I initially took up riding years ago with family and friends. But I decided to try joining a local club last year, and I haven’t looked back. It has helped me to improve my fitness, my speed and distance on the bike, as well as improve my bike skills and confidence.
I have learnt to ride safely in a group, and I have met lots of like-minded people. I’m now a member of two clubs: a mixed club and a ladies-only club. I get out on my bike much more regularly because it’s harder to back out of a club ride than I would a ride on my own, especially when it’s cold out.
How do you join a club?
Go to www.britishcycling.org.uk to find your nearest club(s). They will welcome new members, understanding that everybody (including themselves once) has to start at some point. Most clubs will have different groups (eg an A and a B ride) that go at different speeds, so you should find one that suits you.
Start with the slowest group and don’t worry if at first you’re at the back. You’ll soon notice an improvement and you won’t be there forever. The club will ride at the pace of the slowest rider, so you won’t get left behind. Also don’t worry if you’ve never ridden in a group before; they will give you the basic tips you need.
If you can cycle 15–20 miles you should be fine to join a club, even if their ride is longer. You will notice that riding is less effort in a group.
What do you need for club cycling?
You need a road bike, that is roadworthy, and a helmet. In case of a puncture, you’ll need a spare inner tube, tyre levers, a pump, and a multi-tool. Mudguards in winter help to keep the person behind you from getting too much mud splattered up at them. On dull days, a rear bike light is helpful.
Take some money for a café stop if the group is planning a stop-off. However, it’s always a good idea to carry a supply of food and drink on you.
Take a waterproof jacket if rain is predicted, and always check the forecast beforehand so you can dress appropriately.
Don’t forget your mobile phone. This is helpful with ’in case of emergency’ contact details. I use a GPS app on my phone to track my activity (called Strava). This keeps a record of my rides (the distance, elevation, speed etc). You can then see your improvements over time, and compare your performance to past attempts.
What are the benefits of cycling with a club?
In addition to the ones I’ve mentioned above, clubs can open the door to different experiences and push your cycling to another level. For example, I have had my first night ride (a bright front light is essential) and did my first triathlon.
I’ve also enjoyed a club weekend trip away to Snowdonia and a trip to the Velodrome, which is an indoor race track. Other opportunities may include club trips abroad, often to places like Mallorca where the cycling is fantastic and where the GB team and Team Sky train. So if you’ve been considering joining a team, go for it! What is there to lose?