Tuesday 19 May 2015

My First Group Ride

I've been a notorious loner for most of my cycling exploits.  Sometimes it's due to prevailing weather; I still haven't found someone willing to go biking with me in the winter time.  Sometimes it's due to distance; outside of perhaps 2 people, most people I know are casual cyclists that can't fathom riding further than 10 or 15 km in a go.

This year, in an attempt to try a group ride and meet like-minded individuals, I went looking for a cycling club.  There's none very local to me, but I was able to find one in a neighbouring city.  They offered to host me on a couple of development group rides without a membership.  That way I could see if it was for me, without having to pony up any member dues.

I showed up for my first group ride early by over an hour.  I had intended on being early by 30 minutes but the departure time wasn't exactly what was scheduled.  It gave me a lot of time to observe others showing up and what sort of gear they had.  It looked like everyone had road bikes with clipless pedals and shoes.  Some people were talking about how to save weight on their bikes.  Needless to say my bicycle rack stuck out like a sore thumb.

One of the first things I learned was the use of hand signals.  A finger was handy to point out hazards like potholes while several wriggling fingers could be used to describe an area with gravel or loose rock.  A pointed finger moving back and forth behind a rider warns of an upcoming railway crossing.  The real trick is being fast on the timing.  After all, if you don't warn the person behind you about the pothole, they'll hit it, and so will everyone behind them.

I also learned a bit of rural road protocol when it came to cycling.  Anytime there was no shoulder, we would ride in single file.  If there was a spacious paved shoulder, we're ride two by two.  Cars were pretty good about giving us space or waiting until safe to pass.

When I heard the paceline was going to be about 25km/h, I figured it would be easy to keep up.  My average speed on many rides is like that.  I didn't take into account that my average speed was made up of slow uphills and fast downhills.  Maintaining close to that pace uphills left me pretty winded.  It felt weird to ride my brakes downhill instead of blasting away.

Speaking of brakes, I probably used my brakes more in that one ride then I ever had by myself.  Usually when I'm solo, stop signs are few and far between.  In a group ride, you're constantly trying to keep the group speed; frequently this means applying brakes and pedalling harder in equal measures.

One of the things I found so much easier was dealing with wind.  When I'm by myself I feel like a great big flying brick, constantly trying to fight with the wind.  In a group you are shielded from that.  While we weren't a very strict paceline, we did practice drafting and it made such a difference.

The ride was considered a learning ride (development) as well as a social ride.  So one of the things I got to experience was chatting along the route.  The conversation inevitably rolled around cycling; what gear people had got or were getting, races and rides they had done, fun places to go for a ride, and so on.

It just so happened this particular group was a little chaotic and the front half of the group got separated from the back half of the group.  I was in the front half and we looped around county roads looking for the rest of the group.  Eventually we had to get back to town; it was getting dark and it seems like I was the only person who had a bike that was legal to ride at night.  We got back into town around sunset.  The intended route was going to be 35 km but we ended up doing 55 km.

The club has many rides during the week but they're a much faster paceline and a more organized group.  I will need more development rides under my belt before I'm ready for those.  But I've already made up my mind, I'll be joining the club.  Looking forward to tomorrow's development ride!


  1. Nice to see you had a good time and are liking the bike club

  2. Sounds like you found a good group to ride with!