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Super beginner, nervous about first group ride.

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Clydesdales/Athenas (200+ lb / 91+ kg) Looking to lose that spare tire? Ideal weight 200+? Frustrated being a large cyclist in a sport geared for the ultra-light? Learn about the bikes and parts that can take the abuse of a heavier cyclist, how to keep your body going while losing the weight, and get support from others who've been successful.

Super beginner, nervous about first group ride.

Old 08-14-14, 12:46 PM
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pressedflowers
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Super beginner, nervous about first group ride.

Hey folks, I just bought my first bike in 12 or so years about six weeks ago. Here's my introduction post if you need the background I'm a big girl who is becoming less of one - down about 20 pounds so far!

Somehow in July I got it in my head I wanted to do a group ride so I signed up for one this weekend, an 8-mile group ride in Richmond, VA. My boyfriend is doing the same ride but taking the 17-mile course. It's not a race officially; there are separate waves for hardcore, casual, family riders, etc. so I'm not too worried about the time necessarily, but I am a little worried about the group dynamics, as well as just plain being able to finish.

My friend will be riding with me. She has only been riding for a few months as well, but she's a normal weight - much, much smaller than me. I talked to her about my nervousness and she said she plans to stick with me and take it easy, but my concern is that for most people, their "taking it easy" is my "extremely freaking difficult." My boyfriend and I have been riding about 3x per week and I've only gotten up to just over 6 miles in about 40-45 minutes with a break somewhere in there. There's a rest stop on the course but not until almost 5 miles in. I'm worried that the whole time I'm riding I'll be anxious over holding her back, maybe needing to rest but not wanting to make her stop, etc.

I'm also worried about riding in a group for the first time. The course is closed to traffic but there are a lot of riders. People will be passing me, riding close by, etc. I'm nervous about getting tangled up, overcorrecting, overbreaking, falling, etc.

I'm REALLY going to miss my boyfriend during the ride. I don't want him to ride with me as it's not enjoyable for him to go so slowly, but when we do ride together he encourages me and keeps me going when I feel tired.

My "couch potato fat girl failure" mentality is getting in the way of believing that I can be successful at this ride. My anxiety is running laps inside my body and I can feel myself getting so keyed up already even though it's more than 48 hours away! I hope that once I get through I can look back and laugh at how silly I'm being, but for right now does anyone have any tips or encouragement I can keep in mind during the ride?

Thanks!
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Old 08-14-14, 12:58 PM
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Ride in a straight line and don't be concerned about being last.

Someone has to be last.
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Old 08-14-14, 12:58 PM
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It'll be fine! Just "ride your own ride" and don't worry how fast othrs are going. Staying more to the right more will give space for others to pass. Just enjoy yourself and don't worry.
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Old 08-14-14, 01:11 PM
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Doing the ride, regardless of your speed and the time it takes, is a victory over sitting on the couch and not doing anything about your health.

Ride, have fun, rinse, repeat, and welcome to the fun
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Old 08-14-14, 01:15 PM
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If you experience anything like I did on my first group ride, you'll be hooked. The energy you get from the other riders is amazing. 99% of the riders will be very encouraging and supportive. Ride a straight line, its up to those passing you to go around. It sounds like your friend is going to stay with you so don't worry about her. Everyone has to start somewhere, you never know, this time next year you'll be posting about the century your doing this weekend.
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Old 08-14-14, 01:16 PM
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Yeah. Stay back from people, you will realize that those other riders, many of them posing as seasoned riders, are the real danger of group rides. I ride in two different groups each week; let me tell you that judgment and bike handling skills vary greatly. People can and will do crazy things. I road Critical Mass in SF, witnessed displays of truly horrendous bike handling skills and judgment.

But, no big deal - maintain a sense of humor. Sort of like driving in traffic; chill out, don't get caught up in competitive nonsense, ego. Distance yourself from the crazy...and simply have fun.
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Old 08-14-14, 01:27 PM
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Great job on the weight loss and pedaling more!

I would say the same as others; ride your ride. Try to stay within your comfort zone and if you feel comfortable push it a little. Always be on the lookout for unpredictable riders and try yourself to be predictable in you line.

Have a good breakfast a few hours before and have plenty of water. Two extra miles on your normal 6 is not that far and with the enthusiasm of the group it will probably come much faster than expected. Ensure you do take your rest at the break; I personally find there is a fine line between too long of a rest and just right, if it is too long it is really hard to start up again. Also if you need to stop for a breather or rest there is no one stopping you from doing that. Maybe have a bum bag (fanny pack) with some dried fruit or a banana.

Let your friend know you are okay if she goes ahead (if you are) you can likely find many other nice people to ride near.
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Old 08-14-14, 01:31 PM
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Just ride your ride predictably and comfortably. After the initial crowd begins to clear find another rider that seems similar in speed and make friends. I always start these large group rides near the front because I would rather be passed in a crowd than need to pass. Relax and have a great time its really not that big of an issue
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Old 08-14-14, 01:35 PM
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An 8 mile ride is likely to feature predominantly casual and relaxed cyclists - I'm sure you'll enjoy yourself. I'd bet you'll be "near" a lot of other cyclists but not necessarily in groups so just ride straight and don't tailgate. And have fun.

Speaking strictly as the spouse and dad of much slower cyclists - I get PLENTY of rides in where I can go as hard as I want and I always enjoy the time I spend with my wife & kids on the bike, no matter what the speed. Don't feel like you're holding your BF back, I'm sure he enjoys spending time with you as well doing something that he clearly enjoys.
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Old 08-14-14, 01:45 PM
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Good on you for the weight loss and for making the decision to change!

Group riding is a huge part of my cycling enjoyment, i think you'll like it. I had many of your concerns on my first group ride, but mine was in traffic. Remember there's no rule saying you have to finish the entire route. Relax and ride to your comfortable ability, if that means you don't do the whole course... no big deal.

Enjoy your ride!
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Old 08-14-14, 01:46 PM
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My strategy for larger rides like chairty rides, can apply to your situation. Go slow and careful for the first few miles. At the start, there really is one pack, but after a couple of miles it will break apart. When it does you can find your own pace, find other riders at your own pace, and enjoy your ride. But don't assume anything about the competence or safety of other riders at the start. And be careful yourself not to do anything too unpredictable as there are inexperienced rider behind you too.


Don't be afraid to go slow, most people get caught up at the start, go out too fast, and hurt for the last part of the ride. Better to get to the half way mark, and increase your pace than to blow out too early.

My first group ride in many years this spring, I went with a group who had all trained all winter and rode a lot in the early spring. I lead them for a while, but on the return leg, had some challenges with a hill. One of them stayed behind to pace me back to the group. Cyclists tend to be friendly and encouraging.
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Old 08-14-14, 01:49 PM
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First, congratulations! It's awesome that you are off the couch, getting fit and losing weight - we all know how difficult that battle can be.

I think you're going to love the ride, I really do. I did my first group ride a couple of weeks back and I was fairly nervous about it, too. But I found that it was incredibly encouraging and motivating. As others have said, go in a straight line and ride your own ride, you've got nothing to be afraid of here.
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Old 08-14-14, 02:03 PM
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I'd just add that if you feel yourself getting anxious, remember to breathe deeply, relax your shoulders and grip the handlebars lightly — the feeling will pass if you let it. You'll have a wonderful time!
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Old 08-14-14, 02:46 PM
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Relax and enjoy yourself. There will be better riders than you and worse riders than you. Everyone is out to have a good time and are friendly.
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Old 08-14-14, 03:53 PM
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Nothing more to add than what's already been said. Can't wait for the ride report where you tell us how you were worried for no reason, had a blast, and are now training for the next ride, but the 25 mile version!
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Old 08-14-14, 05:41 PM
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I do a lot of my riding in a very popular trail that has walkers, runners, cyclists, and strollers in all shapes and speeds. I was concerned as well. Sure, passing a mom with an SUV sized stroller uphill while the local KOM is coming downhill at 25mph is a bit unnerving but so was Chicago traffic the first few times.

Use some technology to determine what is your typical speed and how long you can crank. I have no problem at 9-10 mph for 2 hours at a time. On a trail.

Keep piling on the miles and that is how you build confidence.
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Old 08-15-14, 06:42 AM
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Congratulations on committing to your first group ride. Set your goals at finishing and having fun and you'll do just fine.

As others have said, outside of the competitive groups, the dynamic is pretty relaxed and social. Don't swerve or wander, try to keep you line fairly straight. Try to keep a steady pace and stay off the brakes unless you really need them. If you must avoid a hazard announce "hole", "glass", "debris" as appropriate and take care not to collide with other riders. Signal turns, slowing or stopping. Experienced riders can travel in very close packs but feel free to allow yourself some extra room until you get comfortable in groups. Don't worry about drafting on a recreational ride. Some riding clubs offer special rides for beginners focusing on group dynamics, etiquette, pace lines, drafting etc. If not, just let the ride leader(s) know that you are new to group riding and they will usually give you some extra tips and attention to get you going.

Don't feel bad at all if you are slow or even dead last. Every one of those riders ahead of you has been a beginner at some time and they know how it feels. You will find that the cycling community is generally a very supportive group, just learn to ignore the occasional putz and don't get discouraged.

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Old 08-15-14, 09:40 AM
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something I've learned about cycling (which I've done over 50 years)... it is not a group thing... yes there are rides and events and races where large groups of people are involved but the ride is all about you and what you can do. It's very important that you ride at YOUR pace, that you stop when you have to stop, that you enjoy what you are doing and not worry about what others think. It's an bicycling event so don't worry about being alone... I've always found folks to hang with and get to know; you won't be alone. If your girlfriend rides ahead of you that's OK. You will regroup. Sometimes its just dangerous to you and other riders if you try to stay bunched up together. My friends and I have this thing... I am strong on flats and downhills but slow on hills. They ride up ahead on hills knowing full well I will catch them on the downhill. Just don't worry about being separated. Again you ride your ride; let them ride theirs.

There is no failure - there is you doing an "adventure" and getting out there and having fun. Count the accomplishments not the failures. OK so you won't be the fastest, or even fast, you are slow and pokey but darn it girl you are doing it - be really proud of that.

Now cycling advice: As others have said - straight line and call out. Just remember that.

STORY: Many hundreds of years ago I decided to start running... I entered my first 10K race, a big event with thousands of runners. I came in dead last. Alot of the signs and booths were already taken down... but darn I ran a 10K - whoo-hoo! The longest mileage I had done previously was 4 miles so I didn't focus on being last; I focused on improving my mileage by 1/3 more.

By the next year I was running marathons (26.2) miles and the next year after that my first 50 miler...

We all have to start somewhere...
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Old 08-15-14, 10:14 AM
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Originally Posted by pressedflowers View Post
I hope that once I get through I can look back and laugh at how silly I'm being, but for right now does anyone have any tips or encouragement I can keep in mind during the ride?
The truth is that rides like these often include many newer riders, families with kids, etc. especially on the shorter courses.

As others have mentioned, there's often a big group of riders that all leave as close to the "official" start time as possible. This often leads to large groups of riders in the beginning, which can be intimidating. The solution? Line-up near the back of your group and feel free to leave a bit late or ride slowly at the beginning. In my experience, the large group will break up pretty quickly so if you start later or ride a bit slow at the start you won't have to deal with lots of traffic.

One other thing I like to do is "scout" a route before I actually have to ride it. Most organized rides will post the ride routes well before the event. I like to drive the route on my motorcycle before actually riding it. You can get a feel for just how challenging the terrain will be, pick out good places to stop for a break if you need to, make sure you're not going to get lost, etc. For rides near my home, I'll often pre-ride the course or portions of it on my bicycle especially if there are challenging hills or tricky navigation.
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Old 08-15-14, 10:36 AM
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Just ride your bike at your own comfortable pace. Don't fret over keeping up with the assumed more experienced riders. In my experience there's always going to be someone going a tenth of a m/h faster than you. If you're not having fun on the bike, get off - cycling isn't your thing.
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Old 08-15-14, 11:36 AM
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Don't forget to put up a post-ride report!

I find that in sporting events and performances, the nervousness and anxiety ceases not at the end, but at the beginning. My guess is you'll be having fun within the first 500 feet.

It's nearly impossible to be unhappy on a bicycle.

As for riding in a group, many of the rules overlap with driving a car. Don't do anything sudden, be predictable, don't follow too closely, stay away from the idiots, keep your hands at 10 and 2. Err... wait... broke the analogy on that last one.
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Old 08-15-14, 11:46 AM
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Wow thank you everyone for the replies. I like the tip to ride a straight line and let others pass me, as well as to drive through the course (I do have the map) before the race. I feel a lot better about it today.

I'm definitely NOT worried about my time or being last, lol! If I am, I am. I just want to be able to finish and enjoy the ride, not being anxious or self-conscious the whole way through.

It's a large ride, not for charity but just a community activity - there are separate classes for "hardcore," "weekend warriors," "casual riders," and "family/kids" which I believe will be released in waves though I'm not sure of the order. (I assume it would go in descending order of skill level so that fast people won't have to pass slow people.) People dress up in hats, lights, etc. and there's a costume contest after. So it's not a serious thing, there shouldn't be much of an intimidation factor. My struggle is just internal, with my attitude about whether or not I can finish it, and stifling the very loud voice that says, "This is too hard, stop and go lay down on the couch like always."

I definitely love cycling, well a lot more than the other exercises I've tried recently (water aerobics, fun and I love swimming but the class doesn't elevate my heartrate; and walking, get too hot and too much knee pain). I like feeling the breeze and checking out the scenery. And I like doing something that my boyfriend loves - he usually goes for a longer ride for an hour or so before he comes back and I get on and we do 5-6 miles at my pace. So I'm gonna stick with it and hopefully if we ride this same ride next year I'll be doing the 17-miler and trying to beat my PB!

Thank you everyone
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Old 08-15-14, 12:05 PM
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When I start to ride (on my motorcycle) with others I always ride in the back (as in being the last rider). I feel safer this way that none of them will cause me to vary my line and I am not holding anyone up. I haven't done a group ride on the bike yet but when I do I will be riding at the tail end of the group.

Good luck and let us know how it went for you.
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Old 08-15-14, 02:24 PM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by pressedflowers View Post
Somehow in July I got it in my head I wanted to do a group ride so I signed up for one this weekend, an 8-mile group ride in Richmond, VA. My boyfriend is doing the same ride but taking the 17-mile course.
Am I really the only one whose first thought was, "Are you seriously saying your boyfriend isn't riding the 8-mile ride with you?!?"
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Old 08-15-14, 02:38 PM
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Originally Posted by pvillemasher View Post
Am I really the only one whose first thought was, "Are you seriously saying your boyfriend isn't riding the 8-mile ride with you?!?"
Maybe you are. My wife and I have done a few rides where we've done differing length rides. She begs me to not ride with her because she knows I can ride further and faster and she doesn't want the pressure. Sometimes I take her up on it, sometimes I insist on riding with her. Depends on conditions. To each his/her own.
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