Guest poster Don Blount continues his quest for the perfect bike club.
Stockton, Calif., where I live, is not far from the foothills of the Sierra Mountains. There is plenty of serious climbing and steep grades available for any rider who goes there. Everyone tells me that you can fake it on the flats but that climbing really shows the type of rider you are.
The Stockton Bicycle Club does a lot of riding in the hills.
During a day off from work, I did a first-time solo 27-mile ride around Lake Camanche with 1,900 feet of climbing and some 14 percent grades. The friend who provided me with the route described it as a nice “introductory” ride in the hills.
It was not easy but it was fun. Some of those roads obviously were not designed by a highway engineer but were once cow paths that someone decided to pave over.
A few days after I did this ride, I received an e-mail notice of a 40-mile ride with the Stockton club. It was described as a longer but similar ride to the Lake Camanche ride.
I was in.
It took me about 45 minutes to make the 29-mile ride to the meeting place – Charles Howard Park in Ione, Calif. The park is named after the owner of Seabiscuit. The group of about a dozen people included both men and women. Introductions were made and we took off.
This was a talkative group, which makes sense if you’re going to spend a few hours with someone whether on or off a bike. Of course quiet settled in as we hit the rollers and more steeply graded hills.
Again, all of these riders were older than me, a few retired including a 62-year-old podiatrist who rode 18,000 miles last year. He planned on riding 100 miles that day.
We ended up with just under 43 miles and 2,300 feet of climbing.
I think I held my own as several other riders asked me if I had ridden much in the hills and were surprised when learning I had not.
I submitted my membership a few days later.
It was not much money and riding in the hills with anyone will help make me a better rider, which is ultimately what I want.
I eventually heard from the Stanislaus County Bicycle Club.
I was told I hadn’t heard back sooner because the “general email address” I found on its website went to spam. Apparently had I kept looking I would have found more specific contact information.
However, I was fine with how things worked out.
When deciding on a bike club I would ask: What are you looking for? Do you want to be challenged? Do you like to ride fast? Do you want to climb? Do you want to just go out leisurely and putz around? Do you want to volunteer at events or mind if you are required to do so? And how deeply involved do you want to become with the club and its events?
Some of these things I still need to figure out, but I probably made the biggest decision in joining a club, which also enabled me to meet one of my cycling goals for the year.