An easily accessible training ride is to join in on a local chaingang.
What is a chaingang?
A chain gang is a common term for a training ride with riders riding in two parallel lines, taking it in turns to work on the front and then slipping back to the back of the group. It is an excellent way to improve both your fitness and your bike handling skills.
The idea of a chain gang is to keep a constant pace, with each rider doing a turn on the front and then smoothly moving back down the line before coming back up on the outside. When it works well there a constant smooth flow of riders going up and down the line. For a novice, it is not straightforward and if you may need to persevere and learn the basic etiquette of chain gang riding.
Tips for Riding in a Chain Gang:
Keep the pace constant. Allowing for variation in wind and gradient. When you get to the front, don’t sprint off. That will break up the rhythm and is not the point of a chain gang it is not a race. Also avoid slowing down.
Try not to allow gaps to appear. Concentrate on keeping an eye on the wheel in front, try not to allow a large gap to develop because it can then be hard to close the gap again.
Don’t cut up riders. The tricky part is coming to the front. The rider on the outside will overtake the rider on the inside and as he does will move across to the inside. It is important to time this correctly, don’t move inside too soon as you will cause the previous rider to have to slow down. Don’t leave it too late as this will also create problems.
Make sure you are used to following a wheel before joining.
If it is your first time it may be best stay at the back and observe how people make changes. Once you get the hang it seems quite natural and creates a good feeling of teamwork. You can see the advantages of riding behind others.
Don’t go out with a group who are much fitter than you. If you are struggling to keep up, it is more likely you will make a mistake.
Make sure your bike is well maintained. Don’t have lose or rattling bits, people will trust you less.
Be careful about braking, it creates a ripple effect which can be dangerous at high speed. Use your body to slow down.
Know the circuit. Learn the local chain gang circuit and practise the descents so you can know potential dangers.
Remember the chain gang is not run on closed roads. It is difficult to find any circuit which is not populated with heavy traffic. You have to give way to traffic, just because you are in a chain gang doesn’t mean you can expect cars to wait for you. Please make sure you have read Riding The Chain Gang.