news, advice and reviews
by Anna Marie Hughes
The prospect of getting dropped when riding with others can be daunting and, understandably, could put you off joining a club organised group ride. However, if you tag along and persevere, you’ll find it can be very rewarding: socially, physically and skills-wise.
Always remember, even if you do lose touch with a group, clubs often have a “no drop policy”. They will wait for you at the next junction or the top of the climb, wherever the next safe place to do so. Don’t worry about holding others up, they would have been in your position when they started and soon you’ll be taking turns on the front with the rest of the group.
If your bike mechanical skills are lacking, being in the company of experienced riders could be very useful in saving you a taxi fare home when you inevitably get your first puncture. Often riders are very helpful and will fix it completely for you; or, at the very least, they will give you tips as you struggle on through.
Route planning can be a lot trickier than you might expect; attempting to avoid busy narrow main roads, pothole ridden stretches, roundabouts after roundabouts, the sharpest climbs and descents,… the list can go on. Riders in clubs will know the roads a lot better than you will initially; therefore, riding with them, on their routes, will definitely help you learn what roads are the most suitable to cycle on in the area.
Follow the leader!
Navigation can cause a headache of problems; even more so if you haven’t invested in a cycling computer of sorts, most popularly Garmin or Wahoo. These devices provide step by step directions to follow your pre-planned route around the countryside. Signalling and shouting so those following know where to go, paying attention to the small screen down on your handlebars whilst you’re trying to concentrate on keeping the speed constant, and paying attention to traffic when turning, totals an awful lot to concentrate on when leading a ride. Therefore it can be a far more enjoyable ride leaving that responsibility to someone with a lot more experience. It’s much simpler being able to follow the crowd, especially as you are still trying to get to drips with all the other new aspects of riding in a group.
Shelter from headwinds
When you ride in a group you will exert a lot less energy to go at the same pace; you are able to escape the headwind by drafting behind other riders. It can feel a lot more satisfying completing a 50 kilometre route with a group, than struggling to complete 30 by yourself.
Riding in a group enables you to pick up some important bike handling skills; this includes how to corner and descend safely, how to ride in close proximity to other riders to gain the benefits of drafting and observing other riders to understand gear choices.
Don’t get too disheartened if you struggle with the pace on your first few rides with a group. Look at it more as an opportunity to test your capability and measure how far you progress. It’s much easier to push beyond your limits when you have a visible target beginning to inch away from you. Don’t let them and eventually you may well be the goal to keep up with on the next climb.
Who chooses to nibble on half crushed flapjack bars when the other option is to stop at a café? A chair, to slouch into: Some coffee, for that caffeine kick to get you through the never-ending final kilometres: A slice of cake, for that pat on the back for actually getting out and doing some exercise. Having a group of newly found cycling friends to have a mid-ride sit down with can be the highlight of a tough ride!
Learn about anything and everything cycling related! Everyone loves a good chat to distract themselves from the pain swelling up in their legs.
Whether you want to find out what’s the best cycling equipment to invest in and where to purchase it, or how to get better and struggle less on rides, existing club member’s love having a good natter to help fill in your knowledge gap. Soon you’ll be an expert yourself!
Although going solo can be a much needed peaceful escape from the chaos of daily life, it is certainly worth your while also finding some time to ride with a group to enjoy all of the benefits listed above; without doubt you will find your cycling will improve at a greater rate, whilst having more fun with other like-minded riders.