Like most cyclists, when I first started riding, I rode alone. Since I wasn’t competing, racing or part of a club or anything, I would simply get on the bike when I felt like it and ride for as long as I wanted to. I would push the distances when I felt strong, and over the years, I developed a certain meditative joy in these long solo excursions. The freedom to let my thoughts wander, to let my legs dictate the pace, to go in which ever direction I wanted.
But as time went on I also became conscious of the fact that I wasn’t developing much as a cyclist, because, in short, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
My introduction to riding with a group came one summer evening when I timidly decided to join a well-known ride in my area. As much as I enjoyed my solo adventures, I wanted to start connecting with other cyclists. The entire day I worried about it. Was I fast enough? Were there some secret rules I didn’t know? Was my bike good enough? Did I have the right gear?
I worried I would be secretly judged, or dropped, or worse. In some ways, it felt like the first day at a new school. I almost backed out at the 11th hour, but I made myself go through with it, and in retrospect I’m glad I did. When I showed up, there were guys with much more expensive bikes, flashier kits, and legs that looked like they could dish out some serious hurt. But of course, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Everyone was pretty nice and I didn’t get dropped; nobody said anything about my bike or my kit or my helmet.
I showed up again the next week, and the week after, and had soon become a regular at the ride. And a funny thing happened. I began to develop more as a cyclist. Not only did I get faster, and develop more endurance, but I learned more about cycling. And, most importantly, I made some good friends that I started riding with outside of our group.
It’s not to say I don’t still love riding alone. I do. In fact, I eagerly wake up early on Sunday mornings for my long, solo ride into the country. But I still regularly show up to group rides to make some friends, push myself, and test my mettle.
For a quick guide to joining your first group ride, check out our article on Group Rides.
As a cyclist, whether recreational or competitive, riding with a group has a lot of benefits.
1. You’ll Get Stronger: It’s almost a guarantee that many, if not most, of the riders in the group will be stronger, and you’ll have to push yourself out of your comfort zone. This leads to big improvements in your fitness.
2. You’ll Learn More: Are you pushing too big of a gear? Not shifting in the right spots? Every group ride is full of riders who are eager to share what they know. Just try not to take offense, they’re just trying to help.
3. You’ll Feel More Confident: You never know what you’re capable of until you try. Riding with a group will help you quickly master many of the complexities of cycling and be a stronger, more confident rider over all.
4. You’ll Make Friends: Unless you’re that guy (and you don’t want to be that guy) that attacks when someone flats, you’ll probably make some pretty good friends on your group ride.
5. It’s Fun: Sometimes riding can become a chore, especially if you always ride alone. Instead of always doing the same routes and struggling in the same spots, riding with a group can help spice up your riding life and give some variety to your cycling.
To find a ride in your area, contact your local Performance Bicycle store. All Performance stores have a Great Ride Series group ride at 8AM every Saturday morning, or they can help you find a ride suited to your skill and riding level.
Want more Real Advice? Click here to see more tips and tricks from cyclists just like you.