Once I started biking, I looked for ways to make it a more social activity. Just as I was about to join a large area-wide bike club, I discovered a club based in my own neighborhood.
I’ve written before about it. We do regular Sunday morning rides. They’re supposed to be no drop rides, but I’ve managed to get dropped more than once. The 15 or so riders who show up on Sundays are nice folks, but they’re too strong for me.
Sometimes, we slower riders get a “B” ride together. That’s a lot of fun, and it’s the kind of experience I had in mind when I decided to join the club. We don’t go as far as the regular group, or as fast. But we’re all at about the same level, so the ride holds together. The trouble is, we can’t seem to sustain a regular “B” group ride.
It also turns out that a sub-group of the club is into mountain biking, and they’ll get together for some trail rides in the area.
The club’s original intent was to provide something for everyone, including families with children and older folks who might ride cruisers or hybrids, and wouldn’t mind going several miles, but don’t want to make a hammerfest of it. However, if we do any of that family-oriented riding, I’ve never heard about it.
In fact, the more active members of the club seem to be heading in a more hard-core direction: racing. A club racing team formed this spring, and one of our members recently took first at a local criterium. A number of members ride in a time trial in the neighborhood every other week.
I’m not interested in racing, and since we have trouble putting a “B” ride together on a regular basis, I find myself skipping club rides and heading out on my own. It’s been a bit of a disappointment to me, although not a big enough deal for me to mope about it. I suppose the active members of any organization will set the tone for the rest of the group to follow.
So I wonder: Are you in a club? Why did you join? Does your club specialize in any particular type of riding? Are you getting out of it what you wanted?
Mike Weiland says
I’m not in a club. I’ve been looking into the local race teams and I’m on the lookout for faster group rides. Right now my schedule just doesn’t allow me to make any weekend group rides. That will change in the coming weeks so I can start to hit up some of their group rides and evaluate the opportunities. I’m looking for a team that will hopefully meet my aspirations along with having a youth/junior team for my boys as they get old enough.
Like teh n00b, I have no desire to race, just ride. On the few occasions that I have ridden with a group, I was decidedly unimpressed. I like the idea of being able to ride on my own schedule.
It’s a real buzzkill to wait for people to show up, do I route I’m not looking forward to, etc. It takes the fun out of it for me.
I’ve had mixed experiences with club rides. A lot of rides turn into hammerfests and while that can be enjoyable at times, and gives you a good workout, it’s not usually what I want to do. The more relaxed group rides I’ve done were very enjoyable.
I usually prefer to ride solo, though. This way I can stop and take photos whenever I want without holding anyone up, or change routes on a whim, etc.
Probably the best club ride I went on was when I was out of town. I didn’t know the area, but I brought my bike. It was great to ride with people who knew the roads, on a route planned by someone familiar with the area. It was also a different and interesting way of getting to know the area a bit.
I’m a member of Team McAllen Cycling, and strongly believe in the benefits of group riding. Our club makes a special effort to mentor riders that are beginners up through “elite”, and we have organized rides per week. Through the club I’ve learned how to ride in a paceline, echelon properly, change a flat QUICKLY, learned a few race tactics, and have become much stronger as a cyclist. Most importantly, I’ve made a lot of cycling friends!
On the other hand, I can see how a club that doesn’t provide rides or activities that suit your interests would be a real drag. I have also noticed that certain personality types don’t do well in groups; typically, folks that don’t like to receive advice or deal with others.
I’m fairly inconsistent. I can hammer on flat pavement with the best of ’em. I suck at hill climbing.
I never get around to actually trying to ride with any of the clubs. There’s plenty of them, with lots of different sub-groups for different levels. I’d much rather put my trunk bag on the rack and ride when I feel like it.
I guess I’m kind of a loner cyclist.
My experience is about the same as yours. I’m in the club, but I’m not much of a “hammer” even though I ride a lot. The standard club rides are a combination of group hammerfest and “show and go” where one or two folks will arrive together and ride together and other than that, the standard route is about all there is in common so I don’t often participate in the weekly rides. I prefer to set my own route and time, even if it means riding alone.
The one great benefit I do get from our club, however, is that the LBS’s in town offer a 10% discount on most items to active club members. Based on that, I come out ahead by paying my $20 membership fee every year.
Ramon H. says
I want to belong to a cycling club, yet I don’t think they are very accommodating to new cyclists. Some of the “beginner” rides are between 35+ or even 40+ miles. I don’t mind the long distances, but if you combine that with a 16mph+ pace, then it is no longer a beginner ride anymore.
I have gone out and checked one of the local groups in the area and I was not very impressed. Only the elite riders rode in a a peloton and every one else was left to their own means. If the point is to ride alone, might as well just go on my own. I don’t believe I have ever seen another beginner, apart from myself, in these club rides, geez I wonder why?
I will be checking another local group this weekend as they appear to be much more approachable than the other group. I am truly hoping it does not turn into another typical hammerfest 🙁
Ramon H. says
Just came back from the hammerfest, err BEGINNER ride (yes, the ride was advertised in a couple of forums/sites as a BEGINNER ride). I had the wife drop me off several minutes before wheels down. First thing the organizer says when I get there, “yea, I think we will tack on another 10 miles, let’s make this a 50-miler”. Hmmm, did I miss something? I thought this was a BEGINNER ride. There was no clear indication as to which route we would be taking either. And as always, there were no other BEGINNER riders in the group. *begin sarcasm* I am really starting to wonder why this is? *end sarcasm*
I kept up with them for about 2 miles, but the group started slipping away from me since they were skipping stop signs and red lights. Additionally, there was a cyclist (not part of the BEGINNER ride) that was stranded on the road and needed a presta pump. I already knew that I was not going to catch up to the BEGINNER group, so I decided to stop and render aid. I turned my bike around and rode home for a nice 16-miler true BEGINNER ride.
So, if you or your bicycle club are advertising a BEGINNER ride, please don’t make the following glaring mistakes:
1. Don’t tack on additional miles to a BEGINNER ride
As a BEGINNER, I am already weary about the distance. If I am lucky, or if the planets align correctly, or if the Roman gods look favorably upon me, then I will be able to complete the 30-35 miles.
2. Please define and explain your BEGINNER route
As a BEGINNER, I am not familiar with the roads of your BEGINNER route and need some pointers in case I get separated from the group.
3. Please stop at stop signs and traffic lights
Not only is this a huge safety issue, but as a BEGINNER, I may be able to catch up to the BEGINNER group when you make these stops.
God forbid stopping at a stop sign or a light adds precious minutes to your stats on the BEGINNER ride.
4. Please stop and render aid to stranded cyclists
This is just common courtesy. We are trying to increase awareness of cycling. We should be nice to other cyclists. Additionally, this just sets a good example and morale to the members of the BEGINNER group since they know they are not just going to be dropped if one of the BEGINNER members gets stranded themselves.
5. Avoid dropping people on BEGINNER rides
Yes, I know people will get dropped, even in BEGINNER no-drop rides. However, if you followed point #2, us BEGINNERS will continue on the route even if it takes us 5 hours to complete it.
That’s not a promising start to joining a club. You might check to see if it is supposed to cater to the more casual cyclist. If it claims to, maybe everyone else is intimidated by the faster riders, too. If that’s the case, you could organize a ride for slower riders. In our case, the main Sunday ride generally goes 45-50 miles. Our “B” ride tomorrow will go 23, but there are some decent hills thrown in.
If the club’s style of riding makes you uncomfortable, e.g. blowing red lights, find another club.
I like your five points to better bike clubs.
Ramon H. says
I decided to check out Team McAllen Cycling for their Sunday ride after Jeff (331miles) mentioned them. I just came back a few minutes ago and the verdict is: Wow, I am IMPRESSED! I actually saw several beginners today *yay* and all traffic lights and signs were followed. They also explained their route thoroughly. Also, when one of the riders got a flat (twice), the entire group stopped. They had a SAG vehicle that helped this member change his flats out very quickly. The members were very courteous and offered priceless advice that I will for surely follow. All in all, we completed 33 miles. It seems that I have found a very nice group of folks for my weekend rides. Way to go Team Mcallen Cycling!
Good for you! Sounds like you have a winner!
I’m glad you had a good experience! I was a little worried that your earlier comments were about Team McAllen, because although we try to stay organized and support all riders, it’s not always perfect. I wasn’t there for today’s ride, but I’ll probably lead out the beginners one of these weekends (we rotate leaders). Hope to meet you up at Burger King some Sunday…
Ramon H. says
I actually forgot to mention that I had ridden with Team Mcallen on their Tuesday ride *doh*. During that ride, one of the advanced riders rode with the slower riders for a couple of loops and gave us some pointers. I made sure to wait until I experienced the Sunday ride before I commented on Team Mcallen.
I am so glad to hear that Ramon had a good ride. I did get to ride with him on part of the ride and we worked on double pace lines, rotations, etc. 331 miles is right – we ask the more experienced cyclists on our Team to rotate as road captains as often as we can on our Sunday rides. Our goal is to provide a safe, enjoyable experience for the new riders so that they will continue with their cycling and hopefully, become Team McAllen members. I attended my first Sunday ride 2 1/2 years ago and loved it! I’m looking forward to seeing you again Ramon!
Just got back from my Sunday ride as well. We started with three B riders, but lost one right off the bat when his tire lost pressure. He insisted we go on. Three others who had committed to the ride via email were no shows. I assume Mother’s Day had something to do with the low turnout. The regular ride was down from its usual numbers, too.
The two of us B riders did a hilly 23 mile ride and capped it off with a sitdown at the local Starbucks.
Mike Weiland says
If anybody in the Austin area is looking for a 12-15mph group ride then check out Cyclopaths of Texas. They are a group out of Georgetown, but they have a very strict no drop policy and their pace should be accommodating for the novice rider.
Been out of town all weekend so I’m just seeing this post. I just recently joined a group (last Tuesday actually) even though I’ve been riding with them for three weeks for their Monday individual/group handling training rides. I have a reader of my blog to thank for introducing me to the club.
I’m very impressed so far. The Monday night sessions are awesome and I’ve learned a lot. I’ve yet to do a group ride with them yet because the timing hasn’t worked out. It looks like, though, that they only do group rides on Saturdays and some of these rides are a long drive to get to. I’m talking 75 miles one-way for one of them. I wasn’t impressed by that at all. I may not be doing too much group riding if they’re all like that.