I’m fairly comfortable in most cycling situations. Riding on busy roads doesn’t really bother me. I used to be intimidated by the idea of changing a flat 20 miles from home on the side of the road in the rain - been there, done that, no longer worried by it! However, one riding situation has remained a bogey for me for far too long. The group ride. The idea that one wrong move by me could potentially cause a serious crash for someone else gives me goosebumps. Also, it seems like those people are the “real” cyclists that have all the right gear, know all the right moves and can ride 70 miles without breaking a sweat. No thanks, I’m fine riding on my own so I can zone out and simply get my ride in!
Funny thing is, a few weeks ago I decided to take the plunge and join an organized group ride. I looked online for a ride that I thought would be best for me. As it turns out, Fort Collins has some pretty great options for people looking to get plugged in to the cycling community. The first place I checked out was www.yourgroupride.com. Your Group Ride is a wonderful resource that combines a cycling event calendar, local race information, group ride listings, bike classifieds, and more. I scanned their Road Group Ride section and found some great information. The listings include information like starting location and time, route details, and often expected speed. Some rides are also classified as full-drop rides while others are no-drop rides. In a full-drop ride, a pace is set and it is up to you to keep up if you want to stay with the group. If you get dropped (I prefer the term, reverse attack!), it’s up to you to finish the ride on your own. These rides typically attract your more serious and experienced riders. They know the course well and rides are often competitive. No-drop rides are often more social. The pace is often a bit slower and if a rider can’t keep the pace, someone will stay back or the whole group may even slow a bit so people stay together.
I ended up finding my ride by visiting the Fort Collins Cycling Club. On their calendar of events, http://www.fccycleclub.org/calendar, I found a Tuesday evening group ride that was beginner friendly and covered 25 miles or so. Perfect. The Fort Collins Cycling Club welcomes newcomers to try out one group ride without having to become a member. This is a great resource for visitors to the area that want to get a group ride in during a business trip or vacation. I showed up a few minutes early and chatted with the other riders. I let them know that I was new to group rides and asked about any specifics that I should be aware of. While there are a lot of good things to keep in mind during a group ride, most things boil down to good communication. Don’t make any sudden stops or turns, especially without warning. Ride in a predictable manner, smooth and straight whenever possible. It took a few minutes for me to relax during the ride but by the end it seemed like no big deal to be in a tight group of riders.
If you are visiting Fort Collins and looking to hop on a group ride, I’d highly encourage you to check out some of the resources mentioned above. Riding with a group is a great way to improve your fitness, meet new people, and learn some new routes!
Erik Barstow is the Director of Sales at Visit Fort Collins. He will be sharing his experiences in this recurring blog a number of times leading up to Ride the Rockies. The Race is finally here! Erik will begin his journey tomorrow June 11, 2016, in the beautiful town of Carbondale, CO. The first stage includes a 50-mile day winding through the Missouri Heights – perched on a bluff – followed by a cruise along the Rio Grande Trail en route to Aspen, CO. Good luck Erik, we are cheering for you back home in Fort Collins!