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.