It’s quite a daunting experience joining a new club. But riding with a club can add a new set of strings to your bow. By watching and learning from the experienced riders around you, you can transform your abilities.
So many questions can be running through your head. Wondering if you’re fast enough, well drilled enough, whether you have the right kit, a good enough bike… none of which should worry you at all.
When you arrive it’s still pretty scary – shaved legs, nice bikes, matching kit… everyone knows everyone and you stick out like a sore thumb. You find the organiser or ride leader, shake a few hands and before you know it you’re out on the road.
This is where you find that all the worries you originally had don’t matter. You’ll be able to keep up with the group you’ve chosen providing you’ve done a little riding recently. Everyone has to start somewhere – and it’s very easy to pick up the subtleties of riding in a group.
Making you a better rider.
You’ll quickly learn that riding in a group on the road is all about keeping smooth. Smooth on the front, not attacking the hills – no sudden changes of direction. The peloton look after each other throughout. There’ll be plenty of people for you to chat to while you’re in the group – so you’ll often barely feel like you’re training at all.
Make sure you spend your time on the front in the wind – this is where you’ll be doing the work and letting the others rest their legs. Often people will stop for a mid ride coffee or snack – just in case you’ve forgotten your food. And if they don’t there will be one waiting in the cafe at the end!
Learning to signal for the holes and anticipate the surfaces you’re riding will come in super helpful as you progress and continue to ride solo out on the roads. You’ll get the hang of spotting potholes and avoiding them. Mixed with your new smooth cadence and style – you’ll be moving up to the next group in no time.
Whether you’ve moved town, house or are just after a new bunch to spend some time with – cycling on the roads can be a great way to get to know a variety of people. You could stumble across a whole host of people you wouldn’t expect and you’ll be able to catch up the whole way round.
Granted when you’re out of breath at the top of the climb, or have the wind whistling past your ears, then conversation might not be it’s most active. But there will be plenty of time when you’re rolling along the flats you’ll be able to hold conversation. And the order will constantly be changing so you don’t have to stick with the same person throughout.
Along with this the post or mid ride coffee is a great opportunity to catch up with team mates and have a good laugh. You don’t have to ride alone any more, or fix that puncture you keep getting!
Finding new routes.
It can be quite daunting finding new routes to try out. Especially if you’ve just moved to the local area. While Strava global heatmaps are a fantastic way to find new spots – nothing will beat the knowledge or a local who’s been out training on it years. They’ll be able to tell you roads to avoid, where the dodgy surfaces are – and where the traffic usually ends up.
There might be a group that rides the same route every week for a chaingang – but often the ride leader will take the long ride to all kinds of new areas. And what’s even better – they’ll be able to show you the best coffee shops!
They say if you want to go fast, go alone – if you want to go far, go together. While you’ll be able to improve your fitness out riding your bike by yourself, nothing will test you quite as much as clinging onto the back of a new group. There’ll be plenty of people will different strengths and weaknesses. One to sit on the front into the headwind and the little mountain goat to dance up the hills. You’ll be able to chase and race everyone you want – improving your fitness to no end.
Your speed on a bike can be greatly improved from the combination of added fitness, a smooth cadence and knowing exactly when to apply to power. All of these things will come on greatly riding with the local club.
You won’t have to subscribe to the local gym if you join the club. And the membership is often less than £20 per year. Granted a bike isn’t the cheapest of things – but if you already have your bike – then riding with the club can be a great saving on your regular fitness classes.
Often clubs have a great range of benefits like high quality kit at an affordable price – and deals with the local bike shop. So you don’t have to carry on spending a small fortune on things you normally would.
It’s a no brainer really, get out, join the club and you’ll never look back!