The Farm to Fork Fondo - Shenandoah is kicking off the season in May! If you’re doing one of the longer distance rides, such as the Gran Fondo, you’ve probably been out there riding your bike and logging some miles. You might be a rider that goes out there for solo rides or one that joins a group of your friends to motivate you. Either way, participating in the Farm to Fork Fondo is a unique – and amazing – experience where you get to be around hundreds of other people who also love to ride and eat great food!
While participating in an event like the Farm to Fork Fondo, it is essential to ensure that you are paying attention to both safety and etiquette, which go hand-in-hand.
The first thing to consider is that you should try and ride in a straight line! One way to practice this is to ride with one hand on the handlebars down a straight road or parking lot. What you will learn by doing this is that the less you try to steer your bike with your hands, the more stable you will be, allowing you to keep your front wheel straight.
Another thing that is important when others are riding around you is to be predictable. Firstly, try your best to maintain a consistent speed without braking suddenly. This is key when you are going down hills or turning corners. Another strategy to reduce speed is to sit more upright so that the wind catches your torso and slows you down without you having to brake. Regardless of your speed, a way to feel more stable is to put your hands in the “drops” while you are descending or cornering.
When riding in a group, it is beneficial to stay close to both the rider next to you and to the rider in front of you. If you are behind someone, try and look at the person’s lower back which will keep your head up so that you are aware of your surroundings and are prepared for anything sudden that happens in front of you.
If you end up at the front of the group, something to avoid is what’s called “half-wheeling.” When someone is next to you, keep your wheels or handlebars in line with theirs instead of moving ahead of them the distance of half a wheel. This makes it easier for those behind you to stay in formation and not overlap wheels with the person in front of them, and it is also just polite! A good way to learn how to stay close to someone next to you is to practice riding on the grass with a partner and with your arm on their upper back. This is an extension to the exercise of riding with one hand mentioned earlier and will also help you to be a better bike handler!
The next thing that is imperative while cycling in a group is communication. To ensure that others can communicate with you as well, don’t bike with earbuds in. Save that for when you are training on your stationery bike at home!
When passing someone ahead (on the left side only!), slowing down, stopping for any reason, and making a turn, you should signal with your hands and be vocal. Make sure to also point to things on the road that could be dangerous or uncomfortable for people behind you to ride over. This is particularly important if you are at the front of a group, meaning that you are the “eyes” of the group since those behind you won’t be able to see as far ahead as you. Even better, try and guide the group around hazards on the road with enough space and time so that everyone will avoid riding over them.
Now that you know the basics of cycling safety and etiquette, go enjoy the ride!