Thursday Night Chain Gang 2023Barry Wootten
We’re planning on re-starting it from Thursday 4th May through to the end of September. Chain Gang will not run in inclement weather so please check website and club social media ahead of each ride.
The Chain Gang follows a regular course from outside St Saviours Church by the watersplash in Brockenhurst, goes out via Rhinefield Road, the A35, Lyndhurst Road to Burley and back to Brock via Wilverley.
Please familiarise yourself with the course if you can. The route has a few pot holes and degradation on the nearside of the road bit nothing out of the ordinary so please remember to cascade signals down the group as normal. There is one area of concern and that is about 700M after the bridge where we go under the A35. The road there has a major deformation so advance planning on whether to have one single line to the left of the hazard or two lines with a wider than normal gap is required and will be traffic dependant.
Also, as we approach Brockenhurst the speed usually increases, we usually have a tailwind and some slight descent to assist us. Please plan in advance for the pinch points as there are a couple where we need to give way to oncoming traffic so look to pace the group accordingly if there is oncoming traffic.
Riders are expected to warm up prior to the start.
Rides start at 1845 May, 1900 in June and July, 1845 in August and 1830 in September. This allows us to do the ride in good light.
We have a number of riders who are experienced in this from previous years and a number of new riders for whom this is a new discipline. Those who are experienced will help those that aren’t so we raise the standard of the group.
For those not familiar with the Chain Gang it’s a common term for a fast training ride with riders riding in close proximity – in either a single pace line or double pace line. Riders try to remain close to rider in front to maximise benefit of aerodynamic drag. Riders take it in turns to work on the front before slipping to the back of the group. It is fast and an excellent way to improve fitness, racing skills and bike handling skills. If you’re familiar with Team Time Trials or Team Pursuits the advantages to riding in close formation are huge. If the lead rider is at 100% of effort, the second rider only needs to produce 71% of the same power if they keep close behind and in line. The third rider 64%, the fourth and subsequent riders 62%. However, if the gap goes out to 2M that 62% of effort becomes 80% and at 3M it’s 100%.
We aim to use this aero advantage to ride at a constantly high pace with immaculate form and discipline. Each rider doing a turn at the front and gradually moving to the back of the group. The key to this is keeping it smooth and having both the inside and outside lines moving at their own constant speeds. The slower (recovery) line is used to drop to the back and then move into the faster moving line.
- Keep the pace constant, do not surge or sprint off the front. This will only disrupt the group and will cause the overall group to be slower. Also don’t slow down when on the front. If the pace of the chain gang is too high there is no problem dropping off the back, sometimes pairs or groups form up as they drop off the back and they make their way back to the start.
- When you’ve done your turn on the front check it’s clear to move to the other line, move across and drop your speed a little. Then you will drift back with the slower line.
- The front rider on the recovery line is encouraged to call “clear” to the front rider on the pace line when it is safe for them to complete their turn and move across.
- Similarly, it is good form for the last rider in the pace line to call “last man” to the last rider in the recovery lane to advise them that it’s safe to tuck in behind them (but make 100% sure you are the last rider).
- Don’t allow gaps to appear, be vigilant, close gaps and communicate with other riders if gaps appear.
- Most importantly, we are doing this drill on public roads and have our usual rights and responsibilities with respect to other road users and forest animals. There will be times when it is necessary to stop the drill and drop into single file. This is often the case on Rhinefield Road where we can be difficult to pass. If we are a large group, it may also be safer and more considerate to split into two smaller pelotons to give drivers an easier and safer pass so if the shout goes up for “two groups” split the pack and give a good gap for drivers to pass us in two bites. Riders at the back should be especially vigilant and give a shout to “single up” if it is sensible to do so to allow a safe pass.
- We will practice rotation in both directions depending on the prevailing wind direction so keep alert as this may change 2 or 3 times during the lap.
- Past experience has shown that the stretch of Lyndhurst Road from Forest Road to the Queens Head has a high probability of forest animals on the road so be prepared to slow down and re-start once the hazard has been passed.
The rules of the chain gang are harsh but fair. If you’re dropped it is up to you to find your own way home, if you crash, are ill or have a serious mechanical the group will stop.
There are, however, ways in which different abilities are catered for in a chain gang, the stronger riders may take longer turns at the front or sometimes the group will split into smaller groups as it progresses. For the first few weeks we will keep the pace a little slower than usual and focus on the skill of the drill.
These rides will require a high level of discipline so please read below what is expected of you:
What to bring:
- Road bike, riding on a TT bike is not permitted as riders need to be able to be close to the brakes at all times, if you have clip on tri bars on s road bike that is OK but please do not use them during the chain gang.
- Tubes / pump / multi tool. If you puncture, hard luck. You are responsible for your own repairs.
- Mobile phone. If you have a serious problem, please call ride leader. If you drop off, please text ride or WhatsApp leader so we don’t have to turn back fearing the worst.
- Lights / reflective clothing. We will be out near dusk on the early rides.
- Drink / energy food.
Do’s and Dont’s
- Be aware that everything you do has a knock-on effect on everyone behind and beside you. If you brake out of turn this will have a concertina effect and disrupt the whole group.
- Never half wheel. When you hit the front, keep the pace consistent, if climbing keep the effort consistent.
- When you come through for your turn and move over to the recovering line, do so smoothly and close to the rider you are taking over from. Don’t leave them with a massive gap.
- Don’t leave gaps. If you are struggling to close a gap, wave the rider behind you through.
- Don’t nail yourself trying to do super-hard turns if the pace is above what you are capable of or you know you are tiring. If you start to get dropped, the group will have to slow down to look after you, or in some cases you will be dropped. Or you may be able to follow the group whilst you recover.
- Show your respect for other cyclists and the drivers with whom we share the road. Remember we represent cycling in the New Forest and want to enhance the reputation of cyclists not hinder it.
- If you need to spit, makes sure you’re at the back of the line!
I hope this doesn’t sound intimidating to new riders, it’s a fun ride, very social and a great way to improve. Look forward to seeing you out on Thursday evenings and don’t worry help will be given for those new to the Chain Gang.