Many benefits come from cycling by yourself but after being alone for long periods of time things really start to suck. Have you considered the benefits of joining a cycling group perhaps?
The benefits of joining a cycling group are to gain knowledge and skills to help you improve as a cyclist. Some groups rides can be the best resource giving beginner cyclist an advantage over someone who just started out on their own.
Allow this idea to sink in for a moment and have an open mind on how you might benefit.
Do You Have To Join A Club
Just starting out cycling you may often hear others share their positive and negative views toward cycling clubs.
You personally, do not have to join a cycling club to benefit from riding in a cycling group.
Joining a cycling club really comes down to personal choice and commitment.
I won’t go into great detail about joining a club because they vary across the board.
The idea of this post is to provide you guidance on if you would benefit from riding in a group.
One advantage to joining a cycling club that I have found is that they help you meet new people and can help you feel apart of something that you otherwise would be foreign to (similar to being a tourist).
It’s helpful to know before you join a cycling club, that many offer you to join them on a group ride without being a member.
This “try it before you buy it” approach will help you get a feel for how group rides work and if group riding is for you.
Some cycling clubs are sponsored by companies who pay for their group’s events and cycling gear.
There may be a membership fee to be paid yearly to be apart of the club. You also may need to buy your own kit which is the cycling jersey or gear branded with the cycling club logo.
Many clubs are tiered meaning there are different levels/classes of riders in the group.
They can vary from these types:
- Type of riding
- Age group
- Race teams
You will have to find out what it is you want out of a cycling club. It is best to do your research and find a club that aligns with the following:
- Your level of riding
- Your values
- Your goals
Access Your Skills
What some beginner cyclist don’t realize is where their skills level-up when cycling solo.
For instance, you may be pedaling at a cadence that is not efficient for riding (Cadence is the number of pedal revolutions per minute).
Maybe the way your body position is aligned while climbing hills is unproductive.
Riding in a group will expose some of your strengths and weaknesses. The positive of finding out mistakes while group riding is that you can correct it.
There are some great riders out there to learn from and you don’t necessarily have to reach out to cycling coaches.
It’s always best to ride with others who are stronger riders than you. Many of them will be very helpful in providing positive criticism in regards to your level of riding.
More than likely, as a beginner, you will have many questions about how to be a better cyclist. So surrounding yourself with cyclist more skilled than you is crucial to find your answers.
Someone who is more skilled at riding can be a great resource when you need help accessing your skills. But it’s important to not compare yourself with more experienced riders.
Even experienced riders started as beginners and the way they learned and gained experience took time and probably trial and error.
For instance, I’ll bet you can ask any experienced rider if they ever fell off the bike with clipless pedals in the beginning, and the answer would be the same – Yup!
If you never fail at cycling or run out of questions, how can you expect to grow and develop into a better cyclist?
Discover New Areas To Ride
It’s not uncommon for a beginner cyclist to ask where to ride. There may be a bike trail or some bike paths to cycle but may be unknown to someone just starting out.
This is where joining a cycling group will be awesome! The ones who form the group usually know the area well and can provide guidance on where to ride.
But it’s important to let the ride leader know that you are a beginner so the leader can observe the rest of the group making sure no one gets left behind. If this is your first time riding in a group, say so and the leader most likely will watch over you.
That group leader may take you on roads, hills and or trails you may not have thought of riding before.
A lot of organized rides, for instance, will start off in an urban city dwelling then cut off into areas with scenic views and natural landscapes. These roads are usually suitable for riding.
Variety is the spice of cycling!
As a solo cyclist, you may go the same routes and get bored easily. Many group rides will help mix it up a bit and possibly show you some cool spots to ride.
Group cycling in cities and towns that you never navigated will be beneficial for you too.
It’s nice to visit new areas and just be a tourist. But if you can cycle an area you’ll build more confident knowing your surroundings and the ins and outs.
Builds Paceline And Drafting Skills
Some groups of 5 or more may consider riding in a paceline especially when there is a heavy headwind.
A paceline is when cyclists in a race or group travel in a line in order to save energy or travel faster.
Riding in a paceline will involve two crucial variables, skill, and trust. There must be trust in the leader of a paceline and the skill level of the riders can make or break the ride sometimes resulting in a crash.
Good advice to build confidence in a paceline is to start out riding one bike length behind the rider right in front of you. Then gradually ride up close to the riders “tail” (back tire), as they may call it when your experience and skill level increases.
Once you can ride confidently within a wheel’s length, you’ll be getting most of the benefit of drafting.
A way to understand drafting can be similar to how cars in Nascar races drive extremely close behind a lead car to reduce the overall drag due to the cars air resistance.
In cycling the drafting effect gets stronger the longer the paceline is.
The rider in the far back benefits more from the draft effect than the person right behind the leader. So trust in the leader of the paceline will come into play when approaching an obstacle or signaling that they need someone to take the lead.
Over time with enough group rides under your belt, you will build confidence riding in a paceline and may even take the lead one day.
Where To Join A Cycling Group
The common advice I hear is for someone to start with their local bike shop. But let’s say you live in the wilderness. How far do you think the nearest bike shop is? It’s probably too far to begin with so there are other options worth considering.
In my experience, some of the best group ridings may be formed within your circle of friends. If your friends don’t cycle then I’m sure they may know of someone who cycles.
Many group rides may start out with just a small group of cyclists with similar interest who happen to get together occasionally for a ride out for the weekend.
Another good option to search for a cycling group is meetup.com. This online tool is a great way to explore your city, meet up with other cyclist and pretty much anything you are into.
There is also a great app called Strava that is popular with many athletes as a way to keep track of miles, goals, and accomplishments.
Besides having something recorded for bragging rights, Strava is a great resource for finding other groups near your local area to ride with.
One resource that might be underrated is locating your local bicycle advocacy association. There is almost one in every town. They advocate for cyclist by promoting rights for riders making roads safer and more convenient to travel.
The local bicycle advocates encourage more people to choose bicycling as a way to to get around and commute and they also host many rides and cycling events.
For example during the Amgen Tour of California, professional cyclist gather from all over the world to race in different trials. At this event, the local bicycle advocacy may volunteer to help with free bike valet and organizing.