Springwood Cycling Club
As you improve in your cycling, at some point, you may want to test your skills against others. And rather than jump right into a race, you can join a group of other riders. If you don’t have 6 friends ready to take off for 4 hours on a Saturday morning, there’s usually a local bike club as an option.
Bike clubs come in different shapes and sizes. Some are hard-core and others are more friendly to noobs like us. They usually have websites that contain descriptions of their rides and the skills needed to join them. Many clubs have different levels based on the average speed you can maintain, like 16-18, 18-20, and 20+ mph. Keep in mind that you can typically ride a few MPH faster in a group than you can alone, which is also why group riding is fun.
The craziest group ride I’ve been on is a local one called the Bullet Train in the club called “Monsters in the Basement”, a friendly club here in nearby Concord, MA. We achieved a crazy 25mph average over 30 miles. I’m lucky to average 20 solo, on my best day.
Don’t be afraid to show up and give it a try.
What’s it Like?
Here’s what an actual group ride looks like. I happened to be on this ride. I’m in the blue helmet and black and yellow kit. Coincidentally, that’s me on the video image, and you can see me at about 30 minutes in after taking a corner.
Not that you should watch the entire hour-plus of this ride, but there are some interesting things to see in it. We start out in the dark, at 5:30 am. You can see the dynamics of a fast group ride with lots of uphills and downhills.
This particular ride is FAST. It’s a “drop-ride”, which basically means that it’s cooperative, but if you fall off the back, they’re not waiting for you at the top of the hill. It certainly adds some urgency to the ride and keeps you pushing hard or you’re on your own.
Most club rides are “no-drop”, which means the group will stop at important points to let people catch up. So if this looks scary, this isn’t necessarily typical. It’s about as hard as they are likely to get.
Also, this is historic Concord, MA of Revolutionary War fame, which may be interesting to those of you from around the world.
Holy cow, that video is cool.
It was taken with a Garmin Virb Elite, which not only takes video, but it connects to other ANT+ devices and/or your Garmin 500 or 800 cycling computers to sync up all of your ride stats and get those cool dashboard graphics.
This Looks Dangerous!
Well, cycling is dangerous. And riding in a group has its own risks. There are definitely more crashes in a group. When a rider in a paceline hits the wheel of the rider in front of him, he’s probably going to go down.
I’ve crashed once at speed and walked away with just some bruises. Others aren’t so lucky with broken collar bones and dislocated shoulders, or worse. Most crashes that I see or hear about end in only scrapes and bruises, which is good news because if you ride a lot, especially in groups, chances are you’re going to go down at some point.
On the other hand, group riding can be safer as you’re easier for motorists to see.
What Club Should You Join?
There are clubs everywhere, and they are becoming more and more popular every year. You should be able to find one near you. Ask around and keep your ears open for people talking about it. Look at the kits other cyclists are wearing as clubs usually have branded kits for their members to buy.
Also, here’s a great post by someone in my local club, who also has a cycling blog, about cycling clubs…
What’d I’d like to offer you, and ask for your help as In The Know Cycling readers, is a way for anyone to find the best enthusiast cycling clubs near you, ones that can offer you the kind of exper…
Yes that ride is fast! I hope it doesn’t put off noobies from joining a club. Most rides are a lot slower than that. A ride average of 15 – 16mph on lumpy terrain is a reasonable speed but most clubs (in the UK at least) will have a slower group.
Scott Jangro says
That’s a great point.
I tried to make that clear that there’s something for everyone in most clubs except the really hardcore ones.
Clubs always advertise what types of rides they have on their websites.
And I always try to go a bit above my ability so I get better. There’s nothing like chasing someone’s wheel to make you push harder.
I agree. I put myself up to a higher group in my club and it was amazing how my performances improved but I felt fine at the end of the ride. So long as clubs have a good basic starter group that will help the club flourish over time.
I’ve never thought about joining a club, but there is group that I’ve seen meeting to ride at the high school about a half mile from my house, but I’m not sure if it’s a regular run or just a once in a while thing. Plus, I’m just an old hobo biker, I average only about 10 MPH, so they would probably smoke me, but it might be interesting to check it out. I did participate in my first organized ride a few weeks ago. I hadn’t planed on it, but a buddy of mine & his brother were going to ride in it, so I thought OK, why not. We did the 29 miler, I broke a spoke, got my picture on the ride’s facebook page, squeezed 27 MPH out of The Hoss on the way down the Maury Myers Bridge, and was the last rider on the 29 mile ride to finish. I got a lot of comments on the American flag I attached to my helmet, and there were a couple of guys on Calder watching cyclist in their cycling gear go by and when they saw me one of them said “hey, look that dude’s in blue jeans”. HAHA! Had a blast.
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