The Tao of 2×2
Richard Fries is the Director of Cycling Experience for the Best Buddies Challenges. With more than 40 years experience, he has been a racer, commuter, tourist, promoter, advocate, journalist and commentator on the sport and lifestyle of cycling. Having raced at the professional level both in America and Europe, Fries is well known as a race announcer having called countless USA Cycling National Championships, World Cups, and UCI World Championships. But he is also a tireless advocate having recently served as the executive director of MassBike. You can follow him on Strava to learn more.
Here is the simple principle of riding 2×2 to help keep the group together: Easy When it’s Hard; Hard When it’s Easy.
In short, the riders on the front must ride in a fashion that prevents the accordion effect. We want to climb easy but descend hard, which is the exact opposite of how most American training rides are conducted.
While it only takes an hour to learn it takes a lifetime to master. However, when a group masters the Tao of 2×2 – an almost reverent natural order of things – amazing things happen both physiologically and, well….spiritually to every rider in the group. When a rider first gets it, even for a minute, there is almost a harmonic convergence that resonates not just with the individual but within the entire hive.
This is how the Best Buddies Challenges manage to mix all those pro and elite riders in with charity riders and novices in its events and keep them all moving swiftly and safely.
Riders came to our Challenges convinced they could only ride 14 mph. When led by pros and populated by solid club racers these riders were stunned to see their cruising speed around 24 mph. And, they were still talking and laughing.
If such riders could take some time, preferably during long weekend rides, to slow down and focus on the basics of 2×2 they could all benefit with a safer, smoother and more efficient group. Within a few rides the group rolls faster. This practice can be mastered by any weekend club ride with a bit of leadership and a commitment to learn and to teach. Plus, everybody in the culture benefits by such mastery.
Here are five reasons good teams and established clubs ride 2×2. Riding in such a fashion does the following:
- Gives Every Front Wheel a Home. In this formation every rider’s front wheel has its own box in which to operate with the ability to adjust right and left as needed without overlapping the wheels of others.
- Reduces Passing Distance. Provided the group can ride tight and right (see below for bad habits to avoid) a car requires half as much distance to pass the group thereby reducing bicyclist-motorist conflict and anxiety.
- Creates a Bigger Draft. The draft of a double file group is far bigger and easier to follow than a surging single line. This steadily makes the entire group faster and less frantic.
- Eliminates Surges. Whereas riders in single file groups tend to surge upon hitting the front, riders in 2×2 formation can learn to modulate their speed to the slower – not the faster – of the two. This does not mean such formations cannot go fast; these groups will haul ass. They just need to steadily build up that speed, especially coming out of a turn, from a dead stop, or when cresting a hill.
- Promotes Talking. What makes cycling so great is its social aspects. And physiologically this is where the goodness lies. Riding for long distances in what coaches call Zone 2 is the optimal pace to burn fat and build endurance.