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First ride in a group today (albeit a small group)

e17bladee17blade Posts: 215
edited March 2013 in Road beginners
Dumped my thoughts down onto paper after my ride today. It's quite long but I thought I'd put it on here anyway.

I hope at least one person finds it vaguely interesting.

I learned quite a few lessons the hard way today.

First time riding with others
February 24th 2013

Its 6:45. In the morning. I am about to head off on my first group ride. Its 6:45. I don’t do mornings. It is freezing outside.

It’s all arranged. My new bike is waiting downstairs for me. All my kit is on the radiator warming up. Even my new shoes. It is 6:45. In the morning.

Am I excited? Nervous? I’m not sure. It’s just a bikeride though. Twenty miles from Tony’s pad out into the sticks and back again. It probably won’t take much more than an hour. I do that all the time. On my own. I think I will be OK. Going to find out I suppose.

I have known Tony forever and I am pretty sure I am fitter than him. He is deceptive though. Tenacious. He never, ever, gives up. But I think I’ll keep up.

Roger is an unknown quantity. He really puts in the miles. Quite fast too. Compared to me. But maybe everyone is?

Olly can’t make it. Pretty sure I would have kept up with him. Pretty sure I am quite a lot fitter than him. But you never know. And he isn’t coming anyway.

I kiss Emma on the cheek, creep out of bed and down past the sleeping kids. I notice I am feeling pretty good. Interesting.

Breakfast. Must eat breakfast. Bit of toast, banana, coffee. Sorted. Feeling really good now. How far is it to Tony’s? Ten miles? Can’t be much more than that. I could ride over to his place. Haven’t got to be there until eight. Loads of time. It can be a warm up. Ten to Tony’s. Then twenty with a stop for coffee and cake. Ten home. Perfect. I can cope with that. Wouldn’t want to do more than forty.

Kit on. Shoes on the radiator was a great idea. Toasty. Jersey pockets full. Nearly forgot my energy bar. Emergency supplies. Let’s go.

Doesn’t feel cold out. Kit must be radiating heat. God I love this bike. Fast, fast, fast. Which way is it to Tony’s? I’ll figure it out as I go. Loads of time. It’s only ten miles.

Right at the end of the road and then left down the hill. I’m flying now. Should slow down, long way to go. It’s fun though. Over the roundabout and up the main road. Still smooth. Can’t believe I was worried.

censored . Don’t remember this hill. Spin it up fella. That’s the way. Nice view from the top of another big hill in my path. Definitely don’t remember that. So much for a warm up. It’s cool though. I can do forty miles.

Been going a while now and still not close to Tony’s. Check the cycling app. Nine miles already. censored .Underestimated the distance as well as the hills. It’s nice round here though. No traffic either. Keep going.

Been waiting long Tony? Oh right. Sorry. Didn’t realise it was thirteen miles. Excuses. Roger isn’t here yet though. Don’t feel so bad now. What? He’s gone on a loop to keep warm? Oh right. Sorry. What’s thatthere Tony? A heart rate monitor? Christ. Maybe he’s a lot better than I thought.

Roger comes back from his loop. Looks like a proper cyclist. Legs like bloody tree trunks. Explains the mileage and speed. Nice bike too. Wonder what I look like to them?

For crying out loud. They want to go for a warm up. Starting to think I should have driven here. Got a feeling I am going to get dropped very quickly. I could duck out of the warm up to save some energy. On second thoughts, no.

Warm up done now and off we go. They aren’t hanging about. I’ll sit on the back and draft. Cheat. It isn’t helping, they are bombing along. They see a light turn green in the distance and sprint at it to get through in time. Got to go with them. Only just set out.

Through the lights, round the corner, and, oh censored . Massive hill. Don’t get sucked into racing. Spin it up at my own pace. Let them go. Nice and smooth.

I just sailed past Tony less than half way up. He’s struggling. He’s a mate, but my ego gets a boost. They went off too quick. Roger next. Where’s Roger? Gone. Out of sight over the crest of the hill. I see.

Three miles in. Bit frustrated to realise that we are riding back along the route I took to Tony’s earlier, but I’m OK. Mental note for next time. We turn left and head out into the sticks. Don’t they ever coast to get their breath?

Hills. Big and small. Up, down, up down. I’m still drafting at the back. Still cheating. Thought for a second about doing my turn. But didn’t.

It’s colder out here. A lot colder. Leg warmers aren’t keeping my legs warm. WarmER maybe, but not warm. Roger waves me up closer to his wheel. Must look like I’m struggling. Tried to reply but my face is too numb. Is this fun?

Roger waves me past. Oh no. Hope Tony doesn’t too. Wonder how close he is behind me. Don’t look. Couple of guys time trialling come flying past the other way. I wave. I get blanked. Obviously.

We are dropping into a dip quite quickly now. All of a sudden I am surrounded. Bikes everywhere. We have been engulfed in a club run. Can’t see the other two now. Were are all mixed up. Act nonchalant. I do this every weekend. Honest.

The club turn right, I follow. At the last minute I spot the others bombing up the hill straight on. Big swerve. I am miles behind. Got to bridge the gap. Legs are starting to feel it. Wonder where the café is? Tony said it was near a monument somewhere. Need some energy. Head down now. Giving it everything. Got to bridge that gap. Look up and spot Tony just ahead. Head back down again.

Where has Tony gone? He has completely disappeared. Was I seeing things? Tiredness screwing with my head. I spot two silver shoes. Tony’s shoes. Sticking straight up into the air out of the roadside ditch. How on earth did he get in there? Roger! Stop!

Tony is filthy. Kit torn. Blood seeping through lycra. His bike isn’t great, but fixable. Mostly though Tony is extremely embarrassed. I start laughing. Couldn’t help it. He laughs too. He says he was looking back to see where I had got to and clipped the kerb. I stop laughing. It was my fault.

I do a turn on the front and let them draft. Seems only fair. It only lasts until the next hill and then Roger goes steaming past.

The pace relents a bit and we ride together for a minute. How far until this monument lads? Two miles. OK. I can manage that.

But I don’t. I get dropped. Legs gone. Can’t keep up. Is this a bonk? Have read about bonking and this seems like one. They slow down and wait for me. They indicate right towards a monument. Thank god for that. Coffee, cake, warmth.

There isn’t a café. They lean their bikes on the monument and down an energy gel and some water. Gutted.

Roger checks his bike computer. Twenty miles so far. What? I thought it was only ten miles to get here? They always go a long way round. Aim for the hills.

Mental arithmetic. Thirteen miles to Tony’s. Twenty to here. That’s sixty-six by the time I get home. Mild panic. I eat my emergency energy bar. They are talking about doing the longer route back. Why didn’t I drive to Tony’s?

Reality check. I actually need to get home. You guys go the long way and I’ll ride back the way we came. It’s not exactly Captain Oates to Scott of the Antarctic, but the sentiment is the same. Leave me here and carry on.

They think about it for a minute or two, but we all know it’s the right decision. See you lads, thanks for the ride. Yes, I’ll drive to Tony’s next time. Off we go our separate ways. Them the long way. Me just hoping to make it home.

Salvation can come in the strangest of forms. A run down petrol station is mine. I buy a large, terrible tasting coffee and stand next to the vending machine cuddling it. Hadn’t realised that I was frozen.

I finish the coffee. The warmth is spreading right through me. I feel loads better already. I down an energy drink and then buy another for my water bottle. I already know I am going to be alright. Salvation.

I set off again with renewed vigour. This is more like it. Another time triallist speeds by. I nod this time. He nods back. I smile. Time to go home.

A couple of miles down the road I spot a sign to somewhere I recognise. A shortcut! My energy and spirit is flooding back. I get on the drops and gun it down a long hill. I can’t stop smiling.

The shortcut drops me back exactly where I want it to. I’m not home, but it won’t be long now. I came past here three hours ago. Look at all this traffic.

Along the reservoirs to the driving range. I used to go there a lot. My bike seems to have replaced my clubs these days. I put a bit of a sprint on. Getting cocky now.

Right at my local pub and then a gentle coast down the home straight. I swing into my street. I made it.

54 miles. Two friends. One bonk. No café.



  • slowmartslowmart Posts: 4,236
    Great write up.
    “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realize fishing is stupid and boring”

    Desmond Tutu
  • elderoneelderone Posts: 1,410
    Thanks for sharing and taking the time to write.Really enjoyed reading it.Sounds like a good ride and something I,ve yet to do (group ride).Nice one.
    Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori
  • TakeTurnsTakeTurns Posts: 1,075
    Good read. Thanks for that!

    Sounds like you had fun.
  • lotus49lotus49 Posts: 763
    I enjoyed reading that, thanks for taking the time to write it up.
  • smidsysmidsy Posts: 5,273
    Very good.

    Note to self: No matter how ready you think you are, there is always room for improvement :-)
    Yellow is the new Black.
  • ShutUpLegsShutUpLegs Posts: 3,522
    Do you have a Blog :?:
  • Mikey23Mikey23 Posts: 5,306
    Excellent account thanks for sharing. Bridging from solo to riding with other people is big and scary but rewarding. I have just started riding with a guy who is a little quicker than me and a little more competitive. Great fun though but quite difficult to communicate on the hoof. You need to sit back and evaluate the ride, what worked for you and what didn't and make sure that issues are sorted and agendas dealt with... Otherwise it will fizzle out
  • geebee2geebee2 Posts: 248
    Good writing - you convey what I would call the over-competitive and somewhat chaotic mood of the ride very well.

    I suggest it would have been much better to try a suitable local club for your first group ride.

    You would have been able to choose a ride that is well within your ability, to allow you to become familiar with the many new risks and considerations when riding in a group, in a calm way.

    There would be a ride leader who makes sure the group stays together or regroups, to choose a safe route, to advise on any special hazards, etc.
  • Fantastic post, I'm glad to see we all have that type of experience, and I wasn't the only one!! :lol::lol:

    Hope you write a few more blogs on your 'adventure of a cyclist'
    Summer - Wilier la Triestina
    Winter - Trek 1.2
    Turbo bike - Trek 1.2
    I love my Trek 1.2
  • stanniestannie Posts: 167
    Great post- I really enjoyed reading it. Please make sure you let us know how you get on in your next ride. :D
    Waterford RS-14
    Trek Domane SL6
    Ridley Noah SL

    A woman can never have too many bikes!
  • Enjoyed the write up, great style to it as well. Group riding is next on the list, daunting, not because I fear not keeping up (If I don't I don't, just need to improve), but the thought of causing a crash!!! Its a natural progression I guess and I am sure very rewarding.

    Keep the posts coming.
  • giropaulgiropaul Posts: 414
    edited February 2013
    There must still be groups that go out just for the company and to enjoy riding a bike in a group at a pace that is comfortable for everyone.

    That's where most of us who started years ago learnt the basics of riding together - no pressure to "keep up", but lots of advice about how to ride a wheel tightly etc. Club runs were always at the "pace of the slowest rider". Interestingly, especially in the winter, the local big hitters were happy to come along as well, just adding a harder ride before or after the club run as the season approached.

    Reading this forum it would be easy to assume that every rider on the road is "training", is trying to compete with every other rider, and is obsessed with Strava or whatever.

    In reality, less than 1% of people taking up cycling will ever have the talent to make a mark in the sport. For the rest of us it's a hobby. I started in a club early on, with social steady rides and progressed to racing (with fairly modest results), but then back to what I hoped would be social cycling - except that is harder to find now.

    What I'm trying to say is; if every group ride is a competitive batter then some will love it, but some will find it too hard, and drift away. Once the competitive sorts aren't "winning" the Strava times, or the "club ride", where will/can they go?

    some of the most relaxed and uncompetitive rides I ever enjoyed were with groups of Professionals having an easy day - no ego or need to impress.
  • nice thread and post enjoyed reading this.

    + spot on giropaul - I would love to try group riding but what you describe is exactly what puts me off. I love my cycling and have built up my fitness steadily (neccesitated by old age!) and don't want to get involved in any competitive stuff as I just can't be bothered - my competion is with my own waistline and family :D
  • marcusjbmarcusjb Posts: 2,412
    Good write up! Those terrible coffees are often what memories are made of!

    Giropaul's comments are very interesting regarding the lack of riding available for people who just want to enjoy riding together. I'm not into the club-runs, I use Strava, but couldn't care less where I am in relation to anyone else (usually towards the bottom!), I use it as a tool to monitor my performances over known rides over the months.

    I guess that is what appeals about audax riding to me - it's non-competitive (except with yourself) and the group riding is not about showing who is the strongest/fastest. It really doesn't matter whether you finish a ride in 8 hours or 13 - many of most my memorable rides are the slower ones when I've got together with a great group, had great banter, relaxed cafe stops etc.
  • apreadingapreading Posts: 4,533
    edited February 2013
    Really interesting...

    I have done most of my riding on my own but have some mixed experiences of group riding. I actually find the cycling more enjoyable and less stressful on my own.

    Did an organised holiday with a well known company and when we started on day 1 most people shot off and I pushed myself to keep up. Then I decided I couldnt be bothered any more and it was quite liberating to have the freedom once I dropped off the back of the group and was on my own - free to do as I please.

    Did a charity sportive and found a kindred spirit, who seemed to be about the same pace as me and good to chat to - really enjoyed getting to know someone new - and this sportive for both of us was about doing the longer distance rather than worrying about speed, although we seemed to be overtaking many people in racing lycra!

    Did another (different type of) ride with the same person on our own and found it really stressful as I felt I was slowing him down constantly and that he was being very good but would have wanted to go much faster.

    Am doing my first Audax this saturday, with a few people I have come to know locally, who are keen cyclists. So thought I would do some training runs with them:

    Person 1 - he was really slow on the hill climbs but really fast on the flat & downhill. Worked quite well as we both seemed happy to drop back/catch up at appropriate times. But I found I wasnt pushing myself so although I enjoyed the ride and the chat, it didnt totally serve its purpose from a training perspective.

    Person 2 - he shot off really quick on the uphills to start with and I struggled to keep up. As I was setting the route, I tended to take the lead position but was constantly worrying about whether he was behind me (and looking round to check he was), or whether he wanted to go faster but being too polite to say or whether the speed was about right. Later on in the ride he was dropping behind on the climbs, so perhaps fatigue was setting in and his early pace was just him trying to be competitive and not sustainable - or was he just taking it easy?

    So the points I have learned:

    If you are lucky and find someone you are compatible with then it can be really good.
    If not then it can be stressful, hard work or unfulfilling (not hard enough work).
    It can push you to go faster but this might take the enjoyment out of it.
    It can make you go slower but this might lose the training benefits.

    So I think I will now clearly separate social rides from training - one of which is better in groups and the other not (but can be OK on occasion).
  • Nice!
  • mlgtmlgt Posts: 366
    Great right up and enjoyed the humour.

    54 miles doesnt seem that bad after all :)
    N2 - SW1

    Canyon Endurace 9.0
  • Haha, good tale - made me smile - you need to post some pics of emma in lycra though, its kind of a BR tradition, we've all had to do it. :lol:

    The coffee break that wasnt is so familiar, thats when you start trying to work out 'do I eat all me energy bar now or save some for later' - well played. :lol:
    The dissenter is every human being at those moments of his life when he resigns
    momentarily from the herd and thinks for himself.
  • e17bladee17blade Posts: 215
    Cheers to all for the positive feedback on the write up.

    Like a lot of people have said, it's a funny balance to get right when riding with others. In retrospect I think it would have been easier to have my first 'group ride' with people I didn't know - a club run for example - it is too easy to get a bit competitive with your mates.

    Mainly though I learned to...

    1. Find out how long the ride is before I set off
    2. Eat more
    3. Make it clear I expect coffee and cake at some point

    ...among many many other small things.

    There is nothing quite like learning the hard way!
  • Nice tail but Ive never seen the point in riding with people who dont actually want to keep the group together. If Im obviously stronger than other dudes in a small group I slow and ride at the slowest mans pace. Large groups are different but you might as well have gone out on yourself.
    the deeper the section the deeper the pleasure.
  • e17bladee17blade Posts: 215
    pride4ever wrote:
    Nice tail but Ive never seen the point in riding with people who dont actually want to keep the group together. If Im obviously stronger than other dudes in a small group I slow and ride at the slowest mans pace. Large groups are different but you might as well have gone out on yourself.

    To be fair to the others, it was all my fault. I learned more on this ride than on my previous ten rides put together!
  • E17Blade wrote:
    pride4ever wrote:
    Nice tail but Ive never seen the point in riding with people who dont actually want to keep the group together. If Im obviously stronger than other dudes in a small group I slow and ride at the slowest mans pace. Large groups are different but you might as well have gone out on yourself.

    To be fair to the others, it was all my fault. I learned more on this ride than on my previous ten rides put together!

    Its not your fault if they are flying off from the get go without a thought for your level. Thats ego for you. Better to slowly wind the pace up and see how your fairing first. Ive ridden with blokes who smash it on the flats and then disappear out the back on the climbs only to let you slow for them and then do the exact same thing again....stoooopid.
    the deeper the section the deeper the pleasure.
  • bianchimoonbianchimoon Posts: 3,942
    nice one, looking forward to your next group ride:)
    All lies and jest..still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest....
  • e17bladee17blade Posts: 215
    Thanks again to everyone for all the positive comments on the write up. As has been suggested I have set up a blog to add future thoughts and musings....

    ....there will be non-cycling articles as well :shock: ....... but the link above goes straight to the cycling category.


  • fluff.fluff. Posts: 771
    pride4ever wrote:
    Its not your fault if they are flying off from the get go without a thought for your level. Thats ego for you. Better to slowly wind the pace up and see how your fairing first.

    Yes that's a bit uncool really, dropping people because you can is something you do in a race not a 60m ride on a Sunday morning. Wasn't your fault the chap fell in the ditch either, was his fault for riding too close to the kerb.
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