With the happy prospect of a sunny bank holiday weekend, I am suddenly inundated with invitations for group rides. Ironically, given the lack of socialising and also racing during this past year, I’ve come out of Lockdown having learnt to like group rides. For many of you, group rides, or maybe club runs are a staple in your cycling lives, but not for me! I’ve always been time poor and have only ever been able to squeeze in the most important of training rides, and even then, they were never enough! Recently however, I’ve been able to address this issue, to the extent that I’ve dared to join the dreaded ‘group ride’.
Why do I use the term ‘dreaded’ in relation to what ought to be a nice, happy, social ride? That’s because I’ve always worried about being able to keep up and having to ride to someone else’s agenda – maybe that’s because I’m a bit on the slow side, maybe that’s because I’m a bit competitive and feel the need to match someone else’s speed, maybe that’s because I’d like to be better than I am? Whatever the reason, it can be daunting to join a group ride when there are other people there that you don’t already know, that you don’t already trust to ride safely and where you don’t already know how fit they are – afterall, no one wants to have their legs ripped off and get spat from the peloton! To be honest, this mentality, poor as it is, has prevented me from joining many a tempting ride and I’ve only recently overcome it.
I am fortunate that in our village there is a large group of cyclists (especially given how small a village this is) who ride out together in various groups. Thankfully, there are enough groups that you can pick your pace – slow, fast or all out ‘actually this is an unofficial race’ pace. So, as soon as we were able to ride in groups of 6 outdoors, I used my newly acquired Lockdown legs to have another go at group riding – and I absolutely loved it! Not least because I was easily able to keep up (which should never have been a surprise to me but actually was!) but also because I had become so starved of social interaction for obvious reasons. I've discovered loads of gorgeous new routes with ultra-quiet traffic-free roads, cafes I didn't know existed, and fellow riders that I would never have otherwise met. Now that travel restrictions have eased up too, it’s been an absolute tonic to re-unite with distant, long lost friends who just so happen to live in wonderful mountain-biking country – my life is complete again!
But I’ve learnt more than this! I’m in the process of starting up a group ride for the East Midlands for Youth and Junior girls. This has been a revelation because it has attracted as many fully grown women as youngsters. This was a real surprise to me because everyone from a social media distance looks like they’ve got lots of friends to ride with; but when the ‘grown-up’ women came forward, I realised that actually there are plenty of other women who have the same problem as me with group rides. Afterall, we all need folk to ride with, who ride at our pace and distance and have similar needs to ourselves, whatever our age, gender and capability.
So, with that in mind, I encourage you to find yourself a local group to ride with. It might be to join a local cycling club and join in on their club runs, to find an organised bike ride such as Breeze or to invite a few friends out on a ride. Whatever you decide to do, riding with other people will open up new routes, new cafes, new conversations and who knows where it might take you?!