Group Bike Rides: Everything You Need To Know

Going on your first group bike ride is a right of passage in your life as a cyclist. It can also be a little bit scary, especially if you don’t have anybody to show you the ropes. Here are some tips on how to find the right group ride, what to do ahead of time to prepare, and what you can expect once you show up.

Women's Group RIde
Photo Credit: Hutchs Bicycles

Pick the Right Group Ride

Not all group rides are created equally. For your first group ride, no matter how fast you are, choose a low-key no-drop ride. The last thing you want for your first time riding with a group, is an ultra-competitive crew that will drop you at the big hill.

If you are looking at online or printed group ride listings, look for descriptions like “no drop” or “15 mph average.” You can also look for women’s only rides as they tend to be less competitive and more focused on introducing women to the sport (although there are certainly super-fast, competitive women’s groups as well). Another good place to find an appropriate group is to ask at your local bike shop.

Still having trouble finding a club or group ride near you? Check out our Ultimate List of Women’s Cycling Clubs and Rides (Road and Mountain Bike).

Contact the Ride Leader Ahead of Time

I’m a big fan of reaching out to the ride leader ahead of time, especially if you are nervous or unsure. If you have contact information, drop them a quick line letting them now that you’ll be coming out and that it is your first time doing a group ride.

If that’s not possible, then make sure to show up a few minutes early to the ride and make contact with the leader at that time. Once they know it is your first time, they’ll make sure to watch out for you and provide support.

Be Prepared

Make sure you have everything you need to be self-sufficient. This means making sure your bike is in good working order, and that you have the ability to fix any road-side mechanicals. Bring along a spare tube, mini-pump, and a multi-tool.

Being prepared also means being able to take care of yourself, not just your bike. Make sure that you have plenty of water (don’t count on a mid-ride refill), an energy gel or bar, and are prepared for the weather with a jacket, vest, etc.

Photo Credit: Sage Solar / CC BY 2.0

It’s also a good idea to bring along some cash. Many group rides will stop or end at a coffee shop or pub.

Show Up on Time

Or better yet, early (as mentioned above). Nobody wants to be waiting for you in the parking lot.

Show up early, and do a once over on your bike. Ensure your tires are properly inflated, your seat collar is tight, and that you are ready to roll. This is also a good time to introduce yourself to others, be friendly, and maybe make some new friends.

Know Group Ride Etiquette

You don’t have to be an expert yet (you’ve never been on a group ride after all), but you should take a few minutes to learn group ride etiquette. Know some basic hand signals and guidelines for riding in a pack.

The most important thing is to be a safe rider. This means biking in a straight line, communicating, and ensuring that you don’t allow your wheel to overlap with other riders. Point out obstacles like potholes or gaps in the pavement.

Most group rides will also ride in either a single or double paceline. In this scenario, the leader of the paceline will rotate. The leader will pull for a while then drop back, letting the next rider in line pull for a while.

If you’re not a strong rider yet, it’s fine to take a short turn at the front and then head to the back of the pack again. If you don’t ever want to be at the front of the pack, just tell riders headed to the back to get in line in front of you. They will totally understand!

Stay Relaxed!

It’s easy to feel nervous on your first group ride (or your first several group rides), but it’s critical to remain physically relaxed. Stressed and anxious riders tend to be twitchy, which is the worst thing you can do in a group ride.

Focus on deep breathing and keep a light grip on the handlebars. Ask yourself every so often: Am I clenching the bars? Are my shoulders relaxed?

More Help Getting Started

About The Author

kristen bonkoski

Kristen Bonkoski is the founder and owner of Femme Cyclist.

An avid cyclist for a few decades now, she took to cycling during her late teen years — a time when she needed something to help boost her self-esteem and confidence.

Mission accomplished, the sport has become an important part of her life.  Kristen’s favorite disciplines are mountain biking and bike commuting, although you can also find her cranking out a century on her road bike and touring with her husband and son.  If it has to do with two wheels, she enjoys doing it.

Kristen is a certified USA Cycling coach, and she runs Rascal Rides, a website about biking with kids.

IG: @femme_cyclist

2 thoughts on “Group Bike Rides: Everything You Need To Know”

  1. I ride a TRIKE and have for 12 years. I now (age 81) ride about 25 miles 4 days a week. I have been invited to join a bike group but I worry about getting left in the dust. I’m quite fit – but can I ride with a bike group? Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    Reply
    • I would reach out to the organizer beforehand and get their input. If the group is inviting you to join, I’d say go for it! Figure out the route ahead of time, and that way if you get dropped, you can still get back to the car. That’s the worst thing that can happen, and if it does, you don’t have to join again.

      Reply

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