Are cycling clubs worth the bother?

matbarbour
matbarbour Posts: 20
edited July 2009 in Road beginners
I'm writing a piece for Cycling plus on the benefits of cycling clubs and would love to get some feedback on how any other riders chose the club the did, what they think is good or bad about their club and any advise for others on how to choose a club. I'm also trying to get hold of any club coaches for their single best (training) tip to hightlight the wealth of knowledge and expertise in cycling clubs. Of course, I want this to be balanced, so happy to tell it how it is if some clubs aren't as friendly or beneficial as they might seem. Obviously happy to plug anyone/thing as way of thanks. If you want to email me direct, I'm at matbarbour@gmail.com. Thanks, Matt (Contributing Editor)
Keen XC Bristol-based rider
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Comments

  • dennisn
    dennisn Posts: 10,601
    Our club(Maumee Valley Wheelmen) www.freewheel.com is a fairly good sized one.
    Maybe 100 or so members. It's the only one within 50 miles, so it was my logical pick.
    Club races every Thursday night April through September. Great place to meet riders
    and racers. Lots of the guys(and some girls) are weekend warriors at the areas
    many U.S. Cycling Federation races. Usually a fair sized group heads out to them
    on Sundays. There is a really fast paced training ride(hammer fest) on Tuesday night and
    for the clubs non racers(or racers taking a break) Saturday and Sunday morning "Breakfast Club" rides. Which usually turn into hammer fests of sorts after the ham and eggs get a chance to settle a bit. I have been with them for years. Great stuff.
  • matbarbour
    matbarbour Posts: 20
    Excellent - I'd love to be able to quote you in the article - can you either email me your name (matbarbour@gmail.com) or even better, can you call me to discuss your club please? If you email me I can email back my number for you to call when it suits (don't want to post it up here! Matt
    Keen XC Bristol-based rider
  • volvine
    volvine Posts: 409
    i would love to join a club but tbh i am always put off the idea as i am worried about being dropped on a ride after 5 mins and looking a little silly i think clubs could do a lot more to encourage people like myself maybee not the fittest or quickest but enthusiastic all the same to come along for a (NICE AND EASY RIDE TO BREAK US IN) and i guess there a thousands of people up and down the country who think the same way and would love a little company now and then on the rides and also to be part of a club which is important at a lower level the social side of it.
    imo :D
  • matbarbour
    matbarbour Posts: 20
    I'd LOVE to get this point across in the article! Can you please email me your name etc at matbarbour@gmail.com? I need to prove you're a real person!
    Keen XC Bristol-based rider
  • Barkiesnake
    Barkiesnake Posts: 244
    This is my first season of serious road riding and I recently joined Archer RC in NW London. I found them on the internet and after a few email conversations about the sort of riding i wanted to do (Mainly sportives, but possibly some racing when i get fitter) i went along to a training meet at Hillingdon Circuit. It's a small club now but with ex members including Bradley Wiggins it has a good heritage and is still run by one of the founder members Stuart Benstead.
    Since joining i have really improved my riding skills and technique as well as my fitness. Best of all though i have made some good friends and been able to help marshall and run some race meets including the Archer Spring.
    I would recommend a good club to any new cyclists as there is so much to be gained from watching and following other, more experienced riders.
    As previous post said, i was initially worried about being dropped (especially as i am about 4 stone overweight) but found on training nights there are several groups of differing ability, i simply joined the one i felt was right for me. I did get dropped to start with but now find i can stay with them all the way.
    "If you think you can, or if you think you can't, your right" Henry Ford
  • dennisn
    dennisn Posts: 10,601
    volvine wrote:
    i would love to join a club but tbh i am always put off the idea as i am worried about being dropped on a ride after 5 mins and looking a little silly i think clubs could do a lot more to encourage people like myself maybee not the fittest or quickest but enthusiastic all the same to come along for a (NICE AND EASY RIDE TO BREAK US IN) and i guess there a thousands of people up and down the country who think the same way and would love a little company now and then on the rides and also to be part of a club which is important at a lower level the social side of it.
    imo :D

    This may sound a bit on the sarcastic side but it seems to me that there is no such thing
    as a "nice and easy ride" when more than one person is involved. :wink::wink:
  • kingstongraham
    kingstongraham Posts: 27,231
    dennisn wrote:
    This may sound a bit on the sarcastic side but it seems to me that there is no such thing
    as a "nice and easy ride" when more than one person is involved. :wink::wink:

    That depends on the people. Not everyone always wants to prove something.
  • volvine
    volvine Posts: 409
    so dennisn that confirms my point/concerns then :oops:
  • roger_merriman
    roger_merriman Posts: 6,165
    I chose a club which sold it's self really on being friendly, and have and do enjoy the odd club run, normally fairly relaxed and the odd well just run out to where ever. while plenty do race etc, it seems to be a fairly relaxed club.
  • dennisn
    dennisn Posts: 10,601
    dennisn wrote:
    This may sound a bit on the sarcastic side but it seems to me that there is no such thing
    as a "nice and easy ride" when more than one person is involved. :wink::wink:

    That depends on the people. Not everyone always wants to prove something.

    It was meant as part joke, part truth.
  • Slow1972
    Slow1972 Posts: 362
    volvine wrote:
    i would love to join a club but tbh i am always put off the idea as i am worried about being dropped on a ride after 5 mins and looking a little silly i think clubs could do a lot more to encourage people like myself maybee not the fittest or quickest but enthusiastic all the same to come along for a (NICE AND EASY RIDE TO BREAK US IN) and i guess there a thousands of people up and down the country who think the same way and would love a little company now and then on the rides and also to be part of a club which is important at a lower level the social side of it.
    imo :D

    I don't know where exactly you are in Lancs but I'm in Manchester Wheelers and we run regular intro rides for exactly that reason, pace is that of the slowest rider, no-one gets left behind alone.

    Once people have started doing the club runs we also run some intro chain gang / interval circuits sessions to get people used to a bit more race orientated training, again at a slightly slower pace than a full on chain gang or on a short circuit where riders can drop out have a rest and then rejoin instead of being dropped 15 miles from home! We also target some shorter evening road races for beginners to ride where they know they will have plenty of club mates in the bunch and/or marshalling to encourage them.

    The club TT series is based on the usual handicap system which means even the absolute beginners have a chance of picking up a trophy at the annual dinner

    I joined the club a little over a year ago as there was none of the restrictions on riding certain runs if you're not a member that some of the other clubs local to me have. That meant I could go on quite few runs (and even did one of the club 10s) and met quite a few of the regular members before committing to joining. Factors for me included the type of runs they were organising, when they were and where. It also helps that we have a nice retro (courtesy of Reg Harris no less) jersey design.
  • NWLondoner
    NWLondoner Posts: 2,047
    I am FINALY going out on my 1st club run on Sunday :D

    Decided to give Amersham Road Cycling Club ago. If all is successful on Sunday I'll become a member and hopefully a regular Sunday club cyclist

    I agree that fining one that suits you can be hard. I only stumbled across this club by accident. It's a 40 minute tube journey just to get to Chesham than a short ride to the meeting point but hopefully worth the effort.
  • moorjohn
    moorjohn Posts: 89
    let us know how it goes NWLondoner... I'm thinking I'd like to do some more rides in company. I'm in Aylesbury. I could get to Amersham easily enough. I think there's an Aylesbury branch too.
  • NWLondoner
    NWLondoner Posts: 2,047
    moorjohn wrote:
    let us know how it goes NWLondoner... I'm thinking I'd like to do some more rides in company. I'm in Aylesbury. I could get to Amersham easily enough. I think there's an Aylesbury branch too.

    I will do.
  • volvine
    volvine Posts: 409
    hi slow1972 thanks for the reply i live in Norden Rochdale i have just checked out your website i may be wrong but noticed your rides not one of them is under 50 miles again very off putting to new starters or those with a little lack of fitness to start with not what i would call easing them in i think i would scrape round a 50 but i'm sure a lot of people looking to get a bit fitter and enjoy the riding would struggle with 50 miles straight away.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous Posts: 79,667
    Joining a club was absolutely pivotal in my increased enjoyment of cycling!

    I got to learn loads more routes where I live (and have lived all my life) I have learnt new techniques, made new friends and taken up racing.

    The support they have given me since I broke my leg on a training ride has been phenomenal.

    Obviously, I can expand on this enormously.
  • redddraggon
    redddraggon Posts: 10,862
    volvine wrote:
    hi slow1972 thanks for the reply i live in Norden Rochdale i have just checked out your website i may be wrong but noticed your rides not one of them is under 50 miles again very off putting to new starters or those with a little lack of fitness to start with not what i would call easing them in i think i would scrape round a 50 but i'm sure a lot of people looking to get a bit fitter and enjoy the riding would struggle with 50 miles straight away.

    Intro rides are normally around 40miles - just keep a look out they're about once a month, sometimes more.
    I like bikes...

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  • volvine
    volvine Posts: 409
    i agree i'm sure it would be invaluble to improving riding skills fitness ect it's just that first step sometimes seems a little daunting.
  • dennisn
    dennisn Posts: 10,601
    volvine wrote:
    so dennisn that confirms my point/concerns then :oops:

    The point I was trying to make was that you will usually be pushed a bit on group rides.
    Depending on the group. It's not as intimidating as I made it sound. All in fun and, of course, you'll get dropped every once in a while. Everybody does. But soon you'll get the hang of it and be looking forward to the next one.
    :wink::wink:
  • doyler78
    doyler78 Posts: 1,951
    I think 40 miles for someone new to cycling is quite a long way. It is likely to be 2.5 hours or more and that is a long time on a bike for someone who hasn't ridden before.

    I think the problem is that clubs are geared to those that have some level of riding behind them and that in turn causes a problem because then those that have been riding on their own never really know when they will be good enough to join. If you get the people when they start cycling then they never get to that stage. Why is that cycling clubs can't be more truly beginner friendly after all if I go along to the local badminton club as a beginner I expect to be treated as a beginner and not told to come back when I can hit a few returns.

    You see the argument when anybody mentions this that our local club has runs for new riders and you will never be left behind as someone will drop back a ride with you however if people have to be told that on a public forum then it suggests that the clubs themselves aren't getting the message across in the first place.

    How much do people actually know about their local cycling clubs if they aren't members of any club? I can only speak for myself and say that I never knew any of the local cycling clubs in my area. There is one about a mile from me, another two 8 or so miles away and quite few within 20 miles however it is only because I was on forums like this that I actually found links to club websites and it has been quite enlightening to find them and hear about all the activities they do. I ride all the roads round by me and many of them are used by these clubs yet rarely do I ever see many groups of cyclists on them. So what I'm saying is that cycling clubs tend to be rather invisible to all but those that are in the know.

    As for myself I'm just quite selfish and that's the reason I haven't joined any club as yet. I hate the thought of having to ride someone else's route, at their pace. I think that would likely annoy me though I'm leaning much more to joining one as I would like to try something competitive once I have my 100 mile solo and first sportive out of the road, time trial as naturally my group riding skills are pathetic/dangerous (I wouldn't ride anywhere within 2 metres of me if you end up in the same sportive :lol: )
  • I joined my local club Westernlakescc http://www.westernlakescc.com once I had ridden their early season Leisure (sportif)event the Mask Challenge.We have a membership of about 85 seniors and 20 youth.The majority are CI leisure licence holders and we are very well catered for.The club league from April to September is Handicap based with the groups arranged that efirst season riders are given every chance. We run 3 Leisure events May , July and a 2 day in Sept.Groups are also organised for all Leisure and Charity events in the Connacht region as well as for the bigger well known National events.
    Club spins are organised on Tuesday,Thursday and Sunday mornings, all rides have a Leisure group with the Motto 'No One Gets Left Behind'.
    Every senior rider has a place on the Saturday,Youth Ride leaders rota to encourage club participation.
    I would say to anyone go and check out your local clubs and take the first step.Everyone had to start somewhere.
    Go neiri on bothar leat.
  • freehub
    freehub Posts: 4,257
    I remember my first ever club run, lycra shorts, big baggy fleece on, giant backpack, about 18 degrees, 72 miles.

    Without club runs I'd not be as fit as I am at the moment.
  • Slow1972
    Slow1972 Posts: 362
    Hi Volvine,

    Yes,you're right there are no intro rides up at the moment, we do mark them up as exactly that so nice and easy to spot. There's less rides planned in advance this time of year just because they get fitted in around racing and other events, autumn and winter the programme is usually sorted up 8 weeks in advance, but we do try to keep the intro rides running year round.

    You may guilt me into organising an intro ride over the next couple of weeks (domestic duties permitting ;)) Please do keep an eye out though because you'd me more than welcome. The other thing to bear in mind is that we have plenty of members who only actually do a club run once every 4 to 6 weeks. So even if Rochdale is a bit far for you for a weekly run, you'd still be welcome to join us when you can.
  • redddraggon
    redddraggon Posts: 10,862
    edited June 2009
    volvine wrote:
    Cheers Reddragon i will do

    I might lead one on the 13th June, but that's the weekend I leave Manchester for home, if I leave on Sunday I'll likely lead an Intro Ride on the Saturday

    Isn't Rochdale a bit far to come for a wheeler's ride though?
    I like bikes...

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  • Slow1972
    Slow1972 Posts: 362
    edited June 2009
    Volvine

    Having read the rest of your post, a couple of other points, the beginner rides are on relatively flat cheshire roads and only 35-40 miles. They are at an easy pace so you won't be left behind. We get intro riders on cross bikes and the odd mountian bike so you'll be fine. You also get the benefit of riding in a bunch so its easier than doing the equivalent mileage on your own.

    As Red says you may it a bit far but we do have members coming down from North Manchester, there other clubs up in your neck of the woods but as one of the other poster says the're not always great at publicising therselves. That said if you google "cycling club manchester" we come up so how hard can that be?

    If Red does an intro ride it'll save me doing one and Red definitely won't drop you ;)

    I can see where Doyler's coming from but the reality is that if you've not done any riding then clubs are going to be a bit of problem. Its not like badminton, squash or any sport where you stay on the same patch of ground. You can be as unfit as you like because you won't get left behind. Realistically if you are considering riding with a club there has to be a minimum level of riding, even that's only having got out riding on your own locally for the month previously. I don't think there are many peolple who would dream of joining a running club who hadn't gone beyond walking before they joined is there...

    but then It still amazes me that I went to the velodrome for a taster session in January and there people there who hadnt ridden a bike for 15 years and then expected to be riding the boards...
  • redddraggon
    redddraggon Posts: 10,862
    Slow1972 wrote:
    Red definitely won't drop you ;)

    I don't know about that, last time was a farce, and I really felt like just riding off.
    I like bikes...

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  • Slow1972
    Slow1972 Posts: 362
    We've made the offer now, no going back! Anyway, Tatton Park is a second home for you isn't it?
  • volvine
    volvine Posts: 409
    Doyler72 is spot on in his expanation about going it alone to start with and not knowing when the time is right to join.

    i can also fully understand the thing about having a base fitness to join in the club runs but this is the point the clubs do not advertise/do not do starter/extreme novice runs so my point is you have a massive potential membership of guys/girls who maybee only get the bikes out when the sun is shinning or when the kids are sleeping out ect who would love to meet up on a sunday morning to go out for a nice easy flatish bike ride with like minded riders all with there club kits on feeling part of something i did my first 100 last year in the Manchester 100 trained for about 8-10 weeks before and it was the first time i had riden with another rider along side me having a conversation ect it was a wonderful thing in the 10 weeks leading upto the event.

    however i will now keep my eyes on the Manchester wheelers website for these rides
    and thanks for the help/information.
  • daviesee
    daviesee Posts: 6,386
    Hi,

    My experience is:-

    Race club - Too hard, too fast, daunting, gave up.

    Years later

    CTC - Nice but far too slow for me. Decided to go my own way.

    Years later

    New local club - cafe runs, perfect. Training runs still too fast but think I will get there.

    So my advice if you are unsure, is to try a CTC first, progress to the cafe runs and on to training runs.
    None of the above should be taken seriously, and certainly not personally.