlapping on the inside is a recipe for disaster!


  • 17:15 – James Notley joins the ride, coasts to the back rather than joining at the front, this keeps everyone safe. Joining a group ride from the front disturbs the rhythm of the group.


  • 22:39 – More benefits of sitting on the wheel, <200W and 24-25 mph.


  • 25:24 – Sam Bills points out a grid, yes it is a minor obstacle but better safe than sorry.


  • 32:10 – James Notley double checks to make sure it is safe to move over a lane. Cars crush carbon before you can blink.


  • 34:22 – The lights are on red so rather than hammer it up and stop, coast, stay clipped in and anticipate them going green.


  • 36:20 – A number of riders are split away from the group at the roundabout due to traffic, the rest of the group eases up and waits for them to get back on; a big group is faster than a small one. This is where we switch to through and off.


  • 40:52 – The pressure is on and we can see cracks forming in the line. When riders are in the red the first thing that fails is cognitive thinking and along with it bike handling! A good racer knows what to look for when someone is on the rivet and knows how to stay safe. Jayne loses the wheel first and then Noons goes boom in spectacular style.


  • 41:29 – Its 700W now to get to the front and turns are super short. Still nice and smooth, no half wheeling and no surging. This is what keeps the pace high. In a race situation if you surge to the front the other riders will hang you out to dry in the wind and the objective is to do the minimum to get to the front and then ease off to let the next rider past.


  • 44:45 – Its now 500W to move up the line and still 700W to get to the front. On the plus side the drag at Tittensor is over in a flash at 23mph… At 44:49 Sam Bills show you what an experienced rider does; get to the front and then let the next rider through in the line, do the minimum once the break is established and save energy for later.


  • 47:29 – I’m in trouble and I need to miss a turn, everyone checks over their shoulder before coming through. I’m now at the back and therefore its my responsibility to shout when the road is clear… It is under 10 minutes back to the finish so time to dig in.


  • 49:32 – We are all pushing on yet Wayne Lacey still points out the pot hole.


  • 50:50 – I shout on your right as I’m coming through to make sure riders on the left don’t pull out, I do this because I’ve sat on and missed a few turns and therefore no one is expecting me.


  • 51:49 – Sam Bills shows that if you press on while getting out of the saddle your bike doesn’t go backwards! 700W for almost a minute now required to avoid being dropped.


  • 54:00 – Only the strongest and freshest can do turns at this point in the ride, I’m sitting on in the hope I can get to the finish otherwise this will be a poor video!


  • 55:16 – I shout Wayne that I’m coming through so he knows not to pull over.


  • 58:12 – Sam Bills checks over his shoulder to make sure no cars are on the inside, hitting a car at this stage would ruin a good night out. Its 11 sprockets all the way from here to the finish… and Sam uses that saved energy from earlier to sprint.



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