Photo Credit: Hutchs Bicycles
Going on your first group 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.