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View Full Version : Still Looking for a New Year's Resolution? Try a group ride.



acc
01-09-2012, 08:37 AM
In 2009 I bought my first bike, a Trek WSD 1.5 road bike I immediately named Spartacus in honor of Fabian Cancellera http://www.fabiancancellara.com/fc.php?site=aHR0cDovL3d3dy5mYWJpYW5jYW5jZWxsYXJhLm No . I left the shop with a bike, a helmet, a few other assorted gizmos and no idea what I was doing. Itís a wonder I survived the summer. After each outing (I wonít dignify what I was doing by calling it a ride), Iíd be back in the LBS buying more equipment and asking more questions. The folks at the LBS were very patient and gave me advice that I didnít always take the first time I heard it. Clean my chain? Omg, youíve got to be kidding. Change a tire, by myself? You jest.

One of the pieces of advice they kept repeating was I needed to try a group ride, they insisted I would learn so much by riding with other people. In my imagination all I could envision was a sea of Lycra-clad 25 year-olds who shaved their legs with more precision than I did.

But I went anyway. I found a group ride through the Potomac Pedalers http://www.potomacpedalers.org/ at Wakefield Park. So on a late summer evening I showed up with Spartacus, so nervous I could barely get my gloves on my hands.

To make a long story short, everything that could go wrong did. The C/D Ride Coordinator had canceled for the evening. That left me on my first group ride with, yes, the A and B riders. As you can imagine I was dropped rather quickly. But not before I was lost back in the twisting turning roads of the residential neighborhood. That night was not the best night Iíve ever had on a bike but I could see the potential for learning and decided Iíd keep going until I could finish with the group.

But the more important point to the story is riding with groups taught me so much. At first I simply listened and watched as an entire culture unfolded in front of me. Hand signals, so important, but I only learned them by watching other people. What to wear, I picked up by watching others. How to shift efficiently, I learned to do by watching and being open to the advice I was given.

If you havenít ever tried a group ride, that would be an easy New Yearís Resolution to make and keep. And I guarantee your experience will not involve being dropped, getting lost, and falling down. Even though my first attempt wasnít a resounding success, it was enough of a good thing that I went back.

Happy trails,
ann

off2ride
01-09-2012, 09:54 AM
Hi Ann,

I to do the Wakefield Group ride in the summer. Keep doing the ride once it starts after the time change. I have no negative feedback about that ride. All the riders are respectful and will assist you come across a problem. It's all good.

acc
01-09-2012, 09:59 AM
Yes, they are. I spent a lot of time last summer with them.
ann

jabberwocky
01-09-2012, 11:18 AM
I came into cycling through the MTB world. I bought a bike somewhat on a whim in 2003 and started sporadically riding Wakefield after work. Back then, MORE (regional mountainbike club) ran casual rides on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I kept running into them in the parking lot and on the trail while I was riding solo. The weirdo who was leading them at the time would always make a point to say hello and invite me out whenever I saw him. I eventually took him up on his offer, had a great time, and eventually got super into mountainbiking (and through that into commuting, and then into road cycling...).

Now its nine years and tens of thousands of miles later and my basement contains nine bikes (number ten is clamped in the stand being built) and resembles a bike shop more than a rec room. :)

I've made some great friends through cycling, and in fact that weirdo I went on my first group ride with and I are still very good friends. I did an 80 miler yesterday with him. ;)

Dirt
01-09-2012, 12:16 PM
I did an 80 miler yesterday with him. ;)
That weirdo is... uhhhmmmmm weird, but he looks back on those days fondly. There have been some efforts to revive those rides and clinics over the years for the mountain bikers.

I always kind of thought it was weird that there wasn't really a road equivalent. I admit that I haven't looked or inquired for a while. Friends who started with Potomac Pedalers rides all had tales of getting dropped at the first stop light when everyone ran it on "yellow" but they were not comfortable doing so. Ride over.

Some shops in the area do some very nice group rides and many are oriented towards new riders.

jabberwocky
01-09-2012, 12:25 PM
I always kind of thought it was weird that there wasn't really a road equivalent. I admit that I haven't looked or inquired for a while. Friends who started with Potomac Pedalers rides all had tales of getting dropped at the first stop light when everyone ran it on "yellow" but they were not comfortable doing so. Ride over.Yeah, I've tried doing some group road rides several times over the years and have never really enjoyed them. My first attempts with Potomac Pedalers went pretty much like that (and went waaaaaay over their advertised pace). I tried a Reston Bike Club ride this past autumn and kept up ok, but the group just wasn't much fun (culminated with some old roadie taking issue with something I did and trying to steer me into a bridge on the W&OD, after which I told him if he tried that again I was gonna cheerfully put his decrepit old butt into the pavement :rolleyes: ).

My experiences are that the MTB world is much nicer for new riders. I do plenty of road riding these days, but almost all my riding partners are people I met through MTBing. Go figure.

Greenbelt
01-09-2012, 01:01 PM
Some shops in the area do some very nice group rides and many are oriented towards new riders.

I'm thinking about starting a laid-back ride series out of my LBS in Maryland, with a set schedule. Maybe one Saturday or Sunday a month in the Beltsville farms and Patuxent wildlife refuge (25-30 miles or so), and another Saturday or Sunday each month to DC for lunch (30-35 miles). The farm one would probably be go at your own pace with one sweep rider to stay back and assist to make sure nobody gets lost or has a problem. The DC one would probably be guided in groups that try to stick at least semi-close together (since it's easier to get lost), and could be a meetup in DC for people coming from different directions. Would give me an excuse to make cookies on a regular basis. Anybody interested in helping me set that up, maybe let me know? Maybe other shops or groups coming from different areas could coordinate? I figure those are weekend rides I'd do anyways, might as well advertise them and go with a group...

acc
01-09-2012, 01:28 PM
I almost said to Jabberwocky, I know someone who is even more odd and more fun and more friendly. I should have known there could be only one Dirt.

I didn't know about this ride when I was sorting all of this out, but wish I had. This is exactly the kind of ride a new rider could try and have a good experience. How bad can a ride be if it involves food (and beer)? I've never been, but I've heard good things about it and I know someone on the Forum will have had firsthand experience. http://www.commuterpage.com/eventdetail.cfm?eventID=1306

Greenbelt, I hope you get that off the ground, you are a terrific person to ride with.

ann

jrenaut
01-09-2012, 01:42 PM
Greenbelt, I hope you get that off the ground, you are a terrific person to ride with.
I was just going to say that.

Greenbelt, I'd be interested in helping with organization, though my participation is limited unless we do a kid-in-bike-trailer-friendly ride.

Speaking of which, any other parents of small children interested in kid-in-bike-trailer-friendly rides?

consularrider
01-09-2012, 02:11 PM
I've participated in a couple of Meetup groups (http://bike.meetup.com/cities/us/dc/washington/) for about four years. I've found some of these relatively welcoming of new riders while others are more hard core. There is one geared for "kid-in-bike-trailer," but since their info is members only, I'm not sure how many rides they get in.

americancyclo
01-09-2012, 02:37 PM
Speaking of which, any other parents of small children interested in kid-in-bike-trailer-friendly rides?

yes, once we get a trailer, and the temps are over 50 degrees.

Tim Kelley
01-09-2012, 02:42 PM
Speaking of which, any other parents of small children interested in kid-in-bike-trailer-friendly rides?

I would be interested. I went out to do the Conte's/Freshbikes group hill ride a few weeks ago and it was tough! Going downhill the added weight didn't make up for the added wind resistance, and going uphill with the motivation of staying with the group was quite a challenge.

dasgeh
01-09-2012, 03:02 PM
Speaking of which, any other parents of small children interested in kid-in-bike-trailer-friendly rides?

Yes, yes, yes, though we do the front bike seat, not the trailer. There is already a kidical mass dc (easily found on google), though their rides were all in the District last year -- I found that with the kid, if the ride doesn't start/end reasonably close to my house, the kid would be sick of it before we even got there. I have started a nice email conversation with the Kidical Mass DC lady (thanks for the reminder to write back!) and she's open to doing more in Arlington next Spring/Summer.

jrenaut
01-09-2012, 03:13 PM
Yeah, location is a big thing - I'd be coming from DC, and I know many/most of you all are based in VA and MD. Maybe a meetup point somewhere in the middle-ish where kids can get out and run around before the ride?

Marcella
01-09-2012, 05:04 PM
Yeah, I've tried doing some group road rides several times over the years and have never really enjoyed them. My first attempts with Potomac Pedalers went pretty much like that (and went waaaaaay over their advertised pace). I tried a Reston Bike Club ride this past autumn and kept up ok, but the group just wasn't much fun (culminated with some old roadie taking issue with something I did and trying to steer me into a bridge on the W&OD, after which I told him if he tried that again I was gonna cheerfully put his decrepit old butt into the pavement :rolleyes: ).

My experiences are that the MTB world is much nicer for new riders. I do plenty of road riding these days, but almost all my riding partners are people I met through MTBing. Go figure.

My experience with PPTC (CC level) rides has varied -- some have been good and others have been the type where I was dropped immediately and on my own for the entire ride. I think it has been better in the past year or two.

I looked into the Reston club but it does not offer rides at my level on weekends.

I like the folks at the Oxon Hill club a lot. Many of their ride starts are actually not that far from home for me (in Arlington).

jabberwocky
01-09-2012, 05:55 PM
My experience with PPTC (CC level) rides has varied -- some have been good and others have been the type where I was dropped immediately and on my own for the entire ride. I think it has been better in the past year or two.

My main beef was that they exceeded their advertised pace. When I tried the first ride, I looked it up and contacted the ride leader. I think it was either a C or D ride, and advertised pace was 15-16mph. I was commuting regularly at that point and rode 16-17mph all the time on my commutes, so I figured I'd be ok. The ride leader confirmed the pace for me. I showed up, the ride set out and immediately ramped up to 18-19mph. I was dropped within 2 miles, and the pace was still increasing at that point. I ended up turning around and riding home.

Now, I totally understand people ride at different speeds. But there were faster rides leaving from the same lot; if you wanted to ride faster, why wouldn't you do one of those? I tried a few other rides and all were pretty much the same; even the advertised slower rides would quickly ramp up and take off. If you wanted to ride the advertised speed, you rode by yourself.

It wasn't a fun experience for me. I'm coming from the MTB world, where people are far more friendly and social, and leaders go out of their way to keep the group together.

Granted, that was a few years ago, so perhaps things have changed.

vvill
01-09-2012, 07:08 PM
Speaking of which, any other parents of small children interested in kid-in-bike-trailer-friendly rides?

I'd also be interested although I don't know if either of my kids enjoys it enough to be actually worth dragging along. I have a kid carriage thing that attaches to the non-drive side chainstay for my son and also a front seat for my daughter (yet to ride with both of them together). I'm not sure could get anywhere too far with my kid in the kid carriage (it doesn't fit in my car) before he gets bored. Most rides with him are 15 mins max. But by the time it warms up again I'll have a better idea I think. It might be easier to just take my daughter in the front seat, depending on how her temperament goes...


I would be interested. I went out to do the Conte's/Freshbikes group hill ride a few weeks ago and it was tough! Going downhill the added weight didn't make up for the added wind resistance, and going uphill with the motivation of staying with the group was quite a challenge.

I think their ride is tough enough without a kid! I've only done their ride once and I think it was the hills ride (up Military, back down Williamsburg I think).


...

It wasn't a fun experience for me. I'm coming from the MTB world, where people are far more friendly and social, and leaders go out of their way to keep the group together.

Interesting. I'd always seen roadies as elitist/snobby and road cycling sort of at odds with my idea of cycling as a more utilitarian activity, probably because almost all the cycling I'd done was recreational or commuting. Bikes to me were always great machines, marvels of engineering - not something to be dressed up all shiny and ridden in skin tight clothes. That was perhaps one reason I never owned a road bike until last year (it was partly watching the Tour de France in depth that changed my mind - that and realising how much fun it is to ride a fast bike). The few roadies I've actually managed to talk to though have all been friendly - but I rarely go on group rides. It definitely helps to know at least one other person first. My first attempt was the Conte's/Freshbikes one above, which seemed ok, but I did a century after that with a fellow commuter/ex-colleague and we (along with several others) got screamed at by a small group (riding a lot faster) for not riding all the way on the right single file even though we were out in the countryside and moved over whenever there was passing traffic. This was at least 55 miles into the ride as well. :rolleyes:

I'm planning to try one of the Reston Bike Club rides this year but otherwise I'll stick to trying the casual "no-drop" ones run by shops, since I don't have time for more than a couple rides a week I'd guess. PP have a LOT of rides listed but I find their more formal setup a bit intimidating for some reason. I wouldn't expect any of them to compare to Dirt's Kill Bill anyway! When is the next one gonna be? :D

FFX_Hinterlands
01-10-2012, 10:53 AM
FABB (Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling) will be hosting some casual rides this year. We're going to focus on a fun topic or destination with an emphasis on cycling for transportation. Heck, I don't even own any spandex or have a cycling computer, so no worries there :D

So more to come on the rides... I'll post on this forum.

Thanks,

Tom

Arlingtonrider
01-10-2012, 12:09 PM
The Sunday morning "Lunch in Shirlington" Arlington Loop group rides are paced as advertised (avg. speed 10-12 mph) and usually include a sweep. All are welcome. The ride is advertised through Potomac Pedalers and is also listed on BikeArlington's "Maps and Rides" page. (Not a good ride for kids/trailers though.)

Update regarding 1-22-2012 ride: I won't always be able to keep this up to date, but I received word that this ride is cancelled for Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012. For updates regarding cancellations for any other week, please check the ride announcements at www.potomacpedalers.org. The ride generally goes year round, but there are occasional cancellations, esp. during the winter.

It's a fun and lively group that often gets together for lunch even when the ride is cancelled. Lunch this Sunday will be at T.H.A.I. in Shirlington at noon. (All are welcome, but please email ron.truworthy@yahoo.com if you can so he will know how large a table to reserve.)

eminva
01-10-2012, 02:12 PM
Thanks for posting, Tom and Arlingtonrider. I haven't ever really done a group ride, but I was despairing of being up to the task given the reports posted here by some of the faster cyclists (compared to me, anyway).

Weekends tend to be nuts at our house, but I hope to be able to work in the Arlington Loop ride and Shirlington lunch some weekend. And I will definitely do all I can to support any FABB rides out in my neck of the woods.

Thanks.

Liz

gtmandsager
01-10-2012, 02:28 PM
There are two rides that leave from the Bicycle Pro Shop in Georgetown on Sundays at 10am, led by my team, District Velocity Racing. The rides both head north up Macarthur and into Potomac, there's a fast tempo 60 mile ride and then a more mellow 40 miler that leaves 5 minutes later. The 40-mile ride is no-drop, there are a couple regroup points after hilly sections, and I would guess we go 19-20 on the flat sections. If you're interested, PM me and I can give you more details and try to meet up for the ride.

acc
01-10-2012, 04:58 PM
There is a group ride for everyone who manages to keep the rubber side down (most of the time).

Community Rides: Low-key, relaxed, usually minimal Lycra rides.
Some of the most fun I've ever had on a bike involved Dirt, a community ride, and a vuvuzela.

Social Rides: Generally low-key, usually Lycra is involved, focus on cooperation and education, secondary focus: food. These can be very fun or a complete bore depending upon who shows up and what kind of rapport develops during the ride. But who cares? It's an investment of a few hours. I would say all D rides and most C rides as defined by Potomac Pedalers fit into this category. Perhaps some rides out of the LBS fall into this category.

Serious Rides: Honestly, they are fun. But ride into them with your eyes wide open and your ego in check. I've ridden so hard in some of them I've almost thrown up. But for me, that's my idea of fun. Set your own limits ahead of time, have a plan for what to do if you get dropped, ride within your abilities. The benefit of riding with stronger people is you learn to ride faster, work harder and see what is possible. Maybe you'll be able to keep up for ten miles the first time. Next time try to keep up for twelve. For me a ride like Contes/Fresh Bikes is tough, so is the Wakefield Park Ride if I'm riding with the B group.

Happy trails,
ann

elcee
01-10-2012, 06:27 PM
Bicycle Space DC (http://bicyclespacemobile.tumblr.com/rides) does a "Cupcake Ramble" on Saturdays. During the warmer months it's led by Sol Schott, who's an actual baker. The rides are 10-15 miles long; the last time I went, we rode to the Arboretum, had Sol's deliciously decadent chocolate brownies, then rode back to the shop. You do have to be comfortable riding on city streets, but there's usually not a lot of traffic in that part of town.

acc
01-10-2012, 07:25 PM
I hope over time when folks have good experiences with group rides they will post here and tell the rest of us. That would be tremendously helpful. There's nothing worse than showing up expecting a hit and giggle ride and finding yourself on a death march. I once rode with Satan. Seriously, it was July and the ride was 70 miles. The dude showed up dressed completely in black. That should have been my first clue...

ann

KLizotte
01-10-2012, 09:43 PM
I hope over time when folks have good experiences with group rides they will post here and tell the rest of us. That would be tremendously helpful. There's nothing worse than showing up expecting a hit and giggle ride and finding yourself on a death march. I once rode with Satan. Seriously, it was July and the ride was 70 miles. The dude showed up dressed completely in black. That should have been my first clue...

ann

Ann, I thought you weren't a vehicular cyclist so where are these super difficult rides taking place? I presume they must be on the roads and not the trails. Just curious...

Kathy

acc
01-11-2012, 07:39 AM
I freely admit to being a coward but I can play the odds with the best of them. A pack of twenty or more riders makes the likelihood of me having an unfortunate misunderstanding with a four-wheeled vehicle lower. Of course riding in a pack raises other issues.

To my credit or stupidity I'm riding more in the streets alone. Yesterday I was on a road I didn't care for much. Lots of traffic moving quickly, no bike lane. In situations like that I wish I had a bright yellow jersey with the words, "Caution Wide Load" on the back. But I'm lucky, 90% of my interactions with vehicles are positive.

ann