A Group Ride is:
- Fun - If you enjoy hard, physical exercise, the rewards of an active lifestyle, and the camaraderie then, yes, it’s fun. Many times, however, in the midst of suffering like a dog during a hard ride, I’ve had to ask why I subject myself to this torture. Then the pain goes away (the ride ends or I get dropped) and I remember it’s fun.
- Regular, consistent, inclusive, and classic - Just so we’re on the same page, here’s a definition to try on: a true Group Ride has a name and has been going on daily or weekly for more than a few years. It’s also known in the cycling community as a regular ride, is usually open to all (except for specific team or club rides), and has a “reputation” (this is what I mean by “classic”). That reputation may be “fast,” “squirrely,” “slow,” or “recovery,” but Group Rides have a distinctive character that is known in the cycling community.
- Training - The physical, psychological, and emotional benefits of regular exercise are obvious and well-documented. Add to this, because there’s usually someone stronger than you in most groups, there’s no better training than riding your bike with others stronger than you.
- Free - Except for the untold thousands spent on your steed, kit, shoes, helmet, etc., there’s no charge.
- Therapy - I’m always in a better state of mind when I get home…even when I get dropped.
- Rhythm - Family, work, eat, sleep, ride. Wash, rinse, repeat. Variety may be the spice of life but regular rhythms and routine are the foundation.
- A Tribe – There are few subcultures with more etiquette, opinions, unique customs and language, unspoken rules, and causes for celebrations. Not many people get it but if you do there’s a special sense of belonging.
- An Escape - When I’m suffering along in a good paceline, I’m completely in the moment and there’s not much room to think about anything else. I’m able to forget about struggles at work or home and simply focus on the present. The struggles are obviously still there when I return but I’m usually in a much better frame of mind to face them than when I left. Also, see #4.
- Discipline - I find that when I’m disciplined enough to get out of bed to jump in with the group, I’m also more disciplined in other areas of my life: quality time with my family, patience with my toddler, work, sleep, diet, and other life priorities.
- A Reality Check – When I ride on my own, I generally take it easier then when I ride with the group. If I go too long without regular Group Rides then jump back in after a lay-off, I know right where my fitness is. And it’s usually not as good.
- Self-Selecting – There’s a hierarchy out on the road that has nothing to do with your job, paycheck, education, ethnicity, or background. It has to do with your legs. You will find your place in that hierarchy quickly. If you stick with it, you will move up. If you respect your Group Ride’s etiquette, your personhood will not be judged based on where you are in the pecking order; but, your legs might.
- The center of your local cycling culture – Similar to #6 but on a larger scale, those who spend the most money at local bike shops (or online), watch race coverage on Versus, read the magazines/blogs/websites, talk and think about cycling are the same folks who frequent Group Rides. If you want to know what’s going on in a local cycling scene, go do a Group Ride.
There must be more! What else is a Group Ride?
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