Group Rides are becomming increasingly popular as more people discover the pure joy of riding a bike. At the same time group rides can be intimidating to riders at any level, as they bring up anxieties of not being good enough, getting dropped, equipment not being good enough and the list goes on. What is often overlooked on your typical group ride is the true function of a group ride or why it exists in the first place.
It is important to remember that there are group rides for all levels of cyclists. I have been on group rides that are populated primarily by bicycle racers and they just want to go very fast and attack each other up the hills. I have also been on group rides where camraderie and riding together was the goal. Often group rides that are not able to define themselves wind up with frustrated riders as some want the true group ride eexperience while others prefer to hammer and treat the ride as a part of their training regimen. Now keep in mind there is no right or wrong, just two different types of rides.
It’s important to distinguish between these two types of group rides. One type is a group training ride where the riders have some type of coordination and are working on specific goals together (a ride that a race team might put together). This type of ride can be quite beneficial because it is so focused. The other type is the much more common group ride where training is not the goal. In this type of group ride it is usually not known who and how many riders will show up on any given day, and this creates a randomness and lack of focus that can be a challenge. However there is also the consistency of the group ride that offers the riders a great deal of comfort. For example, the rider who has been on the group ride before typically knows the route, the averge speed, relationships have been established with some or many of the other riders. The cyclist knows that the ride will be enjoyable, full of talk and camraderie. There will be periods of spirited work on the bike but it will not be the focus of the ride. In addition, the group ride will have rest or regroup stops so that breaks can be taken, socializing can happen and anyone who fell off the group can catch back on.
Group rides usually have a leader (or more than one) who is experienced in leading group rides. The leader helps others improve their group cycling skills and their riding abilities in general, they are able to spot future ride leaders so that the process of teaching never stops. The ride leader is also concerned first and foremost with the safety of the group. These are all important characteristics that separate a group ride from a training ride, giving that group ride its identity as a community builder, a place where almost anyone can join others for a ride and feel good about it. For thses reasons group riding will always have a place in the world of cycling.