Riding in groups can be great fun but if you're a new road cyclist, the thought of riding in a group can be quite intimidating. But with a little preparation, you can join in the fun and ride safely with other road bike riders. Here are some tips to get you started.
First, make sure you are prepared for riding in groups. This means you've got the right bike and gear to handle group riding. Firstly, and as face-palm-simple as this might sound, start with a road bike that fits you well. A properly fitting bike will be easy to pedal and comfortable to ride, especially when in the peloton (main pack). I know this might sound like it's coming fresh from the shelves of, "stating the bloody obvious,' but riding in groups is a lot about confidence. The more 'at one' you are with your bike, the more stable you'll be, which in turn will make you more confident and means you'll have fewer things to think about when riding in a large group.
If necessary, consider having your bike professionally fitted by an experienced bike fitter or mechanic. These can be quite costly but if you've got the cash then I highly recommend one. If you can't afford the whole enchilada then there are cheaper versions that can be done, which will be fine for many beginners, but they won't be as accurate as ones where you have sensors stuck to your body's joints and precisely measured.
Once your bike is set up to the point where riding it has become second nature there are things to know to help ensure you don't stack it or cause a major pile-up by wiping out everyone behind you whilst you're in the middle of a peloton.
The closer you can get to a rider in front, the greater the drafting benefits you'll receive from being in their slipstream will be I.e., your riding will require less effort (sometimes up to 30%) as the person in front becomes a battering ram to the wind /air resistance in front. However, when starting out with group riding, give yourself a good amount of distance between yourself and the person in front. "Hugging the wheel" by only an inch or two can wait for when: a) you know what you're doing, and; b) you know the person in front knows what they're doing too!
This is all well and good but it's not just the person in front of you you need to think about. If you're new to riding in groups it can be quite daunting to have someone riding too close to the back of you. 'Half-wheeling' is when the person behind has half their front wheel side-by-side to the back half of your rear wheel. If you feel nervous having another rider breathing down the back of your neck like this then simply ask them to stop 'half wheeling' you and drop back to a distance you're more comfortable with. At the end of the day, if a front wheel hits a back wheel then the chances are the person who owns the front wheel is going to