The case for a fast group ride in ATX

Report Date
Thursday, 27 Apr, 2023
Since many people seem to agree with Dan's article on Medium (, I feel compelled to be the odd one out. I'm going against the grain here a bit. I want to offer several counterpoints to Dan's assertions on the age of BC riders, the safety of the said ride, and Zwift. Full disclosure: I'm not associated in any way with the Breakfast Club management, other than participating in their rides. However, I've been attending most of their A-group rides since the very beginning when they would only attract a dozen or so people to their Saturday rides. And since nobody from the Breakfast crew is going to respond to this article, I'll take this opportunity to practice my English.

Let's start with the easiest subject: age. Dan asserts that he hasn't seen many rider profiles his age on Breakfast Club posts. Dan is in his 50s. He goes on to say that he wasn't sure if he would be welcomed because of it. Several jokes later and a whole section dedicated to the subject makes it feel or imply that BC possibly excludes people based on age. That it's only for "fit bodies in their 20s and 30s" he says. This one is easy to disprove. Just one look at their Instagram and you'll see plenty of gray hair in the pictures. They also list some ride leaders who look past their 40s, although I must admit I don't know everyone's exact age. On a personal note, I'm in my 40s. I feel just as welcome and comfortable on BC A-rides as everyone else and I don't feel like I'm out of place. Or maybe it's my thick Russian accent that masks my age, making everyone think I'm 20. Who knows? One might assert that yes, there are some older people, but the club doesn't correctly represent the proper demographics of all cyclists. I think the opposite is true; because of the size and reach of BC, it has an accurate representation of age in the A group based on ability. Younger people are generally faster and more of them exercise compared to the older population. Moreover, the organizer is a young fella named Grant, you can hardly blame him for inviting his peers. I can expand more on the subject, but let's move on to the meat here.

Safety or lack of it on the A-group ride. Dan asserts that the A group was not a ride but more of a race. That the group was going too fast at 24 mph and that the speed should be capped at 20 mph. That people crossed the double yellow line. He does give credit to the rolling police escort but says the police should have stopped the ride and yelled at everyone for crossing the double yellow lines. Sounds bad when you first read this, right? And it sounds like the speed of those reckless cyclists was THE major factor here, contributing to all this mess. Those darn kids were just going too darn fast to be safe!

However, when you look closely at the data and some of the facts, a different picture emerges.

Did anyone crash on the A group this ride? No.

Did I see anyone crash on the A group when I was there this year? No.

Did people cross the yellow line when the group was going fast or when the group was going slow and fanning across the road? When going slow. When the group was going fast, everyone was either 2x2 or single file, and there was no need to move across the yellow line. Would people be crossing the yellow line if the speeds were slower? When you have that many people? You bet they would.

Were there more crashes on the fast, reckless A BC ride this year or on the slow, 20 mph capped, highly praised according to the author, Violet Crown bagel ride per person attending? According to my sources more crashes on the bagel ride, one person even broke his collarbone recently. Not trying to put down the bagel ride here in particular. Great ride! Crashes can happen on any ride but since Dan made VC the gold standard here, I'm obliged to use them to make my argument. 

Does the bagel ride have a police escort? No. Does any other ride in town have a police escort? No. It would be too cost-prohibitive for smaller rides.

What about the other fast group rides that were in town like the Mellow Johnny's 100K a couple of years ago? Or maybe the Austin Tri-Cyclist Worlds that was hammering it on Southwest Parkway 10 years ago? Were they reckless too? No mention of those rides here.

When I look at any group ride over the years, I've come across three factors that contribute to safety: Experience, Attention, and Speed. There's no question in anyone's mind that speed increases the probability of crashes and their severity. But what about the relationship between all three?

Attention is a huge factor in crashes. I've been on enough group rides to know that when people get bored and start chatting with each other, stupid crashes happen. It's in our nature to look at the person we're talking to. But what happens if I'm looking at the person and the wheel in front of me slows down? Almost a guaranteed crash. That's exactly how most of the crashes happen on the so-called 20 mph capped rides. People start feeling too comfortable and stop paying attention to the wheel in front of them. That's precisely why there were several crashes on the bagel ride this year, and people broke their collarbones. The same thing happens on other rides. Bagel is not unique in that regard.

Speed increases attention. When you are going 24 mph+, there's zero percent chance you'll be chatting with your buddy about your latest crypto coin and how it's up 1000% since last night.

What about the rider's experience? In general, the more experienced the cyclist is, the less they are going to crash. Is there a relationship between experience and speed? Yes, there is. The more time a person spends on their bike, the faster they usually get and the more experienced they become. But how does speed increase experience in the group? It's quite simple. Slow, inexperienced riders get dropped, and if the pace is high enough for a few miles at the beginning of the ride, what you get at the end is a good selection of experienced riders that you can trust will not crash you out.

And now we come to Zwift! Probably one of the biggest contributors to group crashes. Indoor trainers are great, and Zwift is great! I use an indoor trainer myself during the week all the time. But riding exclusively on an indoor trainer for months and then deciding to show up to a race or a fast group ride is a recipe for a bad time or a crash. High FTP is not the only thing you need to ride a bicycle in a fast group. You also need the reflexes and bike handling skills that come only when you ride in a fast group. Use it or lose it, just like every other skill. Right after the pandemic was over, we had our first race in Crockett, TX. Everyone was fit as hell from riding indoors and solo. But that race was pure carnage. I've never seen so many crashes in my life. I think probably 15-30% of the field crashed in every category. In my P123 category, several people broke their bones. So when I read that Dan rides mostly indoors on Zwift and did the A-ride where you need quick reflexes that you lose in a few months if you don't ride in a fast group, I knew that he was in for a bad time. He said he bunny-hopped a pothole and missed it. To his defense, the road surface of this ride was indeed pretty bad. But people did call out the potholes. At least I did. Navigating bad road surfaces is a skill that you can only acquire while riding fast on bad road surfaces. One should try entering a gravel race where people specifically attack in the worst sections possible.

Finally, I want to talk about why we need a fast group ride in town. Dan wrote that this weekend we had another race/crit that, if you wanted to race, you could attend instead of doing the BC A ride. He wrote that if you want to "race" or average faster than 20 mph, you should go and do a proper road race on a closed course. I take issue with those statements and must disagree here. First, road races are not free. You need to pay good money. Second, there just aren't that many road races in Texas. Road races are slowly dying and getting replaced by gravel, which is cheaper to organize. Third, you need to travel for most of the races, which are out of town, and get a hotel that costs (again) more money. And most of all, you need to spend time away from your family. I race on most of the weekends, but after a few months of doing this, I just get exhausted from all the travel and just want to go do a group ride, where I can ride out of my door and leave the car keys at home.

Another reason you need a fast group ride in town is to attract future racers. The racing ecosystem is broken without a fast group ride. You can't just jump from a bagel ride to a road race. It just doesn't happen. Most people need to practice fast group riding skills somewhere before they get thrown into the Cat 4 race and cause all kinds of carnage there. Fast group rides are fast, but they are still a level below the risk people take in a proper Cat 4 race, and they provide a free environment where future racers can hone their group riding skills. Moreover, teams like my team are always looking to recruit future talent from those fast group rides. Without fast group rides, it's impossible to recruit and move racers up the ladder, and the ecosystem suffers as a result. For example, I've met many of our riders on the MJ 100K. Take Kuya for example. Without the MJ 100K, maybe we wouldn't have Kuya's talent flash on all kinds of podiums, and that makes me sad. Without the BC A ride, maybe we won't have the next Kuya.

I think the correct response is to improve the BC A group ride and let people know about the yellow line rule. Set some safety boundaries, give a safety speech before the ride, but capping the ride at 20 mph is not the solution. Telling people not to show up to BC rides is also not a good solution. People will just move to another ride where they don't have a speed cap. People vote with their presence, and at the moment, the BC A-ride is winning. I hope we can all support each other in this community instead of tearing each other apart. I think there's a place for a fast group ride in ATX, whether it's going to be at BC or somewhere else is their decision to make.
As a kid, he used to ride his city bike to after-school basketball team practices. He got his first road bike when he was 18 when he moved to Austin from Haifa, Israel for work and ... moreschool at UT Austin studying computer science. Well, more partying than studying... At UT he was part of the UT cycling club for a brief period. After a short relationship with Ironman triathlons following school he decided to participate only in the fun part which was riding the bike.

He met the nice people of Violet Crown that have a great welcoming group ride selection and eventually got elected to help lead the racing team there. That’s where he met Alan and Freedom and the 3 of them decided to start a new team called the Night Owls Racing because they rode at night most of the time.
Master Roshi
Home Town:
Austin, TX
Group Rides:
Sprinter, Puncheur