Guest poster Don Blount suggests you not join the first bike club you hear about — first, check out several, then decide.
One of my riding goals for this year was to begin doing group rides. Mostly because of my schedule, it’s difficult for me to find time to ride with others. During the week I have work. Sunday mornings, when many groups go out, I have church and I also have young children at home, and a wife.
But I do have a window on Saturday mornings. So I have targeted a few of those a month as an opportunity to get out.
I found that just picking a group and riding with them isn’t as easy as it appears.
I had to figure out what I wanted in a club and as part of that process, I e-mailed three groups within a 45-minute drive of my home.
One of three, the Stanislaus County Bicycle Club I didn’t hear back from for weeks (more on this group later).
The Stockton (Calif.) Bicycle Club got back to me within a few days but said most of the rides they were doing in March were too difficult for people just coming out. One of the membership people sent a followup e-mail: “The SBC rides are often heavy with Type-A’s. Many of us are retired with time and disposable income. Sometimes the rides are not friendly to the new person but you’re doing the right thing by making inquires … hah!”
He went on: “That’s the other thing — we are mostly in the AARP-Social Security Range. Young riders come out but it’s almost always ‘one and done’. Can’t blame ’em.”
So it didn’t sound too attractive.
I also received an e-mail from the third group, the Sacramento (Calif.) Wheelmen. This is a large group, its website says it has 600 members. The group usually has three to four rides each Saturday. One of those often begins about a 40-minute drive from my home.
“We hope you can join us. You don’t have to be a member to join us on rides, but if you do, you might decide to join up.”
I did join them for a 40-miler on a recent windy Saturday.
I had a good time in spite of the wind. I was most surprised to see that most of these riders were older than me. One guy was 75 and logged 15,000 miles last year. That’s farther than I drove my car.
When I asked how he managed to do that, one of the others chimed in, “He’s retired!”
The ride leader was 70 years old.
They weren’t hammer heads. I could even hang with the A group, but that may have been because of the wind as they just tried to keep the group together.
I had an enjoyable time riding with them and may look for other opportunities to ride with them again.
I’m not looking to race and I doubt I would socialize much with this group, in part because of the distance from my home. But I found the joy in riding with others.
This experience would become my baseline for comparison when I joined the Stockton Bicycle Club for a ride two weeks later.
Nice post, Don. I’m new to riding with local groups also, but last summer managed to find a really good one I enjoyed (the Mad Pups – I wrote about them on my blog a while back). Great people – mostly my age and very encouraging with each other and with newbies. They never made me feel like I was a hinderance and I managed to keep up with them for the entire 35 mile ride.
I think contacting someone in the group ahead of time seems to be the best approach. Another local group here seems very snarky and pissy on their message board discussions, so I’ve been hesitant to join them for any rides. I’d much prefer to ride with people I enjoy talking to.
It’s tough on a club, the Mrs. and I are mainly, recreational/utility riders that dream of doing touring some day. We joined the local club, mainly to “support” their “working with the local government” for bicycles. Thought we’d try a Sunday Social Ride, it was ok for me I’m just fast enough to keep up with the rear of the group. My poor wife, she is just not a fast rider, I think we had some folks that got a bit miffed that she was taking so long.
After the 1st. stop, we “volunteered” to be the “Sweep Riders”, as the orginal sweep rider had to bail on the ride. That seemed to make things a bit better for Jo since the sweep riders take up the rear of the group.
She made the whole ride but I know it was tough for her, infact she told one guy, who was still complaining to others to “BITE OFF”. Hopefully it will get better, we will keep volunteering for “Sweep” as I doubt she will ever be able to ride at the pace they set for the front of the group. You can tell these folks have ridden together for much longer mileage, (maybe century rides, etc.) so having “true” newbie’s is gona take some getting use too for them too! 😉
Do they have separate A, B, and C groups, divided according to speed and endurance? It sounds as though your wife would be a good candidate for the C group.