Why cycle in a group? The Wicklow 200 is a solo event, after all, albeit one ridden in the company of 3000 friends.
Many riders are attracted to cycling and to challenge events because they like the solitude of the countryside and the peace that a long spin immersed in their thoughts offers as they focus on the physical effort surrounded by the beauty of nature.
It’s a heady mix and it’s no wonder that many shun the collective noise of group cycling to make the most of their cycling time alone.
However, the benefits of cycling in a group are numerous and unless you’re only riding your bike once a week, in which case the Wicklow 200 will be a daunting prospect, you really can enjoy the best of both worlds – solo training during the week and group rides at the weekend is the usual mix.
Group bike rides offer considerable benefits – especially as part of a spin with an established cycling club – and outlined here are the positive aspects of getting social on your spins.
Riding as part of a group of similar ability is, quite simply, easier. Sitting in the shelter of your fellow riders offers an easier passage and allows you to go further and faster.
Whether it’s the ‘I’ll show ‘em’ attitude to the challenges faced or quite simply the distraction from the physical effort that riding in a group offers, most riders find they are willing to push themselves harder in training – both during the group spin, and in the subsequent midweek solo spins – buoyed by the positive encouragement of their peers.
While there is endless information available online to aid your understanding of physical training, nutrition, technical skills, bike maintenance and myriad other topics there really is nothing like the hands on one to one advice from your club mates.
Many will have faced the same challenges and encountered the same pitfalls that present themselves to you and, while you may think that you have a pretty good handle on bike riding by the time you join a club, you’ll be amazed at all the little methods, techniques and etiquette for every situation you’ll face.
As Bismark sagely put it: It’s always better to learn from someone else’s mistakes.
Steering the bike up hill, down dale and around every corner is one thing on your own, quite another in the company of a large group. And that’s something you’ll face on the big day in June.
Learning how to do this safely and confidently is best done in a group where the experienced riders can offer practical ‘on the bike’ demonstration and training. Classrooms and textbooks are great but there’s nothing like learning by observation and practice.
If you’re new to cycling, there’s a lot to learn about maintaining your bike and, make no mistake, you’re going to have to learn the basics.
Out on group rides you might not have access to a qualified bike mechanic in the group but you will have a ready supply of riders who know how to swap a tube with the minimum of fuss and who can perform rudimentary tasks to get you back on the road after a mechanical mishap.
You’ll pick up the information pretty quickly. Staring at a hobbled machine while your clubmates look on impatiently is a rite of passage for every club rider. Someone usually steps in to help and skills are acquired quicker than a youtube demo. Skills acquired in that environment are never forgotten.
Last but far from least is the tremendous sense of well being that is gleaned from belonging to a club.
There’s nothing better than soaking up the endorphins from a tough spin in the company of like-minded souls. Shared experience is a great addition to coffee stops and the knowledge that you are in a group that will have your best interests at heart is a great comfort when you’re 100km from home with 100km still to do.
Road test a couple of groups to find the one that suits you best but, rest assured, with over 450 cycling clubs dotted around the country, most of which have more than one group ride per weekend, there’s a group for you.