We get a lot of questions about cycling in all its forms here at Chicks Who Ride Bikes. Many are from new cyclists trying to navigate their way through a lot of new things, a lot of scary things, and trying to find where they ‘fit in’. Unfortunately, there are many stories of newbies joining group rides and getting dropped off the back or turning up and feeling really out of their depth.
If you’re a newbie and not really sure how to get involved in a group, these 5 questions should help you decide whether a particular group ride is for you!
1 Are flat bar bikes allowed?
There are lots of different kinds of group rides out there, and lots of different bikes you can turn up on. TT bikes, drop bar road bikes, flat bar road bikes, e-bikes, mountain bikes, gravel bikes…
Mostly, it’s best for the same sort of bikes to ride in groups together for lots of reasons including speed, safety and experience. If you’re a newbie and you ride a flat bar road bike or a hybrid bike, this should be a question you ask up front to the ride leader.
If the answer is yes, make sure you tell them whether you’re comfy riding in groups and how much experience you’ve had riding on the road.
PS – Don’t feel bad if the answer is no! There are lots of group rides that don’t allow timetrial / triathlon bikes to join them and most of those riders aren’t newbies.
2 What speed do you go on the flat?
Sometimes asking what the average speed of a ride is can be misleading. Rides can have hills and stops and traffic lights and all kinds of things which have an effect on the average speed of the overall ride. If you’re new and wondering if a group ride is for you, a great question to ask is “what speed do you go on the flat?”
Generally, a speed of 20-25 on the flat should be an ok workout even for newbies, though if you’re on a flat bar bike you will find yourself exerting a lot more effort to maintain this speed than those on drop bar road bikes.
NB – A speed of around 15-20 would be considered a slower more relaxed pace ride.
3 Do you stop at all mid-way through the ride?
When I started out riding, I was pretty keen on the mid-ride coffee or photo stop. Partly because I was giving my metabolism a jolt and felt genuinely hungry all the time, but also because I wanted to pace myself and make sure I could do the whole ride.
Generally (though not always), groups that are more willing to stop midway for a photo opp or even a quick espresso are going to be happy to have a newbie along. That’s not to say that groups who only stop for a coffee at the end won’t be thrilled to have you along, but by asking the question you’re bound to start a conversation about it which is the whole point.
4 Are most people clipped in?
When you’re new to road riding, clipping in is like the number 1 scary obstacle to overcome, besides actually riding on the road with traffic. It looks terrifying, the noise sounds scary and those shoes… well, who knows how people actually walk in them.
If you’re new to riding and trying to figure out what the vibe of a group is, you can ask whether most people are ‘clipped in’ on the ride. This should generate some great conversation about the group itself, its members, what kind of riding they mostly do and whether you will have a hard time keeping up if you’re not clipped in (mainly this might be on rolling hills or hilly rides).
NB – it’s generally accepted that because you have both the pull and push movements while pedalling, there’s up to 30% more efficiency while clipped in when compared to riding in just sneakers.
5 Do you do a ride rundown or briefing before you ride?
This is a good question to ask to get a sense of whether the group is used to having new people attend. A lot of the time, when a group is tight knit and accustomed to riding together, they will meet at an allocated spot at an allocated time and then ride off when ready. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, but if you are a newer rider you may feel like you need a bit more of a run down on the ride before setting off.
If a group has lots of new members, there will often be a small, informal ride briefing before you get started. Things like making sure everyone knows the hand signals, going through the route and any sections that need explaining beforehand etc are common things to cover. There may be sections of the ride where it’s safer to ride single file, or a known section of road works.
Are you a newbie? We’d love to hear more about what content you’d like us to cover!