The bike club post drew more comments than most posts have recently. Obviously, riders would like to exploit the social aspects of cycling. The problem is, are most bike clubs set up to help them do that?
From the comments here and elsewhere, it appears that most bike clubs are dominated by what I call the “A” riders — the ones who can go long distances at good speeds. Most of these riders are experienced and well conditioned. For many newbie bikers however, those kinds of rides are intimidating. As Ramon commented in the previous post, once you combine a 40-mile ride with a 16 mph pace, it’s not a beginner ride anymore.
I’ll say one thing for the A riders: They show the rest of us how far we have to go to get better. In that regard, they serve as inspiration. Some of us set a goal of improving to the point of being able to keep up with the A riders. In my case, I realized that although I’m not destined to be an A rider, I am aware of room for improvement, and I have made it a point to build my speed and endurance, and mainly my hill-climbing ability.
What many clubs seem to lack is an organized effort to accommodate riders of all levels. Most of what I’ve learned about biking has come from tips by a friend or two who are experienced, but not necessarily fast. Some bike clubs conduct certification classes for their members, and require them to pass these classes before going on the more challenging group rides. But if a club’s primary purpose is to get together and ride once a week, instructional activities take a back seat.
I’m glad to see that there are bike clubs that work hard to cater to the needs of newbie cyclists. If you’re new to the game and want to join a club, shop around. Area bike shops should be aware of the local clubs, and might be able to point out the differences between them. Try a ride — or to be fair, try more than one — with a club to get a feel for the atmosphere. You’ll be able to judge if they’re into speed, hill workouts, or socializing.
I’m sticking with my club. Through it, I have met other bikers of my ability who are a pleasure to spend time on the road with. I’ve gotten better, especially in terms of endurance and climbing ability, if not speed. And finally, remember that no one gets paid to run clubs. If you want to see some changes in policy, get involved yourself and make it happen from the inside.