Two Cycling Viewpoints

An interesting discussion flared up on our club’s email board this week. It all started innocently enough. The club president posted that riders new to the club shouldn’t worry about getting dropped on club rides.

“For some part of nearly all of my rides I could fairly be said to have been dropped,” he wrote. “The fast movers [they are NOT all guys] will head off into the distance while I am apparently not bright enough to wait for the slower riders.”

But he added that eventually the fastest of the slow riders will catch up to him, and they will pull each other to the next rally stop.

“At that point it is not at all unusual for some riders from both groups to talk about heading home while others continue to make tracks,” he continued. “Practically never do I ride home alone.”

Our main club ride is on Sunday morning. We meet at a local Starbucks at 8 a.m., and roll out at 8:15. Most of the riders usually fall into what I call the A group. They can maintain a pretty good clip. Last week, they averaged over 17 mph for a 50-mile ride. That’s a pace that would scare off newcomers.

He was called out by the club secretary, who lives some distance west of town and seldom does the Sunday rides, unless a group heads out to her neck of the woods to ride the Hill Country.

“This message is a bit misleading,” she posted. “I know if I rode with the group, I’d have to bust my rear to keep up, and then would eventually poop out and be dropped.  Not fun.”

She added, “Unless a person is a hammerhead (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), he/she won’t particularly enjoy the regular club rides.”

The president’s wife, who started out as a B rider but worked her way up to A level (athletic woman, she) chimed in with a valid point: “The reason the Sunday ride has become what it is, is because it has been the one consistent ride of the group [departing every Sunday] and these are the riders who have consistently showed up.” ‘Tis true. That may be one reason that the club has a reputation around town of being a bunch of hammerheads.

This has been an issue at least since I joined the club several years ago. I got tired enough of trying to keep up with the fast pace of the rides that I started calling for B-level riders to come out, and we’d do our own thing on Sunday. That met with some success, especially in the more temperate months. The fellow who began the B rides in our club has now rejoined after living elsewhere for several years, and he’s begun organizing B rides again. Turnout is starting to pick up — even bringing in some A riders who want to go easier on a given week, for whatever reason.

The controversy (perhaps too strong a word) may be situated in differing objectives for different riders. The president revealed his point of view later in his post: “Don’t pass up the opportunity to test yourself a bit,” he wrote. That seems to indicate a point of view that cyclists ought to strive to get faster, maybe to ride longer. But it’s just that point of view that puts off a lot of would-be members.

“I do love to ride, and love the workout it gives me,” the club secretary posted.  “I just prefer to get my workout a little more slowly.  I’m in no rush.  The social factor is a big one for me.  If I’m riding so hard that I can barely breathe, then I can’t talk either.”

That viewpoint is shared by most of those who call themselves B riders — including yours truly. Some riders want to physically improve themselves. Others like cycling for its recreational value. I just posted a B ride for Sunday, so whatever a rider’s tastes, we can accommodate them.

Is this yin and yang between different ability levels unique to my club, or does it exist in yours, too? Comments are open.

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12 thoughts on “Two Cycling Viewpoints

  1. I have given up on group rides and just ride by myself. After 2 years of riding I could probably keep up, but I think I’m just holding a grudge at this point.

    There are two different groups in town. One requires a dues, the other just wants your business from the other place. I ride about 16 – 18 mph, which is the no drop group I signed up for. I got dropped twice from each club pretty quickly. I bought a cyclometer and discovered why I was getting dropped from the no-drop 16-18 ride; we were going 18-21.

    They want us in their rides to build a relationship and give them business. I don’t like wasting my time to ride at someone else’s schedule, on their route, just to ride by myself anyways.

  2. It seems pretty universal, Ray. Either you are “training” or you are just someone else on a bicycle. The local clubs come sweeping through my neck of the woods at least once a week. If you aren’t dressed like them, riding in their formation with their types of bikes, you literally don’t exist. They pay very little attention to local traffic, riding two and three abreast, locked into their formations – training. These are the same folks who rant and rave about the local drivers whom they block and ignore.

    I am sorry. I really do have more important things to study than the rear wheel of the bike in front of me. I am not in a race now or in the future. I just love to ride my bike…

  3. I think Chris and Mel hit it on the head for the vast majority of riders. Nothing worse than showing up at the club ride, advertised as no drop, or a speed you can keep, then you spend the ride by yourself because it turns out the club members see this as a race and not a ride. I’ve attended a couple of group rides here in Indy, and that is all it took to remind me why I ride solo, or with a select group of riding friends who aren’t looking to race.

    There is more to the ride than going fast. The “hammerheads” don’t get that. They’d actually be better served on a spinning bike inside where they can go as fast and as hard as they want, because at the efforts they are putting out and speed they are riding, they are not enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells around them, and at least in my experience, those same guys are ignoring every stop sign and stop light along the route in an effort to go fast.

    Worst thing is to see a newer rider simply give up the enjoyment of riding because he/she thinks that keeping up with those guys is the way of cycling.

  4. I guess I am fortunate to live in a place with a couple great clubs that offer several rides each week for varying levels of riders. My club is extremely good about waiting for riders who are having trouble maintaining the posted pace on non-drop rides as well as keeping the advertised pace. There are also options for people who want to hammer it out and don’t mind getting dropped if they are not on their ‘A’ game.

    @Richard W, not all riders are simply out to enjoy the scenery and I don’t see anything wrong with that. These people get a lot of satisfaction from winning a sprint or posting a personal best up a mountain and love being on the bike just as much as you do. A lot of people are using group rides to get in base training miles to stay in shape for racing season. I’ve found group rides to be an excellent way to ride at a pace I normally couldn’t sustain on my own, for a distance I couldn’t do alone. We don’t all ride for the same reasons, and that’s ok.

    Riding two abreast is perfectly legal in my area unless you are impeding traffic. I’ve found that riding two abreast is usually safer as it shortens the paceline, allowing cars to more easily pass rather than get stuck behind a long line of riders.

    I wish everyone could just respect each other. Those who are out to socialize and enjoy the sights should respect the discipline of people attempting to push themselves as far as they can go. And those who are hammering it out shouldn’t hold in disdain, people who simply enjoy being on the bike with friends. Fortunately, there are a lot of people in my area who can get along.

    • @ Matt – glad that in your area those looking to train for races get along on rides with those looking to enjoy the surroundings while they get a good workout. Wish that was the case in more places. :)

      Here, those folks simply leave the rest behind, which would be ok if the ride was billed as such – but when you show up for a “no drop” ride in a MPH range you regularly ride in, then spend the ride by yourself and when you finish most of the riders have already loaded up and left, something is wrong, and it turns off riders. Only takes once or twice of attending those rides to not go back.

      I get the desire to train harder, go faster, and prepare for racing season if that is your gig. I think the point is that rides should be specific to that vs being billed as something lesser. And if those looking to do that were friendlier on group rides instead of gathering together, talking tech, and then riding off without the group, it would be different.

      Riding 2 abreast is legal here too, but what I see with the group rides (races) is more than 2 abreast, no stopping at lights/signs, etc.

      I’ve learned that there is a difference between a “group” ride and an “organized” ride. The later is what we tend to have in Indy – where you get a route, which may also be marked, then you are really on your own. The only “group” rides around here are via the MeetUp group, which are social in nature.

      Ultimately, you’ve hit it on the head though Matt – we are all riding and should be able to “get along” while on the roads/paths together.

  5. The main cycling club in my city is fairly large and offers A, B and C level rides, each with average speed posted for that ride (e.g. A19, B17, B15, or just C), so everyone knows what to expect for that ride. Someone looking for a easy pace knows not to show up for an A or fast B level ride. I guess, you guys need to do some marketing to grow your club so that you can attract enough riders to maintain A, B and C level rides. I have met some of the A riders in my area (many of whom race) and while they are all super competitive and live for racing (its all about speed, weight, carbon, discussing tour de france, $2000 wheels etc), many are real nice guys. I just wouldnt want to ride with them!! And, I know they dont want to ride with folks like me who slow them down, which I understand. If I was looking to get a good workout, I wouldnt want to ride with C level riders at a slow recreational pace (but meet them for drinks afterwards!).
    I’ve been to Austin many times, and if I am ever there and have time and bike with which to ride, I’ll give you a holler. You can carry me up them “Hill” country routes!

  6. I believe much confusion could be avoided if goals are clearly defined and agreed to up front. There is nothing wrong with being a hammerhead, nor is there anything wrong with a more relaxed style. The problem occurs when a cyclist shows up expecting one type of ride and gets the other. Figure out what you want to be, then everything follows from that.

  7. I haven’t been at this cycling thing to long. I haven’t even been to a quote unquote group ride. Quit frankly I have been kind of scared to join a group ride. I have a few friends whom I try to organize and ride together with. Most of the guys that I ride with are much faster pace setters then I am. So occasionally I will arange a ride with just one other guy. It seems each person pushes me is a different way. I just don’t want to see myself fall into a lump of saying “I like to enjoy the ride” and not push myself at all once in awhile. Yea getting dropped is no fun but it gives me something to strive for. I make little goals like I gotta stay on his back wheel for the first 2 miles of the ride. From my perspective when you get a group of people together to do anything, someone is always going to have their own agenda. Any of this probably didn’t even relate to the question, but just my 2 cents.

  8. We quit our local club as even though we were riding in the “Social Ride” and riders waited at the corners, my wife is slow, she avgs. 8-9 mph and likes that speed, isn’t interested in going faster. So I “volunteered” to be the SWEEP rider at the end and we still “heard” constant complaints on how LONG it was taking her to get to the next corner. They listed the ride a 12-14 and it’s normally 14-16 with “CLICK GROUP”. By the of the ride my wife was tired as they we all rested and took off in a flash as soon as we showed up. We hung with it for 2 years but finally decided that we are, Smell the Roses” type riders and aren’t out to “TRAIN” so we bailed, I’m sure the club won’t miss us and vise versa! JMHO, YMMV.

  9. I spend a lot of my weekends in an active cycling community that can get 50-100 out on their group rides. They are really wonderful and can accommodate all types of riders. They post distinct guidelines for their rids and insist on riding as a group. We have talented racers who will slow pedal for the sake of the group. It is very disciplined and a pleasure to ride with.

    They also have dedicated training rides where people go to improve. On those rides they split up into A, B and even C groups. That is where the hammering is done. They also have a social ride where people will spin easy.

    It sounds like your club needs to define their goals clearly. If they only have an A ride, they are going to isolate the rest of the club. It sounds like they have done that already to a certain degree. It is okay to have an A ride occasionally, but they need to have alternatives and stick to them. To me that is the key to being a functional cycling club. You took some great initiative in getting the B rides going. Hopefully others will follow.

  10. Its good to see the the issues are the same around the world. I have tried club rides in the past locally here in York, and experiened most of the same things as mentioned on here. Most clubs don’t really want new riders unless they are A class. They set off with the intention of dropping you as quickly as possible to see how you react. Most people don’t come back a second time. However its not limited to club rides. I recently rode in a charity ride from London to Paris, in a group of 30. The ride was over 3 days and we regrouped every 15 or so miles. On day two the fast riders in the group, became frustrated with the constant waiting, and organised a race to the finish for the last 20 miles of the day. It just meant they had even longer to wait at the final regrouping place.

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