Half-wheeling – What it is and why shouldn’t we do it?
A few of us oldies, like Jamie Tomlin and myself, well remember the first time we were ‘growled’ at during our youth by a senior rider for the sin of ‘half-wheeling’ on a club run. It was a ‘Right of Passage’ ingraining in you the ‘rules of the ride’ and what it meant to be part of a Club Ride. With so many riders these days getting into cycling later in life, and thus with perhaps the apprenticeship one used to get as a younger rider in a traditional club no longer as prevalent as it used to be, it’s probably no surprise that many look confused when someone asks them for the first time to stop ‘half-wheeling’. So here’s a little explanation.
‘Half wheeling’ is when you are riding abreast a fellow rider but constantly putting your front wheel, or more, ahead of theirs. What often then happens is your fellow rider speeds up to try and get their wheel level with yours, only then to find you push it a bit ahead again. Over a short period you are basically ‘frying’ your fellow rider and exhausting them as well as forcing the speed of the Group to increase. It’s daft ‘appendage waving’ which risks destroying a Group ride. A Group ride can be made hard enough to get a training benefit by getting the stronger riders buddied together on the front, letting them take longer turns, and gradually over a decent distance everyone will get a benefit without ripping the Group to pieces.
The trick therefore is to always let the rider next to you set the pace. It will then settle to a natural equilibrium. If the rider next to you is letting the overall group speed drop appreciably it is permissible to roll through and allow them to get back ‘in the wheels’ out of the wind whilst allowing a stronger rider to come up alongside you. But again then you must both let the other set the pace and not be pushing your wheel constantly ahead of theirs.
If you find yourself being ‘half-wheeled’ the secret is to not respond. Usually the rider next to you will become aware and ease back. If they don’t they soon find they are no longer part of a Group ride!
The ‘sin’ of ‘half-wheeling’ goes back over a century and has existed as long as clubs themselves. Hopefully the being ‘growled’ at by a senior rider has lessened a bit and we don’t need Camp Commandant’s leading our rides! But nonetheless it’s an important rule that greatly aids collective enjoyment. Group riding is a big reason we are all in a Club and it’s hugely enjoyable to cover so much more distance quicker together with friends. Hope this brief article is of some help.
(We also have a brief article on the rights and wrongs of ‘Chasing Strava segments on Club Runs’ which we’ll publish later this week)
Captz & JT