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  1. #1
    Senior Member Mithrandir's Avatar
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    Joining a bike club!!

    So I've always been a loner, for my entire life. I guess that's why I gravitated towards cycling as a sport for my fitness as opposed to anything else more team-oriented. Only 22 miles of the 3,542 I biked last year were with other people.

    So at the end of last year I hit a hard plateau. My speed increased from 11 to 13mph over the first half of the season, but for the 2nd half it stayed solidly at 13 and didn't really go up. This year I got a road bike, and decided to switch things up. I've been attacking hills weekly, but still going mostly solo. I think I was discouraged by group rides at first because I knew I wasn't fast enough to keep up so I didn't want to bother, but earlier in the year my bike shop invited me along on a ride. I did badly, of course, since the shop riders fly along at 20-25mph, so I spent most of the ride alone. Still, it didn't exactly discourage me. Then they invited me along for a 50 mile spring event, which I joined as well. I did not finish last this time, but only because a lot of people got lost and followed me back to the park we started from. Slightly more encouraging. Finally, last month, I took part in a 44 mile benefit ride, and just something about the electricity of the event set me on fire; I finished with my all-time best average speed of 14.8mph. This made me want to find other riders around my skill level; there was something about riding with all those people that made me ride so much faster than I normally do. Only problem is, I still had no idea where to find these people.


    Then one day two weeks ago, I ran into a random peloton of riders while doing my Wednesday night 50 mile flat training ride. I couldn't catch up with them as I was pretty burnt out by that point. I was close, but they turned off my route before I caught them, and when I looked down at my computer I noticed that my heart was about to explode, so I gave up the pursuit. I was annoyed because I wanted to ask them who they ride with, but had no chance of being able to ask that question. Then, an idea hit me. I knew which segment of the road that they shared with my route. There were about 15 of them, so I figured, the chances that one of them uses Strava must be pretty good. So... I made a segment out of the piece of the road that our routes shared, knowing that anyone else who did that segment would show up in Strava as well. And sure enough, I found a guy who did that part of the road at the same time on the same day that I did!

    So I messaged him and found out which bike club he belonged to, and he told me it was the Niagara Frontier Bicycle Club. Now, I had dismissed this club earlier when I found it while googling, because their website looks like it hadn't been updated since 1995, so I just assumed it was defunct. But as it turns out I was wrong; they exist and are very active! So they say if you want to join, just pick a ride, show up and ride it, and if you like it, fill out an application and join. So... I picked their Sunday ride for today and showed up.

    After wandering around aimlessly for a bit, the ride leader called me over and said I looked new, at which point I confirmed his diagnosis and introduced myself. There were 2 routes today, 35 and 45 miles. I know I can do the 45, but I didn't want to end up being the last person on the ride, since I wasn't sure how fast everyone would be riding, so I signed up for the 35 miler.

    After everyone showed up the 45ers were sent off, then we left a minute or two later. I kept up with the front group for the first 20 minutes, but it was tough. My legs were still smarting from Friday nights' climbapalooza, and I knew it was only a matter of time before I got dropped. In the meantime I lost sight of the rear group, so by around 30 minutes in I was completely alone again. I thought to myself "well isn't this ironic". I wanted to join a club so I could find people who were my speed, yet here I was again, finding myself too fast for one group, and too slow for another. So I just pedaled onwards at a steady maintainable clip, until around 55 minutes when the lead group suddenly appeared on the horizon again. They had definitely slowed down; I guess they started off fast but started running out of energy. Where I lack in speed, I make up for in endurance. That's what she said. Since I'm used to longer rides I suppose I may be pretty good at pacing myself so that I can last longer, so over the next 15 minutes I reeled them in and rejoined the front group. I kept up with them for the rest of the ride, but people started dropping off the pack. First one near the 18 mile mark, then 2 more at 25, then another 3 at 27, until finally with one mile left to go there were only 5 of us left.

    I guess I was inspired by the Tour de France, and how they always sprint to the finish line on flat courses during the last mile, so I just took off and used every ounce of energy I had left, and hit the finish doing around 20 for the last mile. It was very fun and everyone said they enjoyed riding with me, and invited me out to more rides, so I am going to join the club. Going to fill out the application in a little bit.

    Finished the ride with my 2nd fastest loop speed ever, only bested by last months Ride For Roswell. I'm definitely feeling it in my legs right now, but it was worth it. Group riding is fun!


    http://app.strava.com/activities/12843734
    http://connect.garmin.com/activity/197116177

  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    great job mith! Group rides can be a lot of fun and at the same time frustrating. But if you use them as a training tool and know sometimes you will get dropped and sometimes you wont, you will grow faster. I rode with a few people at the beginning when I started riding and now I am a bit faster and stronger and I ride with another group the majority of the time. They are mush stronger and faster then me but I am getting better and better.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by chefisaac View Post
    great job mith! Group rides can be a lot of fun and at the same time frustrating. But if you use them as a training tool and know sometimes you will get dropped and sometimes you wont, you will grow faster. I rode with a few people at the beginning when I started riding and now I am a bit faster and stronger and I ride with another group the majority of the time. They are mush stronger and faster then me but I am getting better and better.
    This is exactly how I'd characterize them. Riding with a group can be both socially rewarding, as well as physically rewarding or frustrating. I find the trick with a group is being able to go with the flow and realize that on some rides, you're just not going to have it or a faster group will show up than you're capable and/or willing to hang with. But at the same time, groups are a great way for you to better gauge where your abilities are and to push yourself.

    Personally, I like going out with a group that keeps a speed I aspire to. Since I have a Garmin, even if I'm in an area I don't know, it it's not a "no drop" ride and I get dropped, I can just find my way back.

  4. #4
    Senior Member CommuteCommando's Avatar
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    There are two clubs I ride with occasionally, The one closest to my home, I ride with least because their rides tend to be hilly. One ride they do is reasonable flat 35 miles, and I usually get dropped about halfway. That's not a problem since I catch up to them at the turnaround break only five minuets behind. The other club involves taking a train up to the work end of my weekday commute, their rides are a little less hilly, and average about 17mph on the flats, which I am starting to be able to keep up with. They loose me on hills, but I take shortcuts to catch up.
    As much as you paid for that Beemer [Mercedies, Audi, Escalade], I'm surprised it didn't come equipped with turn signals.

  5. #5
    Just Keep Pedaling Beachgrad05's Avatar
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    Back in March I found a women's cycling group and joined. They were just getting restarted after a failed first attempt. I am now the VP and co-organizer. We are about getting fit, getting miles in and encouragement especially of new riders.

    http://Www.bcwcyclists.org

    We just got our web page up. We don't really ride without a "no drop" policy even tho some rides are posted as not having one. We aren't about riding in such a manner that we drop people as getting dropped is discouraging to many especially new women riders. As we grow, we may develop rides that truly do not use a no drop policy but not yet.
    Move along....nothing to see here....anymore.

  6. #6
    Senior Member WonderMonkey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mithrandir View Post
    That's what she said.
    I see what you did there.

  7. #7
    Climbers Apprentice vesteroid's Avatar
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    Mith, I have to hand it to you...you are doing really well.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Dad 2 3's Avatar
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    Good on ya!

    I'm a solo rider right now myself as I've been riding for only about 6 weeks. I'm only averaging 15.5 over a 50mile ride, but hopefully by fall I will be in your pedals. I need to get a road bike first though.

    Congrats again on taking another step toward fitness and enjoyment of this sport!

  9. #9
    Senior Member goldfinch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dad 2 3 View Post
    Good on ya!

    I'm a solo rider right now myself as I've been riding for only about 6 weeks. I'm only averaging 15.5 over a 50mile ride, but hopefully by fall I will be in your pedals. I need to get a road bike first though.

    Congrats again on taking another step toward fitness and enjoyment of this sport!
    Six weeks and 50 miles and not only 50 miles but 15.5mph average? Man, I might as well quit. I have 3500 miles of riding and don't come close to 15.5mph for any amount of miles.

    Don't say "only." You are fast for the amount of time you have been riding.

  10. #10
    internettubes engineer st3venb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by goldfinch View Post
    Six weeks and 50 miles and not only 50 miles but 15.5mph average? Man, I might as well quit. I have 3500 miles of riding and don't come close to 15.5mph for any amount of miles.

    Don't say "only." You are fast for the amount of time you have been riding.

    On stretches where there are no lights, I'll average 17-19mph... Throw lights into the mix and I'm lucky if I can keep a 14mph pace.

    Maybe he's in a place where he doesn't have to stop every 1/4 to 3/4 of a mile.

    Is that all you've got?
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  11. #11
    Senior Member Dad 2 3's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by st3venb View Post
    On stretches where there are no lights, I'll average 17-19mph... Throw lights into the mix and I'm lucky if I can keep a 14mph pace.

    Maybe he's in a place where he doesn't have to stop every 1/4 to 3/4 of a mile.
    I should correct myself, it was 48.7 today not 50. You are correct about the no light thing. This is on a MUP with stop signs only every 5-6 miles. I don't think 15.5 is "fast", because I regularly get passed by both men and women on road bikes. I guess its all relative though.

    At any rate this is about joining a bike club and group rides. I hope to one day join a club and do group rides. I look forward to the OP follow up on this thread.

    Edit: Apologies to the OP. I did not mean to HJ your thread.
    Last edited by Dad 2 3; 07-08-12 at 07:30 PM.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Mithrandir's Avatar
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    Speaking of followups... I'm deciding on a ride for next weekend. They have 3 I'm looking at. So far here's my ranking:


    1. 28 miles @ 1800 ft
    2. 40 miles @ 800 ft
    3. 43 miles @ 3000 ft



    #3 is almost certainly out of my league at the moment; way too much climbing, more than twice what I've ever done before on similar sized rides.

    #2 will probably be the easiest, but that's why it's #2 . Plus it's a long drive from my home, making it difficult to get to by 8:30am (I am seriously not a morning person).

    #1 is a bit short, but I think the extra hills will make up for it. It's got more climbing than I've done on similar sized rides (best so far is 27mi@1300ft), but the smaller size of the route makes me think I'll be able to manage it. I feel good because I was able to keep up with the pack today, but I think I was only able to because the ride was basically flat. As a person who easily weighed twice as much as anyone who showed up today, I have a feeling I'm going to get dropped hard on the hills, but I'm really trying to work some elevation into my week to hit my goals.

  13. #13
    Senior Member ZmanKC's Avatar
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    I rode solo for the first 2+ years when I returned to cycling. I started riding with groups and joined the local club in January and have never regretted the decision. You just need to find the correct group to ride with.
    1999 Giant TCR 2T
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  14. #14
    Senior Member ChrisM2097's Avatar
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    I also mostly ride solo, and have been thinking about joining a local cycling club (Fremont FreeWheelers). The rides that I do with friends are simply becoming too slow-paced for me - and none of them like to ride hills. It's hardly a workout - and that's one of the main reasons I ride - to lose weight.
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  15. #15
    Senior Member CJ C's Avatar
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    Mith,

    thank you I enjoyed reading your post. It was very well written and had a great ending. I very happy you found a group that you like and challenges you.
    I am also a solo rider, due to my schedule. Also like you felt, I feel I am too slow to join a group ride

    I say try ride #3, its beyond your comfort level and thats exactly what a group ride will help you do, push you beyond what you mentally think your capable of.

  16. #16
    Carpe Velo Yo Spiff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mithrandir View Post
    Where I lack in speed, I make up for in endurance. That's what she said. Since I'm used to longer rides I suppose I may be pretty good at pacing myself so that I can last longer, so over the next 15 minutes I reeled them in and rejoined the front group. I kept up with them for the rest of the ride, but people started dropping off the pack.
    I'm the same way. If I push myself to keep up with a slightly faster group, I'll burn myself out in the first few miles. So I've got the attitude that I would be riding myself anyway, so when I show up for a club ride, it's to ride someplace new and different. When we did the Easter Hill Country Tour in April, the small group I was with got ahead of me until the first rest stop at 15 miles. I kept up with them fine after that and in the latter part of the ride, I seemed to be the one that was always off the front. Since then, I seem to find myself able to keep up with a moderate paced group (cruising at 13-15 mph) just fine on most club rides. I have a theory that after 25-30 miles I just quit feeling my legs and they shut up about it.

    It does take some time to build that speed and stamina, but the big lesson I have learned is to not burn myself out early.
    2000 Bianchi Veloce, '88 Schwinn Prologue, '88 Trek 900, '92 Trek T100, 2000 Rans Tailwind

  17. #17
    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    Congrats, Mithrandir! Finding the right group can really push you to ride harder, and the social aspect is great.
    Quote Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
    There's no such thing as too far.. just lack of time
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  18. #18
    You gonna eat that? Doohickie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mithrandir View Post
    Now, I had dismissed this club earlier when I found it while googling, because their website looks like it hadn't been updated since 1995, so I just assumed it was defunct.
    Honestly, this is typical. The club I ride with has a forum that is kind of last-generation (no offense to the webmaster who is also a BF member). But websites of other clubs seem to be old school as well. I think part of the reason is that social networking like facebook seems to be the way a lot of groups are communicating these days. You can set up public groups to appeal to new members, and set up invite-only private groups for paying club members.

    It's great that you've found a group to ride with, and kick-ass that you managed to hang in there on your first ride with them.

    Good to see YoSpiff chiming in. For some reason your story reminded me of him; I know he's lost a lot of weight riding with a club.

    Y'all are starting to inspire me to start getting serious about weight loss.
    I stop for people / whose right of way I honor / but not for no one.



    Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."

  19. #19
    Carpe Velo Yo Spiff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doohickie View Post
    Good to see YoSpiff chiming in. For some reason your story reminded me of him; I know he's lost a lot of weight riding with a club.
    72 pounds so far. Last time I weighed myself, I was at 214 lbs, down from a high of 286 in February of 2011, and gone from pushing close to a size 50 pants to a 40 now.

    But I don't like to say I "lost" weight. I didn't lose it, I know exactly where it went.
    2000 Bianchi Veloce, '88 Schwinn Prologue, '88 Trek 900, '92 Trek T100, 2000 Rans Tailwind

  20. #20
    Senior Member volosong's Avatar
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    Mithrandlr, good bit of detective work finding the club. Now we have another useless Strava segment. Just kidding. They might remove it if you write them and tell them why you created it. It just might spur their interest in a new capability that they'll program into the system. Congratulations on finding a compatible group to ride with. I still go solo most of the time. There is one other clyde forum member that I've ridden with several times, but I hold him back because I don't climb very fast. He's young enough to be my son and is a lot stronger rider than I am. Good fellow. Would be proud to have him as a son-in-law.
    Deut 6:5

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  21. #21
    Senior Member Black wallnut's Avatar
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    I'm in that same category, not quite fast enough to stay with the faster riders. Hills kill my speed and wear me out, strong wind as well. But when I can keep up it sure is fun. Group rides are great but living where I live part of the charm is that there simply is not an abundance of people so my options for group rides are limited without considerable travel. I think it is a fair trade.


    Mark

  22. #22
    Starting over CraigB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yo Spiff View Post
    I have a theory that after 25-30 miles I just quit feeling my legs and they shut up about it.
    It seems to take me about 20 miles before I stop feeling like I'm overexerting myself. Once I'm at that point, things are moving fluidly and I stop thinking about the physical task and the riding becomes more natural and as close to effortless as it's ever likely to be and the miles just fly by. I figure that's when I'm sufficiently warmed up and what few endorphins I have are circulating.
    Craig in Indy

  23. #23
    Senior Member maidenfan's Avatar
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    Nice man, just joined a club myself (Portland Wheelmans Touring Club) and I'm doing my first ride tomorrow. Riding with friends is a lot better when the rides get long.
    "Others don't understand because I train every day of my life as they have never trained a day in theirs." Alexandr Karelin - the most dominating Greco-Roman wrestler - ever

  24. #24
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    others help you motivate eachother, especially in the winter time or when it gets windy.

  25. #25
    Senior Member IBOHUNT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chefisaac View Post
    others help you motivate eachother, especially in the winter time or when it gets windy.
    and I'll add...

    at anytime. I've found that showing up for group rides, even those that you know will get you dropped can, as chocolate milk does, do you good.

    When I showed up for my first group ride with the local club on the 3rd of May I had no clue what they considered an "A" "B" or "C" ride was. There wasn't many folks that showed up for that ride, maybe 12 in all, and one of the ladies said for the 'fast' group to head out. Not knowing where I belonged I jumped in and kept up. At the end of the ride it totaled 28 miles with 1050' of elevation gain and we finished in 1 hr 34 min. I had no clue we were that fast as I usually only have my clock and cadence displayed when I ride.

    Long story short - show up for rides where you will get dropped if you think you won't get down about it. I know for me it's motivation and opens up doors and friendships that may not have opened before. Heck, I even had to go across two states to ride with a few folks whom I now consider friends and would ride anywhere with.

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