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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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Rapha Nadal [1127 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

@Beecho: Dunno about your sister but you & your wife should come and join us (Brighton Mitre) on one of our regular weekend rides once you're settled.

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Rakkor [18 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

@Beecho - Your sister should have a look at Penge CC - Have a look at the club rides page - http://pengecycleclub.org.uk/adults/sunday-morning-club-rides/ 

It's an excellent club that caters for a huge mix in abilities and has a thriving female membership (I think they were claiming about 20% of the female entries for HOTA last sunday).

Avatar
Joe Totale [174 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
Rakkor wrote:

@Beecho - Your sister should have a look at Penge CC - Have a look at the club rides page - http://pengecycleclub.org.uk/adults/sunday-morning-club-rides/ 

It's an excellent club that caters for a huge mix in abilities and has a thriving female membership (I think they were claiming about 20% of the female entries for HOTA last sunday).

I'm heavily biased as both me and the better half are Penge members but all I can say is that's it a fantastic club and I've never experienced any of the negative things that other commenters have mentioned. 

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alansmurphy [2248 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Our 'club' is so awesome we don't call it a club, we're a motley crew of reprobates. We jokingly call the original member Cap'n as he does most of the organising and fair play, when anyone new joins he's always the one to sit back and improve them.

I'm the twat if there has to be one, in that I'll find the odd daft challenge to aim for, or we'll smash up the Cat and Fiddle and reconvene at the top. There's been comments about looking out for the slowest rider but you also have to keep those with a goal in mind riding at the level they want to.

There's maybe a pool of 16-20 of us, some weekends it's 2 and the best we've had is probably around 14. We occasionally do a split ride where some start early and come back to the meet point or out to coffee then some go more challenging.

Never leave a man down is a heartily followed motto. Over time we've bought riders from zero to 100 mile challenges, raised tons for charity, lent bikes and shared bunk beds. If there wasn't our 'club' I certainly wouldn't do the amount of miles solo. Great friendships formed and memories created, if you're not enjoying it then you're doing it wrong!

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peakingintwomonths [34 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

I take the Marxist approach to clubs.

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Rich_cb [994 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
peakingintwomonths wrote:

I take the Marxist approach to clubs.

You seize the means of production and crush the bourgeoisie pigs?

Bit much for my average Sunday to be perfectly honest.

Avatar
peakingintwomonths [34 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
Rich_cb wrote:
peakingintwomonths wrote:

I take the Marxist approach to clubs.

You seize the means of production and crush the bourgeoisie pigs? Bit much for my average Sunday to be perfectly honest.

 

Graucho not Karl

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andrewbennet [1 post] 1 year ago
0 likes

If you happen to be in Melbourne, there are plenty of club and group rides happening everyday. Most are in the morning and there are also a few in the evening and starts within 10km from the CBD.

Morning rides are usually 60-90 minutes and will get you back in time for a quick coffee by 715-730a, with just enough time to head home or ride straight to work.

https://www.thegeekycyclist.com/tips/melbourne-bunch-rides/

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alank [1 post] 3 months ago
0 likes

In London like elsewhere the popularity of cycling is growing fast, one club that has been around a long time but has grown significantly over recent years is London Clarion Cycle Club. London Clarion Cycle club was originally founded back in 1895 and now has a very diverse membership. Rides are organised throughout the year and members have the option of 3rd party liability insurance if they haven't already got it at a very affordable price. https://www.londonclarion.org.uk/ 

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