Each year new riders or riders looking to "move up" either increase their riding with groups or begin riding with groups that are faster or more "serious" than their usual groups. . .
Bicycle handling and bicycle etiquette in new adventures are challenges to new and learning riders. . .
So here are some tips (some big and some small):
• Do NOT close your REAR WHEEL QR SKEWER pointing directly backward; instead close the rear QR skewer upward/slightly to the left into the triangle formed by your left (non-drive side) seat stay and chain stay. Why? The skewer pointing back ward can trap the front wheel of rider who overlaps from the rear. . .AND having your skewer closed into the triangle signals to other riders you know what you are doing. (Yep, joining different groups of riders includes signals about experience and "seriousness". . .a lot like high school. . .)
• Learn to ride a straight line. This comes from having your weight properly balanced on the bicycle and proper bicycle fit. Many new or beginning riders have their stack height between their headset and stem HIGH and their stem angled UPWARD (instead of the traditional flat)—both of which impact handling (actually, these characteristics make the rider more upright and the front end "twitchy"). Your weight should be primarily on your sit bones and pedals (a tremendous amount of your bicycle control is through your legs/feet and into the frame by your pedals—if you ever ride a Mt bike with clip-in pedals, you know what I mean). The most common error made by new riders is excess weight on the handlebars. When you look around or back, your excess weight on the handlebars makes the bicycle swerve, making you dangerous. Bicycles are amazing machines. When the wheels are spinning, they stay straight unless LEANED. Learn to look around WITHOUT shifting your hand pressure on your bars. For example, when you look back, you can move your hand that is on the bar toward the stems and consciously NOT lean on it. The bicycle will stay straight. But, keeping a straight line in all situations takes PRACTICE. So practice.
• Learn to participate in a pace line. Here is a good discussion of the do's and don't's. One additional tip I would add watch experienced riders and talk about HOW to participate in a pace line. Do not make any sudden movements—don't accelerate, don't slow suddenly, don't swing hard left or right. And keep the group TIGHT; riding closely (front-to-back and left-to-right) is the PURPOSE of a paceline. . .If you make large gaps, you are defeating the purpose (so, for example, do not swing way left when you pull off the front; move over calmly and just a bit wider than the cyclist pulling through needs).
• Yes, we talk on rides. But you don't have to look at the person you are talking to. If you must talk, keep your eyes ahead and focused on riding safely. And don't allow a gap to form so you and a buddy can chat. That is rude and dangerous to the other riders. If you MUST stare longingly into your riding buddy's eyes, both of you should move to the back of the group and there you can ride at your own risk. . .