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  1. #1
    What??? Only 2 wheels? jimmuller's Avatar
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    Club ride - neutral experience

    A week or so ago I did a ride held by a local large cycling club. There may have been 50 or more riders. I'm trying to get back into road cycling after a few decades of staying in shape other ways. I did it partly to test myself and partly because I really enjoy the riding. I took the shorter option, 30 miles, finished in a bit over 2hrs and felt no ill effects afterwards, so I was happy. I'm only 61 and the bike is, umm, 36 or 37. The ride closed with a gathering at the organizer's house for some homecooked food.

    The thing is, for a nominally social event the ride was essentially a loner activity. Questioning my own speed I started towards the back of the pack and ran with a few folks until I got frustrated with their up-and-down speed and worried that the guy behind me was doing the same. From then on out I was on my own though I did pass and get passed by a few people, waving as we went by.

    As a social gathering it was a null event. Everyone but me was decked out in bright colors, apparently knew each other, all riding plastic. At the start one gentleman conversed with me for a few minutes. On the road the faster peleton zipped away for the long option and the rest slowly separated. Even at the end the conversation groups were very tightly knitted, the dozen or two who actually showed up. There was no effort to say hello to the unknown face. As far as I can tell there was no sag wagon or any other sort of support for anyone who might have had a problem. (Carry cell phone, will cycle.)

    So I ask myself why do the ride with a group at all? It was nice knowing I could follow the arrows on the road and get back to my car eventually. I could pace myself, sort of, though I had no idea what sort of terrain it might cover nor how fast I was going. (I have a better idea now.) It covered some great roads I might not have discovered by myself and I could feel reasonably confident that organizer had chosen them carefully. But I could do all that without arriving so early at the start, departing with everyone else, and signing a waiver.

    This isn't really a rant, just an observation. I didn't expect it to be much different and the ride itself was great. But I'm wonder whether to make such an effort for another ride or to try to make such an effort regularly. My old steel bike and my normal sun-protection recreation clothes work for me just fine. Does appearance matter? Not to me but it sure looked and felt like a gathering of conformists. In the end it wasn't a group ride at all, let alone a social event except for those who knew each other, but rather a collection of individual riders. I'll probably do more but expect no more.
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  2. #2
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    All groups are not the same. All rides are not the same.

    This sounds like a special "rally" day ride. These rides are the wrong way to feel out a club because people will have already sorted-out who they are going to ride with.

    You should try "normal" rides with fewer people. My club runs many rides on the weekends. These are much better to get to know people at.

    Riding a bicycle in a group isn't a hugely social activity but it can be fairly social (especially, at lunch stops).

    Riding with a group can be a good opportunity to learn things and to be pushed a bit.
    Last edited by njkayaker; 04-16-10 at 10:10 AM.

  3. #3
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    LOL, alright I can't help it - your post is kinda hilarious. I feel all like I'm in high school again "All riding plastic...Does appearance matter? Not to me but it sure looked and felt like a gathering of conformists." Yes, obviously appearance doesn't matter to you at all, that's why it bothers you. Ah, I've missed the classic "everyone who doesn't dress like me (and ride the same bike as me) is a conformist" bit!

    But appearance often does matter, because it says something. People wearing spandex riding full carbon bikes often get together to ride first, then socialize if it's convenient, it's true. They came out to ride, ride fast, and if they can happen to do that with other people great. People who ride around in everyday clothing (conformists to the larger population who think that spandex looks ridiculous) are often the opposite, either desiring to social first and ride second, or ride primarily to get from point A to point B. They're less focused on speed and "performance".

  4. #4
    Rouleur gattm99's Avatar
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    Conformists? I read another thread recently about conformists and its got me thinking. I've always considered myself a non conformist. In my earlier riding days I wore gym shorts and cotton T-shirts, and I never wore a helmet. It took many years to realize that the standard cycling uniform is designed the way it is for a reason. Sure I can still ride in shorts and a T-shirt but bibs and a jersey are far more comfortable and functional.

    As far as why riding in a group, I like to do it to make friends, challenge myself, improve myself, and just have a better time. If you didn't have a better time with a group then I would ride alone.

  5. #5
    What??? Only 2 wheels? jimmuller's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PaulRivers View Post
    LOL, alright I can't help it - your post is kinda hilarious.
    Sorry, but you missed my point. This club's website clearly states that one intent is to encourage new participants, excepting certain rides closed to non-members because of over-subscription. This ride was advertised as ending in a social event. That's an opportunity to discuss the route and related roads, learn technique, discuss equipment and training, etc.

    Yet there was no support at all that I could see. Had, say, anyone bent a wheel or been injured in a fall beyond the 5 mile point where most riders had separated that rider would have been on his/her own for help. There was no learning opportunity either, not at the beginning nor at the end. Among those who did arrive at the end during the half hour or so I was there I saw only tight conversation between people who obviously knew each other and were unwilling to make eye contact with anyone else. I will not intrude into such conversations. These riders had their own social pattern and it did not encompass the club's stated goals.

    So from a purely practical standpoint I came away with no reason for having done it with them other than to hear the organizer's opening remarks about the state of the roads - all okay and not under water. In fact, someone showed up at the start/finish as I was stowing my bike away and asked if that was the start of the such-and-such ride and how one would follow it. I could have done the same and on my own schedule instead of theirs.

    Come to think of it, when my wife and I did a ride with the same group 20 years ago we had the same feeling of being on our own once we left the start. Yet that ride was advertised as for novices. I had talked her into doing it. It wasn't a big deal for me but my wife wasn't a strong rider, so the sense of our vulnerability and my responsibility was significant. We cut the route short to end with only a 10 mile loop, and never felt any desire to do it again. In my two experiences that club has not lived up to its stated goals. It's not a condemnation per say but it is not an endorsement either. That's why I titled the thread "neutral". Great ride, no club, other than someone having painted arrows on the road. They do their own thing and nothing more, ho hum.

    I thank njkayaker for the suggestions about "rally"day rides. Can't say there was any hint of this intent in the club's description.

    I lke gattm99's reply too:
    If you didn't have a better time with a group then I would ride alone.
    My point exactly. There was no group.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimmuller View Post
    Yet there was no support at all that I could see.
    My club has various rides at different levels, with a leader and (often) with a "sweep". It's pretty routine to have everybody say their name at the beginning of the ride. (Higher level rides are a bit looser.)

    http://www.btcnj.com/ridecategories.asp (The "family" rides are rare.)

    Different leaders have their own styles and it wouldn't be unexpected for riders to prefer one leader over another.

    Our club only paints arrows for their "rally day" rides. The fact that your ride had 50 people and arrows makes it seem "special", in some way.

    It doesn't seem like this would be the best "first" ride with a club. Also, 20 years quite long ago. It might make sense to give them another try on a more appropriate (and less populated) ride.

    It's quite possible that there is a wider variation even in this club than this one event would indicate.
    Last edited by njkayaker; 04-16-10 at 03:11 PM.

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    Ah - well, I can share your experience. My experience has been rather similar, club rides tend to not be terribly social, and despite that often club ride leaders are supposed to stay back and help people in the back they often don't - it's just so incredibly boring for someone who bikes regularly and really just wanted to go biking. To be fair to club rides, when I went on a couple of group rides with a college club on an overnight camping trip(s) (the kind of thing where the only point was to be social, and the common "uniform" was jeans and regular cloths!) it was also very similar - despite a lot of talk about not dropping anyone, and encouraging newbies, in the morning for the ride back it was all "I gotta get back, hope you don't get lost". On two different rides - it was kinda crappy.

    I will say that if you're looking for a more social experience, the thing to do is to go on charity rides where you have to donate money the cause in order to go on the ride. People have been much more friendly on these rides than on any club rides I've gone on. And these rides generally have *actual* support - rest stops with food, a sag wagon which drives the route to help people who get to tired or have equipment failure, etc. For both club rides and charity rides, I've also found that longer rides are more sociable - people are way happier to chat with me on over the weekend rides than the 2 hour ride in the evening. I've had much better success with a more social environment with the MS150, and I've heard the Iowan Ragbrai is pretty good to, if you like the kind of people who go.

    Actually it just occurred to me - the point of those club rides like you went on (and most that I've gone on) is that it's an easy way to plan to get several people you're biking friends with to go biking together regularly. If there's like 3 other people who go to the same ride every week, usually at least 2 people show up and you have a chance to ride and talk to people in your small group on a regular basis. But it doesn't require all that "can you ride this day, can you ride that day, etc".

    Of course, it's rather unfair that they say it's to encourage beginners, then provide no support. That kinda bites.

  8. #8
    What??? Only 2 wheels? jimmuller's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gattm99 View Post
    It took many years to realize that the standard cycling uniform is designed the way it is for a reason. Sure I can still ride in shorts and a T-shirt but bibs and a jersey are far more comfortable and functional.
    A noteworthy point (and off topic a bit from my original posting). On this particular day the weather stood to be cloudy and cool, perhaps cold for being exposed to a 20+mph breeze for 2+ hours. I chose to wear fleece shirt and pants, with a windbreaker in the bike bag. Didn't need the windbreaker but the rest was perfect until the sun finally peaked through. Even then it was quite pleasant. If I hadn't had to stop to replenish the long-ago breakfast I could have ridden all day like that. Choosing what to wear is a highly practical matter, and on that day it boiled down to meteorology! Every winter we manage to do 400 to 500km on x-c skis, often wearing the same basic outfit. I knew exactly what to expect. I wonder if some of those other riders were as comfortable. Except mine was all greyish black. No color. None. Except the helmet. And the blue gloves which match the bike.
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  9. #9
    Single-serving poster electrik's Avatar
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    I find OP's thread decidedly neutral and not fulfilling...must be contagious

    kidding!

  10. #10
    Senior Member Loose Chain's Avatar
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    The people on the ride were serious cyclist, they are serious about their sport and their bikes and yes looks probably are one way they differentiate those who are serious, who want to participate, to improve, to be a part at least somewhat by whether or not they also were serious cycling cloths.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimmuller View Post
    The thing is, for a nominally social event the ride was essentially a loner activity. Questioning my own speed I started towards the back of the pack and ran with a few folks until I got frustrated with their up-and-down speed and worried that the guy behind me was doing the same. From then on out I was on my own though I did pass and get passed by a few people, waving as we went by.

    As a social gathering it was a null event. Everyone but me was decked out in bright colors, apparently knew each other, all riding plastic. At the start one gentleman conversed with me for a few minutes. On the road the faster peleton zipped away for the long option and the rest slowly separated. Even at the end the conversation groups were very tightly knitted, the dozen or two who actually showed up. There was no effort to say hello to the unknown face. As far as I can tell there was no sag wagon or any other sort of support for anyone who might have had a problem. (Carry cell phone, will cycle.)

    So I ask myself why do the ride with a group at all? It was nice knowing I could follow the arrows on the road and get back to my car eventually. I could pace myself, sort of, though I had no idea what sort of terrain it might cover nor how fast I was going. (I have a better idea now.) It covered some great roads I might not have discovered by myself and I could feel reasonably confident that organizer had chosen them carefully. But I could do all that without arriving so early at the start, departing with everyone else, and signing a waiver.

    This isn't really a rant, just an observation. I didn't expect it to be much different and the ride itself was great. But I'm wonder whether to make such an effort for another ride or to try to make such an effort regularly. My old steel bike and my normal sun-protection recreation clothes work for me just fine. Does appearance matter? Not to me but it sure looked and felt like a gathering of conformists. In the end it wasn't a group ride at all, let alone a social event except for those who knew each other, but rather a collection of individual riders. I'll probably do more but expect no more.
    You failed mentally before you even started.

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    You essentially described the local club's annual January 1 ride, the Chilly Challenge. It starts at a city park, winds around for a half-hour or so, stops at the next park over so we can all watch the local Polar Bears dip in the river, and then takes a loop through the north side of town before ending up back at the park for a chili 'smorgasbord'.

    I've done it a few times; if the conditions are too nasty, I won't, and I often have to work Jan 1.

    It's not a social occasion for me; I know no one on the ride. I'm in it for the ride and the chili, plain and simple. I enjoy the primal feeling of being out there in the cold, but I get that every winter anyway, as it takes nasty weather to stop my commutes.

    It's simply another opportunity to ride the bike -- and, in this case, with different scenery.

  13. #13
    What??? Only 2 wheels? jimmuller's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by umd View Post
    You failed mentally before you even started.
    Don't know why you'd say that. 1. It wasn't a race. 2. The organizer asked people to start by expected average speed, fastest first. 3. It would have been discourteous to jump in front of people whom I might block. 4. It would be a typical macho but unthinking act to jump to the front when reason says otherwise.

    In any case, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride itself. That was the main reason I was there. By that standard I pass nicely.
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    Old fart JohnDThompson's Avatar
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    Whatever. I just do it for the beer after the ride.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jimmuller View Post
    Don't know why you'd say that.
    You had a negative attitude about it from the start.

  16. #16
    What??? Only 2 wheels? jimmuller's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by umd View Post
    You had a negative attitude about it from the start.
    Oh, I didn't realize you were there. Why didn't you say hi?
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    umd
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    You spelled it out quite clearly in your post. I bolded the relevant sections.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jimmuller View Post
    Choosing what to wear is a highly practical matter, and on that day it boiled down to meteorology! Every winter we manage to do 400 to 500km on x-c skis, often wearing the same basic outfit. I knew exactly what to expect.
    What matters most particularly in bicycling clothing is what you where on your ass (especially on long rides). If what you use works for you, that's great.

    Quote Originally Posted by jimmuller View Post
    I wonder if some of those other riders were as comfortable.
    Why would you assume they don't have as much useful experience as you do with the clothing they chose to use? This (and other) comments point to a bias against cyclists who don't wear what you do!
    Last edited by njkayaker; 04-17-10 at 03:38 PM.

  19. #19
    Just a Cyclist gash44's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimmuller View Post
    Oh, I didn't realize you were there. Why didn't you say hi?
    Because he was to busy showing off.
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    I'm not quite sure what the OP is expecting out of these club rides. Do you expect to have a chat while riding? Talk about the country side, what does the other rider do? why he/she got that particular bike? how many children etc?
    As others have stated, apparently the cyclists on these club rides are concentrating on their cadence, heart rate, VOx and stuff instead of exchanging views on the current local real estate climate.
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    Why would you think that bicycling would be different than anything else?

    Go into any large group for the first time and you pretty much have to be the one to initiate contact. Appearance matters, but it's not everything. A man attending a group of all women can join in the conversation, but he's going to have to be the one who makes the adjustments.

    In ANY group of 50 persons, they won't all be conforming to the exact same norm. During the mountain stages of the Tour de France the sprinters from the various teams form their own "autobus" group to ride together and finish (just barely) within the required time limit. The trick is to find the people with whom you share the most characteristics and, fair or not, it's the new comers responsibility to do that.

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    I was that 'gentleman' you talked to!

    I believe I was the 'gentleman' you talked to. Yes, CRW rides are pretty much loner rides unless you know people already. If you are, like me, shy in crowds, it also doesn't help (I forced myself to talk to you 'cause I'm shy and we were both obviously not part of a social group there). If one is aggressively social one can meet people there though. I ride with them when I don't have friends to ride with that day. I know I will probably do a loner ride, but I can also find a sub-group to ride with that will push me to go faster which can be nice. Of course, even in those small sub-groups there is no camaraderie. No one will slow their pace if you fall behind. You are by yourself again. But knowing all this before hand, I am not disappointed in my experience. I just know what riding with the CRW is like. FYI, CRW rides have no sag wagon, no sweep. About equipment: Yes, people have fancy plastic bikes there, and Ti bikes, and some even ride TT bikes. Bike technology has progressed a lot in the last 30 years! That's why most enthusiast riders have fancy newer bikes, even us over 50 (I'm 59). If you like riding, go out and buy a Ferrari of bikes! So much fun! Life is short!! You won't regret it! About clothes: lycra cycling shorts are more comfortable to ride in than street shorts. Jerseys with pockets in the back mean you don't have to carry a rucksack or a big bag on your bike. You feel more 'free'. You don't have to wear a full 'kit'. Just black bike shorts and a solid color jersey.

    And finally, don't be intimidated by those that do dress like they are riding in the T de F! And buy a new bike, dude! You might as well ride a Ferrari before you die!

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by wunderkind View Post
    I'm not quite sure what the OP is expecting out of these club rides.
    Neither was the OP sure what to expect. That's was motivated the thread. The replies have been enlightening.

    Quote Originally Posted by festus2 View Post
    I believe I was the 'gentleman' you talked to.
    Hey! Hi! Nice meeting you there and here. FWIW, I intentionally avoided mentioning which club or which ride it was. I wanted to keep the discussion generic, didn't want to ruffle any feathers.

    Quote Originally Posted by festus2 View Post
    About equipment: Yes, people have fancy plastic bikes there
    He! One curious exchange at the end illustrates the entire experience. When I left the organizer's house to head home, as I was putting on my helmet and gloves two women, both experienced and very fit, came out and grabbed their bikes and started walking out slowly. They were closer to the end of the gravel driveway so I had no choice but to follow them. I noticed that one had an intriguing steel frame with some Italian name. It appeared to be custom built. It looked well ridden. I complimented it, said it was nice to see another nice vintage bike like that. Her reply was something like "My good bike is in the shop" (or getting fixed or loaned out or something similar). Click, click - 404 - that reply wasn't in my field of vision. Back in the day I knew people who would have thought they'd died and gone to heaven with a bike like that. She probably did too at one time. It's all a matter of perspective.

    There are some other rides on the calendar which look intriguing. If weather and other details permit I will probably do either the Hingham or Cape Ann runs. Maybe I'll see you there.
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    Senior Member dynodonn's Avatar
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    Probably one of the reasons I never joined a cycling group, and just stayed with organizing rides with family members. I made sure that it didn't turn into a race, no one was left behind, and with impromptu stops along the way on a loosely predetermined course.

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    Quote Originally Posted by festus2 View Post
    CRW
    Not hard to guess.

    Quote Originally Posted by festus2 View Post
    No one will slow their pace if you fall behind.
    Not all clubs and rides are the same. Our club has many "no drop" rides and many of them include a lunch stop.

    Quote Originally Posted by festus2 View Post
    FYI, CRW rides have no sag wagon
    This is likely the case for all clubs. A SAG wagon is a "special event" sort of thing.

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