Last Saturday I went on my first group ride. I have been thinking about finding a group to ride with for awhile. This is mainly because as much as I like riding by myself, I’ve discovered my ability to push myself only goes so far. I’ve only ever ridden by myself or with Shannon. And with Shannon, I found found I definitely pushes myself harder with her- mainly to try and avoid total fitness humiliation! So when I’m following, I work really hard to stay on her wheel and when leading, I work really hard to set a pace that isn’t too easy. But we can only get together so often and since RAGBRAI is a essentially one big group ride, I figured some group work was in order.
I found a group on Meetup.com that put together group rides. It doesn’t seem as though my LBS has a group ride and even if they do, I’d be too intimated to ride with them yet! Despite having the cringe-worthy name of “Sassy Sister Cycling,” I decided to join the group because it seemed to be a group aimed at beginners and it was an all girl group! I’ll be honest- I’m intimidated by boys, especially cute boys, and didn’t want to risk any of them showing up to my first group ride. Although I know this goes against the whole purpose of doing group rides, I though I’d get my confidence up before I start seducing boys on the bike with my mad skills.
Even though I did get a little lost on the way to Hain’s Point, I did arrive on time and was quickly reassured that I did not have to worry about being dropped by the group. For a handful, this ride was their first time on a bike as an adult; for others, their bikes had not seen the light of day in ages; for a few, it was a chance to meet new people and get out on their bikes.
After we went over the techniques and hand signals for group riding, we set off on a v e r y s l o w lap of Hain’s Point. The riders had dutifully absorbed the lessons taught and were enthusiastically practicing good group riding techniques, regardless of the fact that our slow pace had decimated the group into a long, drawn out line.
I was beginning to get a bit worries about the precedent this ultra slow pace was setting. I mean, I was barely pedaling, let alone breathing hard. And while I enjoy a leisurely pace as much as the next guy, this was a little too leisurely. However, once we set off down the Mt. Vernon trail, dutifully and enthusiastically using our newly acquired group ride skills, the pace picked up. I had never been on this trail and it is a very nice ride! Only downside? It’s in Virginia. I’ve never had any desire to live in Virginia until I discovered how many awesome trails they have over there. But I digress.
So what did this first foray into group riding teach m? I was reminded that I don’t like big groups. While it’s nice to try new things with people, when there are 15 cyclists strung out in a line in the road, that just seems like a nuisance to me. Plus, just the logistics of getting that many people prepared and ready all at the same time stress me out, even if I’m not in charge of doing the preparation.
I realized there truth to the saying that you should always train with someone better than you. In no fantasy world, even my own, would I be considered in shape. This ride made me feel like I was in awesome shape. That should give you an idea of the level of riding going on. From a fun cycling perspective, this is perfect. From a training perspective, not so much. While this doesn’t mean I won’t ride with them again, I now know that beginner really means beginner with this group.
This group ride also helped me realize that it’s not all about the gear. When you follow pro cycling, it’s easy to get sucked into the technology- the kits, the gear, the components, the bikes, etc. For average Janes like myself, this technology doesn’t really matter. But when the only cyclists you ever see are pros on TV, racing for professional teams, and you only follow people on Twitter who admire those cyclists, it’s hard not to become too wrapped up in the technology and how to be and look PRO. Riding with a group of average Janes made me realize that it is just about the bike- it’s about getting on that bike and riding it! If you’ve got awesome technology, none of it matters if you never take the time to experience the simple joy of riding.