One of the joys of joining a local cycling club is riding within a group, it gives you the opportunity to meet, chat and ride with like minded people. The camaraderie is often fantastic with a healthy dose of ‘banter’ on every subject you can imagine. Another plus for club riding is that they will inevitably have a ‘route boffin’, a person that will seemingly know every back road, short cut and scenic route known to man. This can of course introduce you to endless new roads, keeping things feeling fresh and exciting. Riding with a club should also help improve your road cycling skills and ultimately improve your overall fitness. All positives, so what are the downsides I hear you ask and why do people shy away from their ‘local clubs’ and group rides in general?
Unfortunately some people are reluctant to get involved with local clubs as they believe they do not have the experience, skills or fitness required. Others might be absolute beginners, not having been on a bike since their school days and feel they might somehow embarrass themselves, especially with these new fangled ‘clipped-in’ pedals they have heard so much about. Having little to no cycling experience can be daunting when throwing your leg over a bike for the first time in years, especially when you are considering cycling with a group of people clad head to toe in a club kit.
There is no doubt a club in full kit can look intimidating, ready to race at any given moment but I urge anyone considering joining a club to look beyond the kit. The reality is that most local clubs generally try to cater for all abilities and experience levels. They will often ask prospective members or those unsure whether group riding is for them to join an organised ride, experience what it’s really all about. Usually a club will make the ride description clear, whether its social ride, training ride, distance, et cetera.
Yes, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb initially but so what? We have all been there, yellow fluorescent pretty much everywhere and underwear still on under lycra. No one becomes a ‘flahute’ over night. Take that step and make contact, start chatting with the members and join a group ride.
For those new to cycling or perhaps those who want to take that next step and approach a club, “social rides” are a great place to start. Known affectionately as ‘Bun Runs’, these rides are very much routed to suit the demographic of the group, with coffee and buns given great significance. They will generally take in more scenic routes and try to avoid killer hills. These runs are often decided on the morning with weather conditions taken into consideration however, you can of course ask the club what type of ride, distance, average speed etc they intend on doing. But there is one important factor to remember, a good club will always ride at the slowest riders pace, no one will ever be left behind.