Group Ride 101: Hold Your Line

Life Lessons

For those who are new to group rides I’d like to share some tips I have learned over the years. Usually they were delivered in anger, lecturing dad voice or mid-race rider arguments… there are probably 100’s of tips but here are a few that hit home with me.

Don’t Be A Wildcard

Hold your line. What does that mean simply put? Be predictable, if you are going to move, look around first, do you have room to make said move?

Use hand signals. Alert others around you what is ahead, what you are doing, where you are going. Learn to point if you’re looking to exit a tight group position.

Don’t overlap wheels. Allow space and be focused as you get more comfortable and confident in groups. You are benefiting from the draft in front of you, so you need to make sure the person in front has some room to move and freedom to do so. Then in return they will provide you cover from the wind and hopefully call out and point to road hazards and features ahead as the lead rider.

You thirsty bruh? Not sure when it’s safe to drink? Nervous? You see the person in front of you drinking, boom, that’s when you drink. As you get more comfortable in a group this is a non-issue, but can definately be nerve racking at first. Also when you are last in the pack is a good time to eat and drink but make sure you don’t get dropped when you aren’t focusing just on holding the wheel in front of you. As all these items practice and time in the saddle makes perfect… or at least good enough. (Thanks Chris “the storm” Curran for the submission.)

What else did I miss… chime in and I’ll add to the list!

09:23:2019: Pomme de Toure #the108

Pomme de Toure. 108 miles. 58+ miles solo w/nasty headwinds…. 6:12 ride time, 17.4mph avg. A painfully awesome day/way to take my first win of the season.

The Specialized Diverge w/future-shock and 38mm Schwalbe G-Ones felt like the right choice for a dry and fast course on a variety of gravel types. Special thanks to Scott Davis at Bloomington Cycle & Fitness for getting my trusted Diverge all dialed in for race day!

Since it’s my first win of the year, here’s my first race report of the year. Only read it if you’re interested in endurance racing… as it is long, cause well, the races are long, you’ve been warned, it’s the #the108.

Small races are great opportunities to practice the flaws in your game. So on Saturday it was time for me to go to school, take what I’ve learned in earlier @$$-whoppings & tighten it up on race day! (My inner-monologue post LandRun100, DK200 & Gravel Worlds.)

Visit or follow Hickory County Cycling Association


The Pomme de Toure is a 108 mile gravel course with 7.5k in elevation, roughly 13 climbs according to Garmin & 4 mandatory check-points this year at miles: 22, 47, 65 & 87. So the plan was to study the route, know the predicted winds, bring more supplies than needed, read the field… & be aggressive, but smart’er, more patient that usual… I kinda followed this plan.

So a side note here, mass starts with 2 race distances and no differences in number plates causes an interesting scenario with not knowing who exactly you are racing, so more on that later.


So we roll out with a field of 30-40 riders I’m guessing & immediately two guys roll off the front at like mile .25…, odd flex I thought, but I don’t know anyone here & with tailwinds for the first 20-ish miles I think to myself, is that a dumb move…, maybe but it could be a smart move if they knew the winds, I wanna be a part of that dumb move. So I decide I’ll bridge to it… & quickly realize I’m being marked as I just brought 8-10 guys with me…I’m dumb. So here we are 1 mile in & we basically already know if you’re racing, you’re in this group or you’re gonna have to use matches to get here.

Party of 6… now seating a party of 6. Photo: Paul Erickson.


Fast fwd & we have a small group of 4-6 of us setting the pace & quickly we cut this original group in half & we are now a 6 man dance with 2 bros yo-yo-ing. Then we are only 4 fellas by the time we hit rest stop 1 at mile 22, Joe West, Peter Krause, Paul Erickson & myself. I top off my bottle since all 4 wanna stop, give our race numbers to the volunteers & we bounce. So I’m now carrying a 70oz pack & two 33oz bottles full of Skratch Labs Lemon + Lime sports hydration, it’s not light, but I know I can now get to the final check point where I’ll only need to refill one bottle for the final push… this will make for a quick pit 2 & 3 where I’ll only need to give my number… potentially saving minutes.

Now comes the study the field part, we basically have a solid cross/tail wind for the first half of the race & then it’s a battle back with 12+mph cross/head winds for most of the way. I have aero-bars, I feel semi-fresh after an easy week since the RollFast Fondo & I have enough hydration to make it to pit 4. When should I go?

Joe on the left sizing up Peter on the right… the race within the race for the 65 miler. Photo: Paul Erickson

Now as a friendly group of 4, the get to know you part of the date is happening & come to find out both Peter & Joe are doing the 65 mile race so they are basically racing each other…, so that leaves Paul from the Move-Up Off-Road squad & me for the 108. Paul has 2 regular size bottles, no pack, no aero-bars & from what I can tell is easily 10-20lbs less body-weight than me & is matching my every acceleration so far, so I really don’t want to take him with me & roll the dice on the back half of the course with several climbs still left to go, plus I’ve carried this effin pack 50 miles, I’d be an idiot to wait for my only competition to roll out together with a cash prize on the line. So I decided right there that at mile 47 I’m gonna as the kids say it…, “send it”.

Thanks for the mid-race pics Paul, I hope we toe the line again soon and good luck at the Smithville Gravel Grinder next weekend.


Another thing I’ve learned after my whoopings at Gravel Worlds, be first as as close to first into the pit & be out as fast as you can, you hesitate, you lose, & often polite = off the back jack chasing wishing you were more aggressive.

I rolled to the pit first, I yell 4-6-1, and bounced, Fader says don’t look back when you attack, go all in or just don’t go…, I hate that, I always wanna know if I’m wasting my matches, but worst case scenario he catches me & we cat & mouse the rest of the way…, so I go for a few minutes all out, I get to the top of the next big hill, I peek, he’s still in sight, another riser & he’s still there, is he closing on me? Gahhhh. How long can he chase all out? The wind is picking up, I’m as aero as I can be…, 10 miles go by…, now I can’t see him…, around every corner I just wanna get out of site, over every hill.., then I hit the 3rd pit, I scare the poor volunteer who’s sitting there & hasn’t seen a person all day, hey…, 4-6-1 & I’m out…, I just wanna be out of site. Miles crawl by & then fly by, then I hit the final pit, fill one bottle & bounce. Trying to keep the pace upper tempo & push it anytime I can.

It’s been a lonely 40 miles & then a moto rolls up along side me…, all I can think was please don’t be a road-rager about to yell at me for being in the middle of a lonely country gravel road…, I put my hand up & say “my bad” as I move over…, he looks right at me & says “you’re crushing it man”…, 2nd place is like 5 miles back…, thank goodness I say…, I’m dying right now & was starting to hit the wall big time…, I look down & I’m at mile 90. Time to throttle it back to a lower tempo pace & just ride in smart…, avoid large rocks & play it safer through turns & descents. Then I start re-playing it in my head, did he said 5 miles or 5 minutes…, it wasn’t clear with his full face helmet on…, gahhhh let’s just goooooooo.

The final nut kicker, last 5-10 miles was soft pea sized gravel which felt like quicksand & had me begging for tarmac…, then I hit the road & I knew I was close…, then across the damn & down the entrance to the park. I rolled into the lot & crossed the spray painted finish-line(thanks for painting that Peter)…, & Chase Crawford the race director walks up & asks you a “108 rider”? Yup…., “You win!” well hot dayuuum I did.

Done & dusted, #the108 they call it.

Special thanks to all the volunteers out there today, 4 pits takes a lot of people & 108 mile race means it’s a long day for all…, so thank you…, I appreciate your time & look forward to coming back next year.

Route: 108 Mile Cycling Pomme de Toure
My Race: Strava

05:30:2019: Dirty Kanza Bike Set-Up

On June 1st at 6am I’ll line up for the Dirty Kanza 200 mile gravel race in Emporia, KS. What will my ride set-up look like? You probably didn’t ask, but I’ll tell you anyway cause I can’t say enough about my S-Works Specialized Diverge. I’ve already ridden it this year for the following races: Landrun 100, RoughRoad100k, Barry Roubaix 100 and the two-day Tour of Hermann gravel race. I’ve nicknamed her CASH for her sexy black on black swagger and even dressed her up w/some new brown sidewall treads just for the DK200.

Here she is… senior photo-shoot style… now let’s race!

  • 2019 Specialized S-Works Diverge
  • Ultegra Di2 – 2x set-up
  • Easton EC90 SL Carbon Crankset
  • Easton CINCH Power Meter, spindle-based
  • Roval CLX 32 Disc wheel set w/Panaracer GravelKing SK+ 38mm tires
  • Specialized seat pack, Banjo Bros top-tube bag
  • Profile Design ADL Aerobars
  • Garmin 1030 computer and external battery pack
  • Light & Motion Urban 800 lumen
  • Specialized STIX rear tail light
  • Zefal 2x 33 oz water bottles full of Skratch Labs hydration


Dear @amazon what is the width of your sprinter vans? In IL the law is 3ft of space to legally pass me. I am an Prime member and am willing to wait an extra 10 secs to receive my packages, so can you please ask your drivers to wait 10 extra secs to pass me legally and safely?— Tom Keller (@the_tiki) May 27, 2019

Thanks to everyone who watched my video and chimed in on the conversation on Facebook. Amazon responded on Twitter and I have opened up a formal complaint as 3ft is the law in IL to legally pass a cyclist. *For those of you who don’t ride bikes or don’t understand the issue here, just imagine you’re running, walking a dog, or heaven forbid it’s your child on a bike when a vehicle passes like this.

05:23:2019: Casein Recovery Cakes

Since I frequently post pictures of my casein cake on Instagram I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me to ask, “bro what’s this cake about?”. So I got my chef in on a quick video to show how easy it is to make this little delight that is fairly low on calories… so you too can use it to help fight the late night sweet tooth and give yourself a dessert to look forward to each night.

[* disclaimer: I have started adding chia seeds for a little extra texture since shooting this video, chia seeds, callogen and sprinkles all optional, just not optional to me. ]

Ingredients list:

  • 1 scoop casein protein
  • 1 spoon dark chocolate chips
  • 1 scoop collagen 
  • I spoon chia seeds
  • 1 spoon almond flour 
  • 1 spoon cocoa
  • 1/2 spoon baking powder
  • 3 spoons egg whites
    • Mix up, add a little water, stir til thick yogurt like consistency
    • Get 2nd bowl
    • Spray dish/bowl thin layer w/olive oil spray(makes it not stick, easier to wash)
    • Put in 2nd dish/bowl
    • Microwave for 2 minutes +
    • 1 spoon peanut butter
    • Add sprinkles if you’re a kid like me

03.12.2019 : #mixtapecollection #iamspecialized

What music gets you pump’d up… pre-ride, indoor trainer ride, in the gym… singing horribly in the car? Specialized Bicycles just dropped their mixtape collection today… so to help celebrate here are my two mixtapes! TrainerHater (rock/rap) is 100 tracks hand selected by me to hate your trainer ride just a little bit less… and a crowd pleaser, sing-outloud-jammer is basically everything DJ GirlTalk has put out in his last 4 mash-up releases!

Tiki Recommends:

Spotify Playlist: TrainerHater – 100 tracks hand selected by me to hate your trainer ride just a little bit less.

All the GirlTalk on Spotify or download all 4 albums FREE(AllDay, Feed the Animals, NightRipper, Unstoppable) at:

Spotify Playlist: This is GIRLTALK 2004 – 2008

01.15.2017: The Outer Loop-A-Doop

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The Outer Loop-A-Doop is a slow grind when wet or warm, but man it’s fun when it’s frozen!

After a 2.5 hr indoor Sufferfest on Saturday I was really hoping to get outside today, so when the brain-trust was trying to decide on where to ride today I threw out the idea of the Evergreen/Comlara outer loop. I think this course is mostly used by long distance trail runners and some hikers more often than by mountain bikers.

I had only ridden it once or twice before so I was glad when Fader and Wolford said they roughly knew the route. It was cold enough so most spots were frozen on a trail that is often very slow and dragging. It was much faster today and safer than all the frozen single track with questionable wooden bridges.

We got in about 13-14 miles on the outer loop and then got in some cautious single track since two of us had regular mountain bikes set-ups and Wolford had studded tires on his single-speed set-up. Best quote of the day by Wolfod “these studded tires on this frozen ground is like hero dirt bros, hero dirt”.

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The amount of trails at Comlara are much more than most mountain bikers know about or even use…, this year a small group of us is hoping to ride a lot more of the outer trails and explore other training options as we build up the the Lumberjack 100 mile mountain bike race in June.

Special Guests: Mike Woldford, Aaron Fader

The Data: Ride on Strava.

01.14.2017: Wolford Pain Cave….again

When freezing rain hits a day early we slip and slide our way to Wolford’s basement pain cave and he fires up some Sufferfest videos on the big screen.

We did these three in a row… gulp.

This is only recommended with other bros in the room, noone should do this many solo… haaa… no really.

Special Guests: Chris Daniels, Mike Wolford, Aaron Fader

The Data: Ride on Strava.