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Old 09-11-06, 06:28 AM   #1
ticwanos
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Group Rides - +s and -s?

I have never done a group ride. Except for the times I have gone for slow rambles with my wife, I have always ridden solo. I ride in T-shirts, cutoff and sneakers on vintage steel (the most I have ever paid for a bike is $70), so I definitely come across as the ol' grey-bearded phart that I am (I'm 56), instead of a studly young fashion plate mounted on a cutting edge, 12 lb wonder. Still, I am curious and I have been wondering what are the pros and cons of group rides. The husband (he is 59) of a co-worker experienced a bad crash on a group ride and got out of biking completely; I do NOT want to do that. I have read a few threads in various forums that have described "hammerfests", cliches, and sundry negative vibes projected to newbies, so my first impression is that it may not be for me. But part of me would like the camradery (sp?) that I expect would be part and parcel of riding with like-minded souls. Am I missing out on anything? What is the good, the bad and the ugly here? Inquiring minds want to know. Thanks.
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Old 09-11-06, 06:35 AM   #2
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The answer is - "It depends!"

There are as many types of group rides as there are group rides.

Today, I am leading a small group ride for the "seniors" in our church. It will be relaxed, likely about 15 miles, we will stop frequently to regroup, and we will go to lunch afterwards.

I have been on group rides where they give you a map, fail to introduce anyone, point in a direction, and off you go. Absolutely NO camaraderie. Might as well ride solo. Sixty miles on your own.

And I have been on group rides where the average speed is about 14 mph, there are introductions, etc. and you all sort of ride together. No drafting, simply recreational.

So, it depends. Whatever you want, you are likely to find it if you search it out.

How about forming your own group?
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Old 09-11-06, 07:03 AM   #3
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If you find a local club, call or email the ride leader to get more details. Sometimes the rides turn into faster rides than they are originally set for.

The Cincinnati Cycle Club has the usual fast rides, but also has easier paced rides. Here's a few examples. The CCC rides list the average speed for the ride, which is lower than the speed on flat roads, since it includes slow hills and stopping at lights.

SLOW RIDE / 9:30-10:00am / 10-20mi. / 10mph. / Designed for new riders or those who want an easy ride. Routes and starting location vary. Call to confirm start time and location or consult Rideline. This ride will go on nice days only.

THURSDAY WANDERERS / ~10:00am / 25-35mi. / 11-12mph. / Different route each week. Moderate pace (11-12 mph) adjusted to riders needs. No one left behind. Lunch is usually after the ride. Call Ken or join the Ride Line Email List on the CCC website for information on exact starting time and location.
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Old 09-11-06, 07:54 AM   #4
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There are plenty of rides out there that cater to riders who are not the least bit interested in "hammerfests". You just need to find out about the clubs or groups in your area and investigate.
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Old 09-11-06, 08:48 AM   #5
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In my corner of the world I have three clubs to choose from: the "Slow Spokes" -- name says it all. Relaxed, social, smallish groups. The Clinton River Riders (my club), pretty much a middle of the road outfit with rides from easy to pretty fast. And then the Wolverines, who count among their current members and alumni some top amateur and pro racers including some TDF and Olympic riders. Fast but still quite social, which surprised me. Also tend to be large groups. Doing 20mph+ thru a subdivision in a pack of 30+ riders can be, um, exhilirating if not a bit scary! I ride with all three depending on the pace and convenience. Of course, with the Wolverines I do mainly their "recovery" and "moderate" rated rides.

I ride with all three, depending on who has a ride at a pace I want on a night that's convenient.

Riding with a group, and the social interaction, are motivators for me. If I had to count on my motivation to ride solo I'd be a lard butt. I do ride solo once or twice a week in addition to 2-4 club rides per week.

Also, as often noted, riding with a group can push you to ride faster (even allowing for drafting) and farther than you might solo.

But it all depends on your personality.
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Old 09-11-06, 09:01 AM   #6
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As said it depends completely on the club. I tried out three different ones before I found one I liked. Some are just hammerfests others are just recreational. I was lucky to find a big club in the area that has multiple A+, A, B, C, D and starter rides. Each week they run at least 4 rides at about the same distance 40mi and with different average speeds and stop or no stop. The nice thing about this for me is that if I feel good I go out with the A+ and if I get dropped the A group sweeps us up. On some weekends I feel like taking it easy I may go out with the B or C group. I find riding in big 20-40 rider groups a lot of fun and when you are in the A+ group going 25mph in the middle of the group it is quite an adrenaline rush.
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Old 09-11-06, 09:55 AM   #7
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There is a big club in my area that frequently rides out from their city into my neck of the country woods. I encounter their rides out on my training loop. You can ride up to their beginner groups and feel like you are missing out on some good times. They are friendly, engaging and clearly having a blast. All the same, you can ride up on their intermediate groups and it can be hit and miss. Their A rides are typically all business. It is pretty consistent, and a lot of that goes hand in hand with the levels of competitiveness from the different ride groups. It's funny how your perspective about this club can depend upon which of their groups you encounter.

The only way to find out is to do some riding on your own with the groups in your area. The good part is that it really isn't that hard to figure out if a group is for you. And with most groups it is definitely easy enough to explore their rides without having to accept the prospects of a crash in the bargain. Clubs like that don't typically last long.

I say go for it.
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Old 09-11-06, 10:13 AM   #8
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I like riding with a few friends (not more than 4). The pace is usually faster than when I ride alone and yet it is easy because you don't notice the pace when riding/chatting with friends. It aslo avoids the accident potential encountered with a large group. By the way, if you are a committed rider, get over this $70.00 bikle thing. You will really enjoy nice equipment. bk
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Old 09-11-06, 11:07 AM   #9
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This is helpful information. Thanks to all. Clearly the only way I will know what it is about is to get out there and do it. Won't know till I try it. If I'm lucky I'll find some peers. Regards the $70 bike thing -- with two kids in college, I just try to find the best garage sale vintage steel I can and try to keep them in optimum condition. One of these days I'll find that Paramount! One more question to all -- What are your best - and worst - experiences with group rides. I'll bet there are some trancendental - and horrific - tales out there.
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Old 09-11-06, 11:21 AM   #10
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My favorite rides are with 2 - 4 friends of similar age/interests/speed. We had a blast on a local century earlier this year. Light rain, headwinds (then 8 whole miles of tailwind), sunshine, wildlife, one long, steep hill and ending in a hailstorm so think the stones were bouncing off our helmets and the road was covered so much for a few miles that we had to ride in the tracks of cars that had gone by (in the opposite direction). We all agreed it was one of our favorite rides ever because we enjoyed each other.
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Old 09-11-06, 12:34 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ticwanos
One more question to all -- What are your best - and worst - experiences with group rides. I'll bet there are some trancendental - and horrific - tales out there.
Riding with a group will provide distractions which may cause accidents. OTOH, group rides will provide help if you need it and the visibility of the group may make you a little safer from speeding cars. (iffy)
Biking long distances: Pace lines will increase your speed significantly. However, pace-lines are not for sight-seeing. You concentrate on this wheel one foot in front of you.
I did Pace-lines and Pelotons with the Michigan Wolverines. (as bcoppola posted above) The guys were very competitive and made it a quest to drop outsiders like me.
I did Pace-lines and Pelotons across the USA. That was a lifesaver for 150 miles/day against wind and driving cold rain.
I prefer solo rides or a loosely connected group. (Except on XC or fast centuries)
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Old 09-11-06, 05:49 PM   #12
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Some of my most memorable rides have been with groups, while other memorable rides have been solo. I prefer solo rides when I need some time to think, work on particular things like intervals, or climbing or just want to sit up and do my own thing.

On the other hand there is nothing like a group ride where you're riding with folks of similar ability. You're moving along at a faster pace while exerting less energy. Plus I really enjoy "socializing" with other cyclists and meeting different people who have a similar interest. It's critical that on group rides folks use common sense and the basic safety measures to prevent an accident. The key to enjoyable group rides is riding with folks of a similar ability and with people that look out for each other.

For me, there's a time and place for both group and solo rides. I really enjoy both of them.
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Old 09-11-06, 07:15 PM   #13
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Ticwanos,

I like the groups I ride with. We live in a small town of 6,500 people and there is a core group of 25-30 regular riders of all abilities. On any given Wednesday evening 15 - 20 of these will ride. We all meet at the Y and head for dinner at the same time . . . some have left early in groups of 2-5. Others ride a shorter route. Others race the whole route at 20 mph plus. The idea is that we all get to the dinner spot at about the same time. It's really fun. A trailer and a few p/u's bring the bikes back to our YMCA after dark with all of us tired fat and full of pie!

On Saturdays, it's at 'em at 6:15 a.m. if light is available. Then 4-6 of us hammer it out. The best riders are young guys who can, but DON"T drop us others. We others take brief pulls at the front or suck wheel the whole way. No one cares and everyone gets all the workout they want. The A+ guys can ride a few hills and do intervals on their way back home after a cup of coffee and B/S with the rest of us.

These are fun rides. Hope you can find a situation like these for yourself. You will find you stretch yourself a bit and the time goes fast if you're talking and playing around while riding. BTW, at some level this is a sport like any other, and it has inherent dangers. Crashing is part of the sport and can happen at ANY time, in pace lines or not. Be careful out there.

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Sorry for the longish post.
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Old 09-11-06, 08:19 PM   #14
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I rode solo exclusively for about a year on my Cro-Moly Specialized HardRock with knobbys. Rode the roads and not the trails. I was a bit hesitant to ride with a group until I got my legs in shape. Recently, I happened upon a group on my return trip, and they invited me to ride in with them. I had a great time. This group consists of men and women, road bikes, mountain bikes, and recumbents. Age range is from 20's to late 60's. There are a few speed demons in the crowd, but they stop after a while and let the group catch up. This group rides some fairly narrow roads that I would not ride alone, no shoulders, but with a bunch of bikes, there is visibility. Riding with the group has allowed me to look at what people are riding, and learn what they like about their bikes and what they don't like. I've enjoyed the group thing thus far.
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Old 09-11-06, 08:28 PM   #15
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I have been riding with a local club off and on since 1989 and I live for group rides. I still ride solo sometimes but I really look forward to the fun of group rides with the right people. Most of the regulars can drop me in the hills, but they always wait and don't seem to mind. We tell jokes and stories, discuss politics and, of course, bikes and bike racing. These people add so much to my riding and I would truly miss them if I went solo all the time.
It's true that it can be dangerous riding with others, but be careful and you will figure out who to avoid.
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Old 09-11-06, 08:37 PM   #16
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I have been riding with a local club off and on since 1989 and I live for group rides. I still ride solo sometimes but I really look forward to the fun of group rides with the right people. Most of the regulars can drop me in the hills, but they always wait and don't seem to mind. We tell jokes and stories, discuss politics and, of course, bikes and bike racing. These people add so much to my riding and I would truly miss them if I went solo all the time.
It's true that it can be dangerous riding with others, but be careful and you will figure out who to avoid.
+1.... I ride with John's group from time to time. Definitely a great bunch of people to ride with!..
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Old 09-11-06, 09:24 PM   #17
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I'd go one further and look for group rides on multi-day tours. I love it. The annual Wisconsin trip I've joined has a little of everything. One day you'll find yourself desparately hanging on to a paceline and feeling really cool earning your big lunch. The next day you might be riding sweep helping out with repairs and flats and keeping track of the kids. Other days are just like a long party --you mingle and socialize up and down the line enjoying the company and scenery. And at the end of every day there are beers and snacks waiting under the overhang of that night's motel. I mostly don't ever want it to end.
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Old 09-11-06, 09:57 PM   #18
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Above posts make me feel like an extinct dinosaur. I love nothing more than a solo Tandem ride with my wife on Wisconsin's long Rails to Trails. We are married for over 40 years and still find great pleasure in these tours.
We have tried group tours and found pleasure in the independence of our solo rides. We often do vacations for one or two weeks that way.
I am not trying to convince anybody but let you know that there are other folks out there.
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Old 09-11-06, 10:15 PM   #19
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Over the past month...

...I've soloed,where I could choose my own route and my own pace, good for training

...I've been on long group rides, which are sociable and challenging at the same time, some riders ahead of me to challenge me, some riders side by side to talk to, some behind me, which is especially gratifying as now I'm no longer the last.

...I've been on organized rides where we're given a cue sheet in the morning, and eventually you find your way to the destination, either riding alone or with spontaneous groups that form and then dissolve

Each one I've enjoyed in its own way, my favorites are #1 for doing it my way, and #2 for kicking back and following someone else's lead, don't really have to pay attention to the directions.
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Old 09-12-06, 06:59 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by bkaapcke
I like riding with a few friends (not more than 4). The pace is usually faster than when I ride alone and yet it is easy because you don't notice the pace when riding/chatting with friends. It aslo avoids the accident potential encountered with a large group.
Starting with a large group doesn't mean riding with a large group. I do a couple of 'Moderate' weekly rides here in nearly-urban Atlanta and while they may start with 40-80 riders, they quickly break down into smaller groups. Some hammer, some stroll. I rarely find myself in a group larger than six.

One thing to watch for is navigation. Best is a marked route. Second best is to identify a rider of your speed that knows the route. Navigating from a map or cue sheet is a pain.
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Old 09-12-06, 07:11 AM   #21
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Also in a group ride you will need to add communications that you don't have solo. Signal your turns (and watch for others' signals), signal when slowing. Call cars and other items of interest. ("Babe up!") Call your location on turns and overtaking. Communications within the group greatly reduces the chance of wrecking.

I've clashed handlebars on a turn - no fall - and it was my fault for not making the other rider aware of my presence. I also fell off once on a slow climb, but that would have happened were I solo. No other problems (except maybe stopping at two beers afterwards; one group is ride with is self-described as "a drinking club with a bike problem" ).
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Old 09-12-06, 07:24 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by will dehne
Above posts make me feel like an extinct dinosaur. I love nothing more than a solo Tandem ride with my wife on Wisconsin's long Rails to Trails. We are married for over 40 years and still find great pleasure in these tours...
Yeah, well, you two are obviously weird.

I kid, of course! Sounds perfectly lovely. If you can get along for weeks at a time on a tandem your marriage must be great.
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Old 09-12-06, 09:53 AM   #23
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For me, riding with a group takes all the fun out of it. I spend all my time trying to avoid hitting someone else. The only group ride I've ever really enjoyed was in a parade.
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Old 09-12-06, 10:12 AM   #24
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For me, riding with a group takes all the fun out of it. I spend all my time trying to avoid hitting someone else.
You need to ride with people you know.....
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Old 09-12-06, 10:15 AM   #25
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I never ride unless I'm by myself or with somebody.
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