Knowledge Level: Beginner
Many riders are put off joining a cycling club by tales or hard as nails clubmen, novices being spat out of the back of training rides or unfriendly and intimidating attitudes. This couldn’t be further from the truth and joining a club is one of the best ways to improve your cycling skills, fitness and find like minded friends.
As well as being the Club Support Officer at British Cycling, Ben Falla is also an active member of his local club and is the ideal person to tell you what to expect on a club run.
Why should I come on a club run?
It’s the best way to progress your cycling. You’ll learn how to ride safely and efficiently in a group and it’s far easier to head out for a winter training ride knowing you’ll be with a group of mates rather than on your own.
Do clubs offer different levels of rides?
Most clubs will have a number of groups heading out reflecting a range of abilities. On a Sunday we’ll typically have an A, B and C group. The A group is fastest but often ride the same route as the B, just faster and without a café stop. During the summer many of the A group riders ride big sportives or race at the weekend, so it’ll often just be a B and C group heading out. If there are faster riders, they’ll ride with the B, maybe push harder on the climbs but wait at the tops.
How fit and fast do I need to be?
You’ll need a reasonable level of fitness but you definitely don’t need to be a super fit racer. If you can ride your bike for 15-20 miles, you’ll be able to ride 30 and join a club run. On our C rides the average speed is around 11-13 mph, there’s always a café stop and we have riders on tourers, flat-bar bikes and even tandems.
Will I be dropped if I’m too slow?
No. The pace of the group is dictated by the slowest rider. The group may split up on climbs but faster riders will wait and you’ll regroup at the top. On our B and C rides, we’ll give the slowest rider a chance to catch their breath at the top before heading off too but this might not happen with the A ride, especially if it’s a cold and wet day!
When you first head out with a club, ride with their slowest group. If you find it too easy, you can move up over the following weeks until you find your right level. It’s better to underestimate your ability than to really struggle and be put off.
Would I be welcome if I’m not experienced riding in a group?
Yes, everyone has to learn somewhere and a club run is the ideal place. Check out some of this content on Group Riding for some helpful tips beforehand.
Do I need to do anything special with my bike setup?
The most important thing is that your bike is well maintained and roadworthy. Some clubs insist on mudguards for winter rides, so check beforehand. Even if they’re not compulsory, most riders will have them as they make riding in a group on winter roads much more enjoyable. If you’re a triathlete, remove your aerobars.
What else should I bring?
We recommend that people bring a couple of spare inner tubes, tyre levers, a pump and a multi-tool. You’ll need some money for the café or, if a stop isn’t planned, enough food and drink to fuel your ride. Make sure you have a fully charged mobile phone with an I.C.E number stored on it. Finally, dress appropriately for the weather and remember that over the course of a ride it may change.
How do I find a club?
Go to the British Cycling Club Finder and see which clubs are local to you. Many of the clubs have a Club Profile where they’ll describe the sort of riders they’re looking for and the disciplines of riding they’re involved with. Some clubs are more race focussed but most are welcoming of riders of all abilities.