There is nothing better than being out on a group ride, riding two-by-two, enjoying the sun and having a great old time. You take your turn on the front with whomever you are paired up with, jiggle your elbow to show you are pulling off and then roll to the back of the group, riding in the wheels until it is your turn to pull again. At least this is how it is supposed to work.
The wrench that often gets thrown into this beatific situation? The dreaded half-wheeler. That rider that can’t ride at your pace. Before we get to the half-wheeler though let’s make sure we understand riding two-by-two. This is a typical group ride formation where the riders are in pairs, one pair drafting behind the other. Typically each pair will take a 5-10 minute turn on the front; it depends on how strong the wind is. While on the front the pair will ride next to one another, their front wheels approximately even.
Sometimes though the half-wheeler likes to get in the mix. They aren’t happy with the pace of the ride, are always worried about how much wattage they are pushing, or just want to show everyone how strong they are. Being paired with the half-wheeler can really ruin your day.
Rather than riding wheel-to-wheel the half-wheeler will increase the pace, pushing their wheel out in front of their partner’s. When their partner increases the pace to bring their wheels even the half-wheeler ups the pace again. And so it goes with the pace going up and up, the half-wheeler likely watching the wattage on their Garmin the whole time.
The problem with the half-wheeler is that they usually aren’t happy with the pace of the ride. Perhaps what the pace of the ride was meant to be wasn’t well defined and they were expecting something harder. Sometimes they just want to impose their pace on the group, despite it being a “steady” ride. Or perhaps they aren’t paired with the right partner in the two-by-two formation. They need to be with someone that is strong enough to ride their pace. Managing the group and switching up partners would be a better solution than riding someone into the ground. Which is what will happen if the half-wheeler is paired with someone less fit than them, constantly ending up on the front together.
Riding in a group, covering the ground at a nice clip in a two-by-two formation is a wonderful experience. To avoid the half-wheeling situation the group needs to manage itself based on the abilities of the riders. If it isn’t an easy spin then best to pair up with a rider of similar ability. Defining the pace is also important. And ultimately we all need to understand the social faux pas that half-wheeling someone really is. If it isn’t a racy type of ride then respect your fellow riders and enjoy the sun. Tomorrow is always another day when you can put the hammer down somewhere appropriate!