looking for a local club, or am i???

by adam86   March 19, 2012  

Hi all

I'm as new to road cycling as i am to forum posting so this is an entirely daunting process.

I am looking to take the plunge into group riding and potentially completing my first sportive ride, may be a time trial, I'll be honest i don't know exactly what i want to do, i just want to ride.

I have been a runner for some time, and commute on my trusty mountain bike 8 miles each way daily, so i'm reasonably fit, at 25 youth is on my side aswell.

Whats the best starting point would it be to join a club and gain some experience or just go for it, don my lycra and enter a sportive?

I'm based just outside of Southampton and upon reading some of the local clubs websites i'm more lost than ever.

Any advice from anyone that has been or is still in this predicament would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks

Adam

26 user comments

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first to bite...

As an experienced club rider who just completed a sportive in a group on Sunday, I can safely recommend that joining a club will def be the way to go.

No sportive can teach you the following:
1. Road Safety in groups
2. Group edicate
3. Group riding technique safety & efficiency

These things come only from experience, chatting and learning. You dont need to attend every group ride, but even discussing these things will help more than reading.

I rode with a small group of riders, none of whom had any intentions of joing local clubs, as they didnt see the value and didnt want to join club rides on a Sunday morning.

None of these riders could hold a wheel properly to save themselves from exerting so much energy.
None of them could pace themselves to the pace of the group, dropping their own mates on numerous occasions.
None of them could safely rise as a group with traffic, sometimes making overtakes more difficult and sometimes not even aware of traffic.
None of them could confidently tackle junctions, roundabouts or other obstacles on the road as a group, instead coming to an almost stop at the sight of such.

I ride as a motorcycle safety marshal at races and also attend sportives as safety rider and this is pretty much the same throughout the entire sportive calendar.

Without a decent club passing on the years of experience gathered from group riding, your just putting yourself at risk.

posted by Farky [180 posts]
19th March 2012 - 17:35

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Really useful thank you, looks like that could be that then, as far as clubs go do most cater for all abilities? dont want to be left in a cloud of dust at the side of the road Crying

posted by adam86 [11 posts]
19th March 2012 - 17:43

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Sotonia Do time trials, group rides,reliability rides(sportives with out signage and minimal costs)Hill climbs etc.Group rides on Saturday tend to be a training ride.On Sunday there are often as many as six groups going at different speeds and distance to various destinations. No cost to try before you join.See their website for more info -
http://www.sotonia.co.uk/

posted by rch30 [58 posts]
19th March 2012 - 18:00

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That does sound like a rant.....

Theres always the good and bad in clubs, I used to ride with a club who treated every ride like a race, but in general you get more from a club than riding on your own, it does take effort to be in a club, like any relationship it takes some working.

You will find your like minded friends in a club, any club, touring, racing whatever they say they are.

Dont be put off riding sportives, infact, it can be a great way to meet club riders, look for them, talk to them, ask to join in with them for a while, many will be happy to help you along, some wont.

One big thing I would say....dont let a forum determine your choice....they dont represent personalities the best. Communicating in writing is limited and attracts all sorts...like me.

posted by Farky [180 posts]
19th March 2012 - 18:06

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I'd definitely recommend joining a club. Compared to a sportive you get all the benefits of the groups knowledge as mentioned by Farky, its much cheaper and you have all the challenge you need just by moving up the groups.
As you mentioned you have youth on your side and you could look at real racing when you've got some miles in your legs rather than the middle aged posing that goes on at sportives (there, I've said it).

TheHatter's picture

posted by TheHatter [811 posts]
19th March 2012 - 18:31

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Well, it looks like i best get on and join a club. Really useful input all round. Thank you.

Sounds like i will be able to get lots of knowledge from experienced riders and decide where I go from there.

Cant wait to get out there!

posted by adam86 [11 posts]
19th March 2012 - 19:48

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okay - so tangential question from an interested lurker on the thread

once you've decided to join a club, are there any sites for finding one nearby?

Buddha said:

Believe nothing, No matter where you read it,
Or who has said it, Not even if I have said it,
Unless it agrees with your own reason
And your own common sense.

mad_scot_rider's picture

posted by mad_scot_rider [560 posts]
20th March 2012 - 10:54

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Try http://www.britishcycling.org.uk/clubfinder - hopefully should help.

posted by iammarcmason [47 posts]
20th March 2012 - 12:26

1 Like

iammarcmason wrote:
Try http://www.britishcycling.org.uk/clubfinder - hopefully should help.

Very handy website - Ctrl+D

Thanks

Buddha said:

Believe nothing, No matter where you read it,
Or who has said it, Not even if I have said it,
Unless it agrees with your own reason
And your own common sense.

mad_scot_rider's picture

posted by mad_scot_rider [560 posts]
20th March 2012 - 13:12

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All good advice here. I rode alone for a few months to reach the fitness for 30-40 miles in 2-3 hours, then used the british cycling link above to find a local club just over a month ago. Although I had already decided to do this, my choice was re-affirmed when I went past a group that was so lacking in experience that they were downright dangerous to themselves in traffic. (This appeared to be a club, so like anything, there are good and bad ones) This forced me to realise that a large part of Sportives may be like this. Riding in a bunch where no-one warns of obstacles, calls out the oncoming car, or even bothers to position themselves safely on the road.

Sorry, this is slightly cynical, but you get the idea.

I deliberately chose a small club so as to focus on riding my bike as opposed to Annual General Meetings or fundraising for a new clubhouse roof or some such. I've been on maybe 5 club runs now on consecutive weekends. I'm definitely getting fitter, and seeing some great countryside that I would never have found on my own. I was nervy about holding a wheel at first because I couldn't see the upcoming potholes for myself and had to trust other riders calls/hand signals, but I'm improving.

I suppose riding alone gives you fitness, but riding in a group gives you skills as well as fitness.

You may want a bigger club with multiple groups so you can move up them. If you go out with the 'social' group first, they will probably have an agreement to not leave anyone behind.

Good luck! Smile

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3396 posts]
20th March 2012 - 13:17

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i went for a ride this morning to test my pace over 20 mile, few small inclines but nothing crazy, averaged 16mph over 20 miles, would this be quick enough for most social groups?

If riders in a club are as helpful as the riders here i'll be laughing and it is really helping my confidence. Cant wait to build some miles in my legs and learn the ropes thanks all

posted by adam86 [11 posts]
20th March 2012 - 13:41

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Speed-wise that'll probably be fine to get you going. Your legs will hurt, but it's all part of the fun! Bite the bullet Big Grin

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3396 posts]
20th March 2012 - 14:02

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OK I am a member of Sotonia and would recommend them very highly !
I “found “ them through a Southampton Council Bike event in the local park 3 years ago.
They were friendly and basically said turn up on a Sunday for a couple of weeks and if you like it join ! (£12 per year is the cost )
I was looking to learn group riding skills for a mass sportive in Hamburg. Since then I have gone on to do “Racing” (ie how to work as a team) group training session with a GB coach all through Sotonia.
They cover the full range of cycling in terms of activity’s but are mainly focused on Road (just completed my first 100 mile ride on Sunday’s (which with the ride to and from the start / finish was 125 miles (200Km)) reliability ride
Sunday are club runs and not training rides (Saturday rides are training rides) so in general most of the groups “wait” (they carry on at a slower speed until everyone is back together) at the top of any climbs
My advice ?
Turn up on a Sunday (check starting times on the website as they change around the time the clocks go back) join a group one below were you think you are !!! when the guys say they are going to Average X mph they mean that they will Average that speed over the whole ride, so a 15mph group will run at 17 / 18 on the “flat “ to take into account the hills etc
Identifier yourself to someone in the Sotonia Kit (orange) and they will point you in the direction of Martin / Julian who will sort you out from there
There is normally around 4 groups (but can get to 7 or 8 in summer ) each group is slightly different depending on what the ride leader wants to do. They will shout out at the start what each group will be doing in terms of Average speed / Distance and if the route is specifically hilly (some like Hills and pick routes to get the most in).
The slower groups (15 mph or less) will look after you (or at least make sure you know where you are and how to get home) this normally means that someone stays with you (or once you have the skills pace you back on to the group) etc
If after your first ride you found them “too slow” then the following week step up a group
The only other bit of advice would be for your first couple of rides sit towards the back of the group and watch what happens and why it happens etc you will soon pick up the “ropes”
The big thing I have found is that when you do a Sportive you can spot the experienced (group ) riders very quickly and the less experienced even quicker which can be useful in terms of picking a group to ride with (or in my case to hang onto !!!)

posted by Mixk40 [20 posts]
20th March 2012 - 14:24

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well, thats it Sunday morning will be my first outing with Sotonia cc. I'm nervous but have taken great comfort from all the comments over the last few days. Fingers crossed. Sick

posted by adam86 [11 posts]
20th March 2012 - 20:32

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Yay! Let us know how you get on! Big Grin

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3396 posts]
20th March 2012 - 22:16

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Big Grin Big Grin Big Grin really enjoyed a gorgeous ride today everybody was really friendly an helpful found a few people that live near me to do some training rides in the week with all round success. Thanks for all the advice peeps really helped. Big Grin

posted by adam86 [11 posts]
25th March 2012 - 14:43

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nice one - don't forget us when you're famous!

TheHatter's picture

posted by TheHatter [811 posts]
25th March 2012 - 17:43

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Farky wrote:

Without a decent club passing on the years of experience gathered from group riding, your just putting yourself at risk.

Though everybody has to start somewhere right?

Planning to ride my first sportive this summer as well. Have any tips on what I SHOULD do, as opposed to SHOULD'T do in a sportive as an inexperienced rider?

Hardly want to mess up for anybody else!

seabass89's picture

posted by seabass89 [235 posts]
25th March 2012 - 17:47

1 Like

@seabass89 - plenty of info around e.g.
http://road.cc/content/forum/38658-will-i-be-able-manage-my-first-sportive
http://road.cc/content/forum/28966-sportive-virgin
http://www.britishcycling.org.uk/sportives/article/20100105-Get-Into-Cyc...
http://www.roadsportives.co.uk/5rules.php
google is pretty handy:
https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=advice+entering+first+sportive
Don't get too bogged down in the detail - it's only a long-ish bike ride with a load of other people.

For those wondering about joining a club I can only speak of the clubs I know in Shropshire, mainly my own, www.midshropshirewheelers.com/
They are all very open and friendly and I've never found anyone with an 'attitude'. No pressure to buy club kit, no cliques or bike snobbery, everyone just wants you to have fun on your bike and, if you're into racing in any form, just have a go and do your best. Have found good company and lots of encouragement through it.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2022 posts]
26th March 2012 - 10:02

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Very interesting thread. As a club rider (Bicester Millennium) I find some sportives are more like bar room brawls when compared to the discipline and skills of club riding.

But I appreciate that you do need to find the right club.
One anecdote I want to recount is when a club-mate was invited to join another club in London. When he turned up he was told he couldn't go on the ride because he hadn't shaved his legs . . .

Gravity - it won't let you down.

bigmel's picture

posted by bigmel [80 posts]
26th March 2012 - 14:52

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adam86 wrote:
Big Grin Big Grin Big Grin really enjoyed a gorgeous ride today everybody was really friendly an helpful found a few people that live near me to do some training rides in the week with all round success. Thanks for all the advice peeps really helped. Big Grin

Bit the bullet as well at the weekend and met up with St. Christopher's CC for their last Winter TT for the year - seem like a great bunch and managed not to embarrass myself in the 10 mile TT (none of your business how fast I was!)

Looks like everyone advocating club riding was right - go figure! Tongue

Buddha said:

Believe nothing, No matter where you read it,
Or who has said it, Not even if I have said it,
Unless it agrees with your own reason
And your own common sense.

mad_scot_rider's picture

posted by mad_scot_rider [560 posts]
27th March 2012 - 13:40

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bigmel wrote:
Very interesting thread. As a club rider (Bicester Millennium) I find some sportives are more like bar room brawls when compared to the discipline and skills of club riding.

Really? I can imagine having pothole problems for example because riders in front aren't in the habit of calling out obstacles, but what else goes on?

bigmel wrote:
One anecdote I want to recount is when a club-mate was invited to join another club in London. When he turned up he was told he couldn't go on the ride because he hadn't shaved his legs . . .

Big Grin Seriously?! This is a brilliant story... I wonder if they're fast or just posers?

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3396 posts]
27th March 2012 - 14:38

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@Simon..

Yeah I've read about the sportive things, and they all seem to be common sense..

I've EVEN read some articles about how to sit in a group..

Just wondered if anyone had some first-hand experience on nice little starter tips for sitting with other people without getting everyone into the ground! Tongue

seabass89's picture

posted by seabass89 [235 posts]
27th March 2012 - 20:54

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http://michaelbarry.ca/2011/11/the-group-ride-2/
http://www.cyclosport.org/05-Jul-2011/news/the-offside-rule-for-cycling-...

From what I've read, it seems that a lot of the riders in sportives will not be aware of or practice these things. Some reports suggest that quite a few exhibit a shocking lack of road sense!

Join a club run to improve your group riding. On your first ride tell them beforehand that you're not used to it, ask about the group's etiquette, sit at the back and watch what goes on.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2022 posts]
27th March 2012 - 21:27

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seabass89 wrote:
@Simon..

Yeah I've read about the sportive things, and they all seem to be common sense..

I've EVEN read some articles about how to sit in a group..

Just wondered if anyone had some first-hand experience on nice little starter tips for sitting with other people without getting everyone into the ground! Tongue

My advice for a sportive (or any group ride )
1. Keep a straight line (even if it means that you go through the pot hole !!) unless you are following 2 below
2. Be aware of the other cyclists around you (and if they are not too close, signal your intention to move from your “line” before you move)
3. Sit up before braking !!!
4. On hills if you think you are going to stop keep to the side and shout “stopping” BEFORE you stop
5. Obey the laws of the road (otherwise I cannot predict what you are going to do next !)
6. When overtaking leave enough space before pulling back in (but make sure you are going fast enough to do this if not sit behind)
7. Do not follow closely anybody you do not think has the required road skills (on no account “overlap” your wheels !)
To be honest within the first 5 minutes you can work out those that have group riding skills and those that do not
We still have accidents , tyre bursts/ big punctures , Chains snap / come off, cramp etc that cause people to react in an unpredictable way (you only have to look at the professionals to understand that group riding has risks regardless of how much practise you put in)
The risks increase towards the end of a sportive as people get tired and lose concentration and therefore become less predictive etc

posted by Mixk40 [20 posts]
29th March 2012 - 10:28

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seabass89 wrote:
@Simon..

Yeah I've read about the sportive things, and they all seem to be common sense..

I've EVEN read some articles about how to sit in a group..

Just wondered if anyone had some first-hand experience on nice little starter tips for sitting with other people without getting everyone into the ground! Tongue

As I said a couple of Sundays ago when I didn't hold on to the group: "I know the theory, but the practice is a bit more tricky!"

I'm slowing improving, but my initial problem was trusting other riders. Some will point out the potholes, but some don't. So you end up trying to see them for yourself before you hit them, but that causes you to put more space between you and the wheel in front. This eliminates the benefits of drafting and another rider will see that gap and move into it. The whole process starts again and before you know it you're off the back of the group.

There is no substitute for the experience of finding a good wheel (right pace, mudguards if it's raining, calls out potholes etc) and learning to rider closer and closer to it. Also, the other side of the coin; being that good wheel for others. This isn't all going to come together magically on your first group ride.

I was thinking of entering a sportive or two on my own, because once my clubmates put the hammer down, I'm toast, but I will need my wits about me to ride with just any random group.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3396 posts]
29th March 2012 - 11:26

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