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Ride better and find new routes and cafes with your local club

Clubs are the backbone of the cycling scene and community, and an invaluable source of knowledge and advice that can help you improve as a bike rider.

You don't have to sign up and join a club straight away to ride with one. Most clubs will let you come on a ride or two before requiring you to join, so you can find out of you enjoy their company. Contact the club secretary to find out exactly how this works for any particular club.

When you turn up, be prepared just as you would for a solo ride, with water, food, spare tubes and tools, and follow instructions from the rider leaders.

Here’s why you should club together.

Meet like-minded riders

VC Walcot hill climb.jpg

VC Walcot hill climb.jpg, by ([url=https://www.flickr.com/photos/anthonygrimley/]CC BY-NC 2.0 Anthony Grimley[/url])

Clubs have personalities so finding one that matches your interests is a great way to meet like-minded riders. Some clubs are just about riding; the Sunday club ride is the focus of the club’s activities. Others are centred on racing, while your local CTC group will likely be dedicated to pootling around the most obscure lanes the ride leader can find to connect pubs and cafes.

The larger the club, the more varied its activities are likely to be. For example, Chippenham Wheelers, one of the UK’s largest clubs, has five clubruns each weekend for different fitness levels, a Wednesday evening time trial every week during the summer, audax rides, training sessions at Castle Combe circuit and lots more.

New roads and routes

Fed up of repeating the same old rides every time? There are plenty of Google Maps-based routing sites and apps that can help you find a new ride, but that can be a bit hit-and-miss — I once ended up on a byway following a route generated by CycleStreets. That was kinda fun, but the 23mm tyres I was on weren’t really suitable for trail riding.

Club ride leaders are expected to keep a ride on suitable roads, which means knowing the back lanes and quieter B roads, so a clubrun is a great way to add to your repertoire of rides and get a feel for an area.

Cafe expertise

Every good clubrun includes a cafe stop. That makes social club rides a great way to find out who does the best lemon drizzle cake among the cafes within riding range.

Racing

Sure you can join British Cycling as a private member and rock up to the start of a Cat 4 race, but if you don’t know what you’re doing you’ll almost certainly get blown out the back of the group quickly. If you do manage to hang on you’ll likely be a danger to yourself and others if you don’t know how to ride in a high-speed group.

A racing-orientated club will have coaches and training sessions that will help you get fit enough you don’t get spat off the back of every race, and build the skills to handle a bike and position yourself safely even though you’re almost touching shoulders with other riders.

Companionship

Winter group cycling CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 reid.neureiter https://www.flickr.com/photos/21085902@N08/

When the weather turns cold, having clubmates to ride with can help maintain your motivation (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 reid.neureiter (link is external) (link is external) (link is external) (link is external))

You might like riding alone, and that’s fine, but club rides give you the chance to chat while you whizz along, and they’re one of those rare social situations where you won’t be considered odd for wittering on about bikes.

Being in a group is also invaluable if things go wrong. You should have spares, tools, food and drink with you anyway, but if you suffer a significant mechanical the chances are there’ll be someone in the group to fix it.

A well-run clubrun will usually have a ‘no rider left behind’ policy. Fitter riders might get a bit frisky on hills, but they’ll wait for the group to reassemble at the top. If you’ve over-reached a bit, and the ride turns out to be further than you can manage comfortably, you’ll get help in the form of a wheel to follow or even a helping hand up hills.

This usually doesn’t apply to chaingangs, though, but the incentive of not getting dropped is a great inspiration to dig deep into your reserves.

Training

Track riding.jpg

A club track day can be the cheapest way to have a go at velodrome riding (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 P_Dean (link is external) (link is external) (link is external) (link is external))

As mentioned above many clubs run training sessions. These can be a high-speed on-road ‘chain gang’; more structured sessions on an off-highway circuit; or a room full of turbo trainers at a gym or community centre.

Being able to tap into coaching expertise is a big advantage of a club, whether your aim is to get into racing, take it more seriously or just to move up from Silver to Gold standard in your favourite sportive.

Skill building

Riding with a club is a good way to learn useful road skills. It’s a bit circular, as they’re mostly the skills you need to ride in a group, such as warning of hazards and following a wheel, but anything that teaches you finer bike control is a good thing.

Discounts

Many bike shops offer discounts either to members of associated clubs or to members of the CTC or British Cycling, organisations that many club members also join. On line, Chain Reaction gives 10 percent off to British cycling members and Cotswold Outdoor has 15 percent off for CTC members.

Cycling clubs and riding groups

25-mile TT.jpg

Want to have a go at time trials? A club's evening race is the best place to start (CC BY-NC 2.0 Sebastian Lomas (link is external) (link is external) (link is external) (link is external))

British Cycling lists its 1,700 affiliated clubs in its Club Finder.

CTC also has a comprehensive listing of affiliated clubs and local groups

If you want something more informal than traditional cycling clubs, there are lots of cycling groups on MeetUp and of course you can also join Team road.cc, road.cc's very own cycling club which offers a full range of member benefits, discounts plus events.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

69 comments

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imajez [121 posts] 3 years ago
1 like
wycombewheeler wrote:

Seems like you and the other recovering club rider could have made the decision to split your group of 4 and ride back together at your own pace.

Not exactly going for a club ride though is it, if you have to limp back home with a few others who the club couln't be arsed to wait for?

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Danger Dicko [295 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
imajez wrote:
wycombewheeler wrote:

Seems like you and the other recovering club rider could have made the decision to split your group of 4 and ride back together at your own pace.

Not exactly going for a club ride though is it, if you have to limp back home with a few others who the club couln't be arsed to wait for?

There's nothing like a bit of victim blaming.

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mbrads72 [240 posts] 3 years ago
3 likes

Well that's my club's jersey in the second picture, and I have to say I don't recognise any of the adverse comments on here. I'm not aware of any cliques, the club runs are always 'no drop', we always make sure everyone is able to either ride with the group or if they decide to head off they know where they are and are able to get home.

That's probably why it's been going since 1893 without a break and is 'probably the best cycling club in the country' wink.

(Bristol South, in case you were wondering)

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chihuahua [10 posts] 3 years ago
2 likes

Stirling Bike Club is very brilliant.  It caters for all cycling related interests and regardless of level.  I'm a tad biased as I love being a member of it. 

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GazHove [26 posts] 3 years ago
1 like

All those pople moaning, I feel sorry for you, you're either miserable gits in general or you just havent found the right club. Differnt clubs will suit differnt people, you have to find a place where there are like minded people. I'd suggest a smaller club is better than joining the most poplular/largest/established. If your limited for choice in your area that's a s shame....you can always start your own!  'build it and they will come'  smiley

 

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Jackson [451 posts] 3 years ago
1 like

l

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sepang [1 post] 3 years ago
1 like

Just a post for anyone who is thinking of joining a club and sees quite a lot of negativity on here. 

I joined a club in August and in that time have gone out most Sundays. Sometimes I've been a group which is too fast for me but that's the point really and I've got faster even if I'm hanging on at the end. There are 7 groups and the ones I hang around in (the slow ones) seem to wait for everyone. It all seems rather civil with a good load of male and female riders of different ages. 

All in all although I wasn't convinced I should join a club, as it would be all cliquey with 100s of rules, it's actually quite fun. Boring, but how it's been for me

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wycombewheeler [1365 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
Danger Dicko wrote:
imajez wrote:
wycombewheeler wrote:

Seems like you and the other recovering club rider could have made the decision to split your group of 4 and ride back together at your own pace.

Not exactly going for a club ride though is it, if you have to limp back home with a few others who the club couln't be arsed to wait for?

There's nothing like a bit of victim blaming.

 

wow, really?

 

I'm not saying they should have split off because they couldn't keep up with the group. I'm saying that since the group were not being reasonable, to the point where he preffered to ride back solo, he might have enjoyed the ride back more with the other three, they probably would have enjoyed it more too.

 

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HoldTheWheel [29 posts] 3 years ago
2 likes

I've been with my club for around 3 years now and always look forward to the weekend rides.

I'm not sure how clubs on a Sunday club ride are arrogant though. In my opinion, my own club is friendly to all other cyclists (whether they are alone or riding with another club) and I'd say most clubs are friendly in return (whether I'm on a club ride or riding on my own).

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hmas1974 [14 posts] 3 years ago
1 like

There's nothing wrong with going out on a group riding and struggling a little.  That's how you get better!

However, the manner in which the group deals with struggling riders is key.  If it's right at the start of a ride and someone has clearly chosen a group with whom they are going to struggle, then it is only fair for all riders to be straight with that person.  If, however, someone has joined a group, tried to do their fair share of work but it's finding things a little tough on the return leg, then you owe it to them to encourage them to sit in and get a tow home.  If the group agrees, maybe ease up a little or let the really strong riders or people who only have a morning pass go ahead.

Cycling clubs are made up of people and law of averages states that  number of those will be twats.  But, there are usually far more that are really decent people.  Local club rivalry is par for the course, but if you happen to be miles from home, maybe taking part in an overseas sportive, that rivalry soon melts away.

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supermarioracer [13 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

--

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edith123 [1 post] 3 years ago
6 likes
CygnusX1 wrote:
34285011 wrote:

If being a cycling club member makes you as happy looking as the bunch in the black and white photo, I think maybe I'll give it a miss.yes

That's because its a fixie club (judging by the bikes). And check out the seat position on the bike on the right.

Hello,

The black and white photo at the top of the article was taken in 1912, just prior to the outbreak of WWI. The club is "Springwood Cycling Club" located in the Blue Mountains just outside of Sydney, Australia. Springwood Cycling Club is again up and running and we ride in memory and honour of these great men and boys in the photo. There are not many flat roads in the Blue Moutains, lots of hills, they were pretty tough old buggers on their fixies. We also enjoy all the benifets that are mentioned in this article although we dont conduct races. A great positive experience for all involved. 

 

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Will Wins Again [1 post] 3 years ago
1 like

Just reading the comments after coming across this article while looking for something to promote cycle club membership.

I definitely think it's a good idea to join a club and get involved. In cycling like I'm sure many other sports it's amazing that people are keen to moan but not get involved. They forget other club committee members, officials at races and regional officials are mostly volunteers. Rather than complaining about what the local club does or doesn't do the moaners could get involved. 

I'm not massively keen on people jumping from club to club choosing one that's further away or joining the "race team" that never organises any races but just rides other clubs events.

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kcr [154 posts] 2 years ago
1 like

It's an obvious thing to say, but clubs are volunteer organisations, and are only as good as their members. If you avoid getting involved and don't help to shape the club culture, how do you expect things to improve?

My club also feature in one of the photos above, although we only date back to 1925. We have novice rides, a thriving junior section, coaching at all levels, a TT series, run 20 to 30 open races a year and 25% of the members are women (including our last 2 club presidents).
Don't be put off by the negative stories. Lots of clubs are very forward looking these days, so try a few out and hopefully you'll find one that suits you.

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Duncann [1487 posts] 2 years ago
1 like

Saw this thread revived and was having a skim through the comments. One thing that didn’t appear here but which I’ve seen quite a lot in London at least is people setting up their own virtual clubs on MeetUp.com (which might sound like something else but isn’t!). 

You can set up (almost) whatever type of group you want. I guess it works better in more populous areas where you can always find half a dozen other one-legged Bolivian orphan tandem stunt riders (I used to think I was the only one) but may be worth a look even in smaller places if you’re just after a half dozen people to join you for more mainstream stuff.

It’s not too expensive to set-up and it saves you the hassle of having to set-up your own website, find members, think about kit, AGMs, etc.

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Yellow Peril [23 posts] 2 years ago
2 likes

Who would organise the road racing and TT's if we didn't have clubs?

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KevM [47 posts] 2 years ago
4 likes

There are 3 clubs near me. The first one won't allow membership unless you can hold an 18mph average up hill and down dale over 60 miles and are within acceptable BMI levels, the second won't allow you to ride with them unless you drop £60 on a "team jersey" and the third (which I joined) is extremely cliquey and if your face doesn't fit they drop you at the first opportunity and never look back. I've decided I'm happier riding alone. Less politics. Although I do still argue with myself...

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BarryBianchi [418 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Garmin Connect is a great Club to join.  Saves an awful lot of hassle and politics, and delivers most of the benefits of a non-virtual club.

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don simon fbpe [2989 posts] 2 years ago
1 like

Meet like minded riders?

I think I'll pass on that one. smiley

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Eton Rifle [150 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Martyn_K wrote:
Awavey wrote:
HalfWheeler wrote:
Danger Dicko wrote:

Every club has its twat though, the guy who turns up on the intro/leisure ride and moans at it going 13mph average and only 30 miles.

 

 

Wonderful contribution.

its a fair point IMO...if they are going to do 8 reasons to join a club, there are at least 8 reasons not to join a club as well, and that would have been reason #1 on my not joining list  1

 

Therefore it is up to the senior members of the club to acknowledge a new rider, introduce themselves and assess the ability of the rider. This will enable either the new rider or the senior member to place them in the correct ride level. The result, stable groups, happy riders.

On the flip side it also stops new rider who thinks they are excellent at cycling jumping on to a fast group and then having to be carried for the majority of the ride.  As with all things cycling, communication is the key. A simple introduction and pre ride conversation can often alleviate potential issues.

Exactly.  This is precisely what a club I approached did.  When I pointed out that I owned only a hybrid, was over 50 and had been cycling for only a few months on a short commute, he politely advised that I would be unlikely to keep up and suggested another club in the area.  Fair enough.  I thanked him for his time and that was that.  I really don't see why an established club should have to modify its activities to suit a single individual. 

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allanj [211 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Eton Rifle wrote:
Martyn_K wrote:
Awavey wrote:
HalfWheeler wrote:
Danger Dicko wrote:

Every club has its twat though, the guy who turns up on the intro/leisure ride and moans at it going 13mph average and only 30 miles.

 

 

Wonderful contribution.

its a fair point IMO...if they are going to do 8 reasons to join a club, there are at least 8 reasons not to join a club as well, and that would have been reason #1 on my not joining list  1

 

Therefore it is up to the senior members of the club to acknowledge a new rider, introduce themselves and assess the ability of the rider. This will enable either the new rider or the senior member to place them in the correct ride level. The result, stable groups, happy riders.

On the flip side it also stops new rider who thinks they are excellent at cycling jumping on to a fast group and then having to be carried for the majority of the ride.  As with all things cycling, communication is the key. A simple introduction and pre ride conversation can often alleviate potential issues.

Exactly.  This is precisely what a club I approached did.  When I pointed out that I owned only a hybrid, was over 50 and had been cycling for only a few months on a short commute, he politely advised that I would be unlikely to keep up and suggested another club in the area.  Fair enough.  I thanked him for his time and that was that.  I really don't see why an established club should have to modify its activities to suit a single individual. 

 

As someone who sort of runs a sort of club (no committee meetings or anything but lots of riding together) I think the question of how much the club can or should modify its activities for an individual is the crux of the question.  If a club is huge with various groups going out a different speeds then it should be relatively  straightforward to place a new member in the right group.

 

Smaller clubs like ours will really struggle with that though as we have either one or two groups going out.  For most of us the Sunday ride is a big part of the week and the core of the group ride together regularly and manage a good pace.  Of course we want to attract new members and not discourage people, but it's hard to do that without frustrating the group a bit.  

 

The irony is, and this genuinely bothers me- is that having sort of set the club up when I was a beginner, if I was to come along now at the level that I was at then, I would really struggle with the rides that we do.  Thankfully we are now more regularly getting a slower group going out but that is not always happening.  Don't underestimate how hard it is to keep everyone happy all the time!

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srchar [1525 posts] 2 years ago
2 likes
don simon wrote:

Meet like minded riders?

I think I'll pass on that one. smiley

Same here, I'm a right arsehole, don't need any more of them in my life  1

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allanj [211 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Sorry, duplicate post

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FatBoyW [271 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I read these posts and do wonder at so many of you.

i want to learn to ride better and so want to learn from others. Also I want to ride with people who know how to ride safely in a group. I want to be able to take part in TTs and other races. None of that would be possible without being with others - none of which would be possible without clubs,  it is what clubs are all about.

im in a small club and on different days we try and ride different types of ride. 

Without being in a club I would not have developed any where near as well as I have. Club/group riding is so much different to solo. Don't get me wrong I do solo rides as well, but to me an essential part of riding is going fast in a group- that be definition for me is being in a club.

i have ridden in a group that was not club riders, (sportive and training camp) and it has been disastrous as people with strong legs and no idea of how to ride safely close together are dangerous.

get over yourselves, join a club, learn to be a better rider, help promote a great hobby/sport/activity 

 

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T44ISKN [6 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Due to back surgery 3 years ago, I've basically had to start from scratch fitness-wise on the bike this year. I've ridden just under 2000 miles since January and am gradually getting back up to speed, but it's taking a lot of time and effort and I've still got a long way to go.

I'm planning to move back to Cornwall after many years of living away in the London area. I hoped that joining a local cycling would be a good way to form new friendships with like-minded people. Unfortunately, I simply can't keep up on the club rides and feel bad for holding everyone up.  This past Sunday, I was dropped within 5 miles. I've had this experience with both local clubs that I'd like to join (one of which I was last a member of 30 years ago!)

How would you guys react to someone turning up to a club ride on an e-bike? I'd just like to be able to get to the cafe stop and enjoy the banter, but I'm not sure on the etiquette and how others would react.

 

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Krazyfrenchkanuck [43 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
Danger Dicko wrote:

Every club has its twat though, the guy who turns up on the intro/leisure ride and moans at it going 13mph average and only 30 miles.

 

Yeah, 1 whining twat and a whole bunch of narcissists pretentious supposedly superior "alpha" males.

"I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members."
Groucho Marx

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ChetManley [95 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Lived in a little village with a cycling club, quite a lot of knob heads in it that really put me off joining any club, although met a lot of club riders since then through audax and they're definitely a one off.

Moved out to somewhere were there isn't a club, but still see some of those guys and they never say morning back.

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Chrisjohn29 [9 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

I think it's best to ride with mate's rather than a club riding the same boring route every week with moaning old farts.  

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Rapha Nadal [1124 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

Chrisjohn29 wrote:

I think it's best to ride with mate's rather than a club riding the same boring route every week with moaning old farts.  

I mean, you could always join a club with more than one route?  We've got 12 on rotation for example.

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Beecho [431 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

So, dear South Londoners, me and the missus hope to move to Brighton this summer, leaving her sister without her usual cycling buddies. She’s the strongest of the three of us, has a beautiful bike and lives in Clapham.

Which club? Can be towards Kent as that’s where she heads to ride with us (Peckham).

 

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