Question on Bunch Riding

Discussion in 'Road Cycling' started by Andrew Swan, Mar 15, 2004.

  1. Andrew Swan

    Andrew Swan Guest

    Hi all,

    I've just been moved up a grade at my club. In my old grade,
    the pace was fairly consistent and people either took turns
    at the front or stayed near the back. Even though there were
    some newish riders, it never felt unsafe and in fact I never
    saw any crashes.

    In my first race in the higher grade (held on the same
    course and in the same usual wind conditions), I noticed
    that the pace changes much more - one minute everyone's
    strung out single file, the next everyone's on the anchors
    trying desperately not to get to the front (at one point,
    some riders were braking so hard, I could hear their brake
    blocks squealing). People weren't doing smooth turns, then
    peeling off to be replaced by the next in line - instead
    people would come forward from the back, people would jump
    to get on their wheel, then the lead rider would slow down,
    nobody would come past, then it would be the big concertina
    again until someone else got sick of it and went to the
    front again, when the whole cycle would repeat.

    In these conditions a crash was inevitable, and sadly it was
    me who went down, my front wheel trapped as the rider next
    to me tried to get around a slower rider in front (the bunch
    being about four riders wide at this point). This was around
    the half-way mark of the race, so it's not like the sprint
    was about to start or anything, and it wasn't even in a
    corner. In the short term, I'm annoyed having to buy a new
    helmet and regrow some skin, but my long-term concern is
    having a relatively safe grade to race in.

    Speaking to some of the other riders in the bunch
    afterwards, they expressed their fear and loathing of the
    grade in question and said that it was *always* like that in
    this bunch (although not in the next grade up, they said).
    Apparently there are some people that try a half-hearted
    break every week, and every week it doesn't work.

    One of my sources described the front of the bunch as
    "constipated", being full of people who want to be near the
    front, but don't want to do a turn, and who fight madly to
    get on the wheel of anyone going past a bit faster than
    their current wheel.

    So my questions are:
    - how normal does this sound? Are there bunches like this
    everywhere?
    - why does it happen in this one grade and not the ones
    above and below it (esp. considering the lower one goes
    almost as fast)?
    - what can I do about it (assuming I'm not allowed in
    the lower grade and would get rapidly dropped by the
    higher grade)?
    - what can/should the club or the commissaires do to make
    this bunch safer, if it's as dangerous as I've been told?

    Thanks for any advice,

    &roo
     
    Tags:


  2. Jim Flom

    Jim Flom Guest

    "Andrew Swan" wrote ...
    >
    > So my questions are:
    > - how normal does this sound? Are there bunches like this
    > everywhere?

    Not surprising, but not "normal." No, they're not
    everywhere.

    > - why does it happen in this one grade and not the ones
    > above and below it (esp. considering the lower one goes
    > almost as fast)?

    The one above is probably better skilled racers and the one
    below probably has more cautious recreational riders.

    > - what can I do about it (assuming I'm not allowed in the
    > lower grade and would get rapidly dropped by the higher
    > grade)?

    Next time out, hang near the back and get a feel for who's
    who, i.e., who you want to avoid and who you can trust. Work
    on your own bike handling skills.

    > - what can/should the club or the commissaires do to
    > make this bunch safer, if it's as dangerous as I've
    > been told?

    They may be aware of it and not motivated to do much about
    it. Find someone near the top of the club, an officer for
    example, and get a feel from him/her about their awareness
    of the issue and desire to do anything about
    it.

    JF
     
  3. Howard Kveck

    Howard Kveck Guest

    In article <[email protected]>,
    John Forrest Tomlinson <[email protected]> wrote:

    > On Mon, 15 Mar 2004 20:48:07 +1100, Andrew Swan
    > <[email protected]> wrote:
    >
    > >- what can I do about it (assuming I'm not allowed in the
    > > lower grade and would get rapidly dropped by the higher
    > > grade)?
    >
    > http://www.jt10000.com/goyoee/best/stayingup.htm
    >
    > JT

    That's a good article, John. Many good points.

    --
    tanx, Howard

    Q: Why did the metalhead cross the road?
    R: Because he's a gullible moron who'll buy
    anything with a skull on it.

    remove YOUR SHOES to reply, ok?
     
  4. Jim Flom wrote: <some stuff snipped..>
    >
    > Next time out, hang near the back and get a feel for who's
    > who, i.e., who you want to avoid and who you can trust.
    > Work on your own bike handling skills.

    Did I read that right ......??

    Did you just advise someone to stay near the back in bunch
    racing.......??

    amazing....

    Phillip.
     
  5. On Tue, 16 Mar 2004 09:55:23 +0000, Phillip Johnson <[email protected]>
    wrote:

    >
    >Did you just advise someone to stay near the back in bunch
    >racing.......??

    It's safer than the middle for sure.

    JT
     
  6. John Forrest Tomlinson wrote:
    > On Tue, 16 Mar 2004 09:55:23 +0000, Phillip Johnson
    > <[email protected]> wrote:
    >
    >
    >>Did you just advise someone to stay near the back in bunch
    >>racing.......??
    >
    >
    > It's safer than the middle for sure.
    >
    > JT
    it safer 200m behind the bunch .... but not a good idea.

    If a rider is inexperienced and moving up a category they
    are likely to find the accordion effect and increased stop /
    start "feedback" pretty demanding... and tiredness must also
    be a safety factor??.

    Phillip.
     
  7. On Tue, 16 Mar 2004 13:22:56 +0000, Phillip Johnson <[email protected]>
    wrote:

    >it safer 200m behind the bunch .... but not a good idea.

    No one said "behind the bunch" -- the advice was to ride
    near the back or at the back which is not the same.

    >If a rider is inexperienced and moving up a category they
    >are likely to find the accordion effect and increased stop
    >/ start "feedback" pretty demanding... and tiredness must
    >also be a safety factor??.

    That's pretty simplistic. There are times when riding at the
    back of the bunch is easy and appropriate and not every race
    has an accordian effect. If the choice for beginner is the
    middle or the back and the race is full of crashes and there
    are not a lot of corners, it's definitely worth considering
    the back of the field. Things will be thinned out.

    JT
     
  8. John Forrest Tomlinson wrote:
    > On Tue, 16 Mar 2004 13:22:56 +0000, Phillip Johnson
    > <[email protected]> wrote:
    >
    >
    >
    >>it safer 200m behind the bunch .... but not a good idea.
    >
    >
    > No one said "behind the bunch" -- the advice was to ride
    > near the back or at the back which is not the same.
    >
    >
    >>If a rider is inexperienced and moving up a category they
    >>are likely to find the accordion effect and increased stop
    >>/ start "feedback" pretty demanding... and tiredness must
    >>also be a safety factor??.
    >
    >
    > That's pretty simplistic. There are times when riding at
    > the back of the bunch is easy and appropriate and not
    > every race has an accordian effect. If the choice for
    > beginner is the middle or the back and the race is full of
    > crashes and there are not a lot of corners, it's
    > definitely worth considering the back of the field. Things
    > will be thinned out.
    >
    > JT
    OK , I can agree with that, however from my own personal
    experience it took a lot of conviction for me to learn
    how to fight my way to the front and that was with the
    belief that the back was the last place I wanted to be .
    If I'd have had someone telling me " it's safer at the
    back" I don't know if I'd have managed to overcome my
    fear of the middle to have the gumption to struggle to a
    place in the teens....

    As far as learning the handling skills ( not your point I
    know..) goes I always found that the proximity was not the
    biggest problem ,... but moving forward amongst such close
    proximity into seemingly non existent gaps which required
    getting used to ....

    Phillip.
     
  9. Jeff Jones

    Jeff Jones Guest

    "John Forrest Tomlinson" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:[email protected]...
    > On Tue, 16 Mar 2004 13:22:56 +0000, Phillip Johnson
    > <[email protected]> wrote:
    >
    > That's pretty simplistic. There are times when riding at
    > the back of the bunch is easy and appropriate and not
    > every race has an accordian effect. If the choice for
    > beginner is the middle or the back and the race is full of
    > crashes and there are not a lot of corners, it's
    > definitely worth considering the back of the field. Things
    > will be thinned out.
    >
    It's not easy to sit on in the course in question: it's
    nearly always very windy + 8 corners in 2km. The accordion
    effect isn't that big, except for the uphill U-turn coming
    onto the main straight, but if you're sitting on the back
    you'll be in the gutter for most of the race. If there's no
    wind it's ok, but that's rare.

    For Andrew, I guess the other option is to sit at the front
    - at least no-one will come around you so you can dictate
    the pace of the race ;-) When you get fitter, you can go
    hard in the crosswinds and make life generally miserable.
    And beyond that, you'll eventually get fit enough to pull of
    a solo win or two. Then you can move up a grade, where the
    racing is a bit more positive.

    I hate negative racing too, especially because I can't
    sprint well enough to win. Fortunately there's enough like
    minded folks in A grade to keep it interesting and
    aggressive.

    cheers, Jeff
     
  10. Jim Flom

    Jim Flom Guest

    "John Forrest Tomlinson" wrote ...
    >
    > No one said "behind the bunch" -- the advice was to ride
    > near the back or at the back which is not the same.

    I probably should have added, "... and near the outside for
    an escape route" to my original post. Point taken.

    JF
     
  11. Phillip Johnson <[email protected]> wrote in message news:<c375j9
    > from my own personal experience it took a lot of
    > conviction for me to learn how to fight my way to the
    > front and that was with the belief that the back was the
    > last place I wanted to be.

    Yeah, it's true that it can be hard to get to the front.
    This all depends on the race of course, but a lot of times
    it's brutal getting to the front early in the race when
    everyone is fresh and feisty, and a lot easier when people
    are tired and the field is smaller. It's not easy for a
    beginner to do, but if he/she can go into the race with the
    goal of looking around, not getting dropped, and learning
    how to get to the front from time to time (not all the
    time), the race can be a great learning experience.

    JT
     
  12. Jay Beattie

    Jay Beattie Guest

    "John Forrest Tomlinson" <[email protected]> wrote in
    message news:[email protected]...
    > Phillip Johnson <[email protected]> wrote in message
    > news:<c375j9
    > > from my own personal experience it took a lot of
    > > conviction for me to learn how to fight my way to the
    > > front and that was with the belief that the back was the
    > > last place I wanted to be.
    >
    > Yeah, it's true that it can be hard to get to the
    > front. This
    all
    > depends on the race of course, but a lot of times
    > it's brutal
    getting
    > to the front early in the race when everyone is fresh and
    feisty, and
    > a lot easier when people are tired and the field is
    > smaller.
    It's not
    > easy for a beginner to do, but if he/she can go into
    > the race
    with the
    > goal of looking around, not getting dropped, and
    > learning how
    to get
    > to the front from time to time (not all the time), the
    > race can
    be a
    > great learning experience.

    The problem is that if you are at the back at the beginning
    of the race when everyone is fresh, that is when you get
    accordioned or gapped behind someone else when the crunch
    comes. You also get stuck behind the inevitable back of the
    pack crashes. I would stay in the top third during the chaff-
    shaking and then maybe go to the back after things settled
    down, assuming that I was just interested in finishing and
    not doing much else. Of course, stay away from known
    squirrells and don't be one. -- Jay Beattie.
     
  13. Danny Callen

    Danny Callen Guest

    "Jim Flom" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:[email protected]...
    > "John Forrest Tomlinson" wrote ...
    > >
    > > No one said "behind the bunch" -- the advice was to ride
    > > near the back or at the back which is not the same.
    >
    > I probably should have added, "... and near the outside
    > for an escape
    route"
    > to my original post. Point taken.
    >
    > JF
    >
    >

    I am definately the self proclaimed bonafied expert at
    riding at the back of the field. Anyone that has seen me
    race has seen me at the back. Dick Ring was so used to it he
    used to joke about it over the PA system. There is a "way"
    to do and you need to know when to do it and when not to.
    For me, and yes it depends on the race and category, I
    usually use the very back of the field to "roll" the corners
    and not have to slam the breaks and sprint out from a dead
    stop or worry about some goofball sliding through and
    getting in the way in the corner. You also have to worry
    about weak riders that open gaps so you have to be a alert
    not to get on a "bad" wheel. I am talking about "higher"
    category and Master's races.

    In lower category races, the problem is that generally from
    mid pack back everyone is slamming on their breaks and
    causing the huge accordian affect. This is not the place
    where you want to ride the back of the pack as it is likely
    the accordian will snap well above where you are in the
    field and you will have no chance of staying in the race.
    In the lower category races, I think it makes sense to not
    be at the immediate front but just at the back of where all
    the action is...it's often to hard to fight for the front
    third so just at the front of the second third of the pack
    seems like the best place to "stay". This is where I would
    try to be in really tough criteriums that have major
    attrition ratios, etc.

    Just my 02 cents!

    Danny Callen ..Fattie Master
     
  14. Suz

    Suz Guest

    "Phillip Johnson" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:[email protected]...
    > John Forrest Tomlinson wrote:
    > >
    > >
    > >>If a rider is inexperienced and moving up a category
    > >>they are likely to find the accordion effect and
    > >>increased stop / start "feedback" pretty demanding...
    > >>and tiredness must also be a safety factor??.
    > >
    > >
    > > That's pretty simplistic. There are times when riding at
    > > the back of the bunch is easy and appropriate and not
    > > every race has an accordian effect. If the choice for
    > > beginner is the middle or the back and the race is full
    > > of crashes and there are not a lot of corners, it's
    > > definitely worth considering the back of the field.
    > > Things will be thinned out.
    > >
    > > JT
    > OK , I can agree with that, however from my own personal
    > experience it took a lot of conviction for me to learn how
    > to fight my way to the front and that was with the belief
    > that the back was the last place I wanted to be . If I'd
    > have had someone telling me " it's safer at the back" I
    > don't know if I'd have managed to overcome my fear of the
    > middle to have the gumption to struggle to a place in the
    > teens....
    >
    >
    I've been experiencing much the same; in preparation for
    Redlands, I've been racing with the cat-3 men, in fields of
    80 or more. Last weekend, I got stuck in the back after a
    bad start, and never saw the front half of the pack!
    Believe me, I tried to search out every possible gap, but
    something would always happen to pop me into the back
    again. Something I need to work on, for sure. I figured out
    that when the pack started stringing out and I had the
    chance to move up, that was precisely when I was struggling
    to hang on, and didn't have the power to get to the front.
    Having to sprint out of every corner sure didn't help with
    the power conservation. Unfortunately, there were no real
    hills to break things up. So I played the yo-yo game for 60
    miles, hanging in, but working WAY too hard. Conversely, a
    (female) friend managed to start-and stay- in the front the
    entire race, and even though I am probably somewhat
    stronger, she seemed to have a much easier race. Some guys,
    otoh, were able to go from the front to the back, to the
    front again at will.

    I now have to do the same thing in a field of 112 at
    Redlands. Any suggestions?

    Suz

    As far as learning the handling skills ( not your point I
    know..) goes I
    > always found that the proximity was not the biggest
    > problem ,... but moving forward amongst such close
    > proximity into seemingly non existent gaps which required
    > getting used to ....
    >
    > Phillip.
     
  15. Andrew Swan

    Andrew Swan Guest

    Jeff Jones wrote:
    > It's not easy to sit on in the course in question: it's
    > nearly always very windy + 8 corners in 2km. The accordion
    > effect isn't that big, except for the uphill U-turn coming
    > onto the main straight, but if you're sitting on the back
    > you'll be in the gutter for most of the race. If there's
    > no wind it's ok, but that's rare.
    >
    > For Andrew, I guess the other option is to sit at the
    > front - at least no-one will come around you so you can
    > dictate the pace of the race ;-)
    <snip>
    >
    > cheers, Jeff

    Funny you should suggest that Jeff, that's what I did for
    the first few laps yesterday - my thinking was that if I
    could go to the front and set a reasonable pace from the
    start, other like-minded riders might be prepared to work
    with me, and even if we couldn't go clear, the higher pace
    might drop a few of the weaker riders or failing that, at
    least keep the bunch somewhat strung out and therefore
    safer. Once the pace was established, I let myself drop down
    the field (of about 20 riders) so that others could take
    over the workload and I could recover a bit for the second
    half of the race.

    I guess the fact that the wind (a light southerly down the
    S/F straight) wasn't too strong meant that the pace stayed
    relatively high (for this grade anyway) and the bunch
    didn't often squash right up like it did the previous race.
    As a newcomer, I was glad to hold onto the bunch all the
    way (until the last lap when I was on the wrong side of a
    gap), and ended up 8th. At least I kept the rubber side
    down this time! :)

    &roo
     
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