My dad is one of the wisest people I know. Not only is he smart, he is TOUGH! His 26 years in the US Army included service as a Special Forces officer, a tour of Vietnam, TDY in Korea and Germany, living in the Panama Canal Zone and the southeast of the USA (which is, within itself its own country, I believe). He taught me many, many lessons about consistency, giving my all, love of country, having high morals, hard work and consideration for others. He also taught me a few things that my mother did not appreciate: how to belch, blow "snot rockets" and take a relief break while on the fishing boat. Of those three things, only one do I happen to practice from time to time but even then, very discreetly. Sorry, Mom!
When I was learning how to drive, Dad repeated over and OVER three things:
1) avoid jack rabbit starts
2) look 300' in front of you
3) use the hood ornament as your guide
Recently on a ride I was reflecting on dear ole Dad's teachings and how they apply to cycling as well. Take a look:
1) Jack Rabbit starts
When I was just learning the basics of group cycling, one fellow used to call me "Jack Rabbit". At just about every start, be it from the beginning of a ride or from a red light, I could not wait to get the ride on so I would bolt, sometimes leaving others behind. A Jack Rabbit start uses lots of energy AND can split up the group. It can be a safety issue as well: if drivers see just one cyclist they might not expect to see others coming along and let their guard down. On the other hand, a Turtle start can be just as dangerous and frustrating to other riders as well. One who hangs back (due to skill, lethargy or pouting) can cause issues. Lesson learned: keep the group together. There is safety in numbers!
2) Look 300' in front of you
While it is difficult to do in a pace line it is imperative that the lead out rider does this. Look for cars, dogs, debris, other braking cyclists and any other potential problem. This will give you lots of heads up time to call out, signal or make a decision as to what action to take if there is a hazard ahead.When in line instead of watching the wheel (a big no-no), some cyclists like to look at the road where their front tire hits from time to time. Lesson learned: be vigilant of what is going on ahead of you.
3) Use the hood ornament as your guide
Hmmmm.... well, this one isn't a literal translation from auto driving to cycling but let's just say "hold your line", which is what Dad was trying to get me to do. The hood ornament was to be lined up with the white line on the right of the road. He would say "As long as you keep that Oldsmobile emblem following the white line, you'll be fine." No matter what, I took him seriously and with white knuckles squeezing
the steering wheel, I drove right over a 2 x 4' in the road... but I kept the emblem aligned with the white line! OOPS! Lesson learned: hold your line at all times and if there is a 2x4 in the road, point it out and maneuver around it.
Many crashes have occurred because someone- for whatever reason - left their line. This was perhaps the first thing someone told me when I began group riding. Now that I have some experience under my belt, I get concerned when riding with people who can not - or do not - hold their lines. While we have no hood ornament, we have a white line or curb to stay parallel to. Perhaps you have gotten lax in this; perhaps you need some practice on turns. Perhaps you can encourage a newbie nicely to hold their line.
We all were beginners at one point and we owe it to the new ones in our midst to pass on what we know in a kind fashion. While these are very basic tips, they are easily forgotten as we get a little comfortable or even cocky on our rides. Ease into your starts, be aware of what's going on ahead of you at all times and hold your line. And above all: do not hit a 2 x 4'!