Being able to ride in a straight line sounds like pretty basic stuff; the kind of thing most of us struggled with and ultimately mastered when we were about six years old and the training wheels came off. Right? "Riding in a straight line" takes on a whole new meaning and level of significance when you are in a race, or in a rotating paceline at 22+ mph.
David Longdon, Team High Performance Cycling Powered by Cycle U co-manager, has written a blog about wintertime group riding. In his blog, David offers some great safety advice. Of particular note is his concluding paragraph:
Periodically there are reports of riders with abundant physical talent but limited group cycling experience at local races or group rides who do something that causes a crash or some other problem. The typical remedy usually includes yelling, harsh words, and hurt feelings. If this describes you, the best way to avoid such a situation is to swallow a humility pill then learn and practice the basics before jumping into the deep end of the swimming pool. Take a clinic at CycleU and see what the Online cycling forums have to say. Practice regularly. If you are joining a new group ride make a point of introducing yourself to the ride leader before the start, and let him/her know you are practicing your group riding skills. The ride leader may ask you to ride at the back of the group and observe, and maybe give you some tips about joining the fun.
Whatever path you take, group riding is one of the most enjoyable facets of cycling and I encourage you to get the skills and find groups that work for you.
A rider could be the next Lance Armstrong (I have not come up with a replacement phrase for this yet!) in terms of strength on the bike. If his group riding skills resemble a bull in a china shop, admiration for this rider's fitness will be far overshadowed by the chill factor caused by his lack of skill.