One thing that I’ve learned throughout the summer in riding with My First Fondo group is how satisfying, motivating and enjoyable riding with others can be. Another thing I’ve learned is that, as far as training is concerned, you need the right skill level of partner or group, otherwise all benefits are wiped out and the experience can be quite frustrating.
Road cycling has similar ‘ability’ caveats to other sports, that is to say, it’s important that you are matched with others of similar skill and fitness, otherwise both you and your group will not fully enjoy the ride. Like skiing or tennis, for example, if one athlete is far superior to the other, neither gets much out of it. For cycling, if one person is a seasoned rider and the other is a newbie, it is likely that the veteran will be bored and frustrated while the new person becomes exhausted and defeated. There are times when you don’t mind riding with someone at a lower level than you – perhaps it’s a family member you just want to have an easy ride with, or a friend who calls up and it happens to be your recovery day. Alternately, I’ve often believed in the old saying that you become better by surrounding yourself with talent, and a newer rider can learn a lot by joining a seasoned group (but again, you don’t want to negatively impact their day).
I learned a lot from one ride that I did with a local bike shop (LBS) organized group very early on in my cycling life. I was within a month of having gotten my road bike and was eager to learn and experience. Suffice it to say it was a full day (we rode 105 km), and I leaned on my rowing fitness to get me through. Fortunately, I don’t think I made too great a negative impact on my fellow riders. I held my own, but not knowing about how to ride in groups, pace lines, perform all the signals and commands, nor things like ‘bonking’ from lack of eating, left me thoroughly exhausted once I got home.
Fast-forward to recent weeks, and I have been on a few rides where I was became burdened with less-capable riders in my group (not to pump myself up too greatly) and, in one case, one was riding a hybrid bike on a proposed 60 km. ride with more than 800 meters of climbing. It wasn’t fun for anyone.
Overall, however, it is valuable and extremely worthwhile riding with other cyclists. I have found it exhilarating, motivating, satisfying and engaging to be with people who are similarly skilled and enthusiastic as I am.
As summer concludes, I have started to think about what I will do this winter and how I can extract even more out of cycling next year. My solution, which appears to be the natural progression for novice cyclists, is to join a cycling club. There’s a great resource called CyclingBC.net which has a page that lists all the registered cycling clubs in BC. It’s not perfect, but it’s the only source I’ve found that attempts to be comprehensive at listing clubs throughout the province.
The decision now, besides determining which clubs operate within the general area that I live, is to find a club that matches my skill level, but also offers me room to grow. I’m also interested in a club that gives me plenty of opportunity to ride (frequency), training or coaching, and social engagement.
More research is needed, of course. Pleasantly, I’ve noticed that some clubs offer non-members the opportunity to join one or two group rides on a trial basis, to see if it meets their needs, which is a nice offer. I’ll let you know how it goes.