What is a Chain Gang?
"Chain Gang" is the name given to four or more cyclists all working together to maintain a high speed training ride (very much like the Team time-trials in the Tour de France) but not quite that fast!!
Do I have to be a Derby Mercury member to take part?
NO, everyone is welcome, in fact the more the merrier! We are pleased to welcome anyone who is willing to give it a go, please bring your mates as well.
Will I be able to keep up? AND what speed does it go?
Basically there's only one way to find out! But if you can cycle on the flat at 19 to 20 mph you can hang on. It is always our intention to get newcomers to flourish in the group, the overall speed will depend very much on who turns up. Chain Gangs earlier in the year/season are used as part of training sessions for cycle races by some members - Spring rides are slower, with the speed rising to a maximum in August as ëchain gangersí fitness builds.
We have two groups setting off 5 minutes apart:
The 1st a 'tempo' ride, leaving no later than 6:40, i.e. meet at 6:30 - 6:35 @ Little Chef. Pace to suit riders, but 18 mph would be a reasonable target, with emphasis on keeping it even and steady. Stronger riders ride on front, those less strong sit in a bit more.
The 2nd a faster group leaving at 6.45.
How does it work?
The Chain Gang works by employing slip-streaming or drafting (thatís what the yanks call it). A rider, riding close behind another rider ("on the wheel") will use 35% less effort, and the front (lead) rider requires 8% less effort due to the air not closing behind him/her causing drag. When everyoneís arrived and it looks like no-one else is coming, we set off, after a quick warm up and when everyone is together the person at the back will pull out and overtake all the other riders, when he gets past the front rider he will pull in front, taking the lead. The new last rider repeats the same manoeuvre, out into the road and up along the string of riders before taking the lead, etc etc, It sounds complicated but youíll get the idea very quickly.
But I've never ridden in a group before!
Most people that have never ridden in a group before really enjoy it, you can ride much quicker than when solo.
However... at first it is daunting how close people ride together, usually between 3 and 10 inches, from the wheel in front of you, and almost rubbing shoulders. The main thing is smoothness NO erratic Breaking, Swerving or quick changes in speed. REMEMBER, YOU COULD BRING EVERYONE DOWN. The best advice for a complete novice on the Chain Gang is stay at the back ("sit on") and always ride behind the last rider, when he pulls out to ride up the front on the outside, tuck in behind the next rider coming back. Watch how it works and concentrate on maintaining a short gap between yourself and the rider in front ñ if the gap gets too big youíll be dropped off the back. When you feel comfortable, move through and do a ìturnî, then ìsit onî again for a while. Donít be tempted to do too much too early, THERE'S NO SHAME IN SITTING ON (not when you start anyway!).
What's the benefit?
The whole Chain Gang will benefit by you coming along, the more riders we have the quicker we all go.
The benefit for the individual is your speed WILL rise - if you do "Time Trials" you will see mounting improvement in your times. Working on the Chain Gang is like doing short intervals for over an hour! Also if you plan to try Road Racing, the Chain Gang is good practice and builds your confidence for riding in groups.
Riding in large groups has it's dangers, mutual trust and respect is required between all riders. It is the responsibility of everyone to warn of dangers, those at the front MUST warn following riders of hazards, as these may be obscured from their view. The shouts you may hear are:-
"out" with a hand signal behind to move out to the middle on the road - often used when moving around parked cars.
"left" danger on left. Could be a manhole, gravel, water, rocks.
"middle" danger in middle of group, manhole, rock on road, etc.
"steady" everyone slow down - could be a Give Way, a road junction with car coming, a vehicle in front slowing down.
"car up" Car, overtaking, from behind ("up your bum").
"car down" Car coming from front ("down your throat").