There are three types of bike riders. Those who prefer to ride by their self the majority of the time, those who ride with one or two friends, and those who seek out group rides every chance they get. Each has their own benefits and not one is better than another. One is only better than another to you. Find what you enjoy most and do it. A mix of all three can give you the benefits of each. Riding in a group can give the most uncertainty to how much fun and enjoyment you will get out of a ride. Group rides can range from Wednesday Night World Championships where nearly everyone treats it like a race and is willing to do anything to get to the finish line first to a slow easy coffee ride where everyone just mingles and no one pushes the pace. Finding the group that is best for you can be a challenge especially if you don’t know the ins and outs of the local scene.
Level of the Group
Cycling comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes and so do the groups. In some towns you can find multiple groups riding on the same night, just at different levels of riding. You first need to assess what level you are riding at. Most higher level group rides are categorized into “A” and “B” with “A” being for Pro to Category 3 racers or riders of similar ability. They are fast, typically 20 to 25+mph averages. “B” rides are a bit slower but still get a good showing of lower level racers. These are the more “race type” group rides.
From there, there are group rides that are more dedicated to beginner cyclists often times with a few more experienced riders leading the group and giving instruction along the way. This can be a great first riding group to start with. Everyone is more or less on the same page and easy to talk to and learn from.
Other group rides are designed more around the social aspect; a good excuse to get together and mingle while doing something fun. These rides are typically composed of riders who have been riding for a while and do it not for the competiveness but purely for bike riding and the social aspect. These rides can range from short ten mile rides to one hundred mile centuries.
You will want to match your fitness and ability to the level of the group as well as to what you are looking to get out of the ride. If you are looking for fitness and have intentions to race or already race, the “A” and “B” rides are the ones to seek out. If you are just starting, find a beginners ride, and if you are looking more for a social ride, find one that focuses on that.
Composition of Riders
One thing that makes group rides fun and appealing to return to week after week is the riders that are there. Group rides are going to vary in ability but also in composition of riders. Some rides are going to be very competitive with riders not necessarily looking to talk let alone give advice to the new comer. They can be a bit negative with a few riders spoiling it for everyone. These rides can be great for fitness but not so much to learn and make friends. Finding the right group that is competitive but still keeps things light hearted and fun is the making of a perfect group ride. You can use it to gain fitness, bring out your competitive spirit, as well as to get the social aspect in with what will become a great group of friends.
Another thing about bike riding is that it attracts people from all backgrounds. An average group can have a composition of the Wall Street Banker to the guy flipping burgers at McDo’s. Everyone is brought together at the same level and it no longer matters how much money you make or where you’re at in life. You’re all together out on a bike ride. That’s something you can’t get in very many places.
Routes that are Ridden
Another aspect in choosing a group to ride with is what roads, and trails, they ride on. Some larger, faster, group rides tend toward the bigger and busier roads. If you’re like most riders you prefer nice back roads that afford some nice scenery. The rides that find these roads tend to be safer as well as more enjoyable as everyone can relax and enjoy the ride as well as each other’s company and not worry about traffic, red lights, and cars pulling out in front of them. Weekend group rides often times are longer and seek out awesome roads and views in the area. If they are above par they also seek out the good stops along the way such as coffee shops and local markets.
Group rides can be a great way to meet new people into the same thing you are as well as to gain fitness and experience on the bike. A quick online search can yield local rides often times posted on the areas local cycling groups’ website. Another good resource is the local bike shop. They will know where and when rides are as well as what type of ride they are. A mix of riding by yourself, with a few friends, and with a local group can allow you to get more enjoyment and other benefits out of bike riding. We do it because it’s fun. Continue to grow that fun.