Generally speaking with adults, there is a progression for getting into cycling when it comes to the cycling enthusiast but how one takes up cycling isn’t all that important. What one does after one discovers cycling is way better than sliced bread is what matters.
If you’re anything like me, I started riding a bike at 40 years old, found out I loved it and then went all-in from there. I went from a mountain bike to a road bike in less than a year (I like the speed and geared out on my mountain bike) and after a few months of training, was invited to ride with the advanced group with the local club. I didn’t jump right in though, I put it off to get better at cycling, at least to a point where I could go in with a little confidence. It was almost a full year before I went on my first club ride… And I was surreptitiously dropped after something like eight miles.
Over the last two years I’ve picked up quite a bit and thought I’d share some of the finer intricacies that I’ve picked up, things that have to do more with group dynamics because cycling groups are exceptionally cliquey. Also, if you’re looking for a list of “How To” bullet points, I’ve written a fairly extensive post on that, here.
As far as group dynamics go, I’ve seen people come and go from our little rabble, I’ve seen cyclists dropped purposely (and have done that a few times myself) while, on the same ride even, I’ve also seen others go back to help a straggler claw back (I’ve done that more than a few times myself and had it done for me as well). Who survives and who rides alone doesn’t always depend on luck. Sometimes it depends on how the group takes to you. Knowing that, you might want to check the jerk bag before boarding.
First, if you’re riding in a racing, or advanced group, there are rules for being helped back. They vary from group to group but ours is as follows: You get two pull backs, if you drop after that, you’re on your own.
Dude (and/or dudette as the case may be), nothing is better than cycling with competent cyclists. Be a competent cyclist. Consider, just for a moment, that you’ll be cruising at anywhere from 23-28 mph with only a few inches separating each cyclist, there isn’t a lot of room for “oops, sorry about that”.
Know what you’re getting into. I had it easy, I was invited to participate with the group I ride with but the fella that invited me knew I could already hold a 20 mph average on my own for more than 20 miles… If you consider a 16 mph average “hard” and you’re not riding in the mountains, chances are the local “A” ride is going to be about two grades over your ability. Check with your local bike shop or the club website to make sure you’re not getting in too far over your head. The idea here is that you want to ride with people faster than you are (because that will make you faster), but not so much that you get dropped in the second mile of the ride which can be demoralizing after a while.
The final, single best point you’ll ever read on this blog is this: Don’t look for what you can get out of riding with your club, look for ways to contribute. If you do this one simple thing, you will come to enjoy cycling with a club more than you can possibly hope to on your own.