So what do cycling clubs have to offer?
There's no denying that there is a lot of pleasure to be found in riding alone or with a few friends on quiet roads - in fact it's how most cyclists start out and how most clubs started - so why do clubs exist and what do they offer?
Types of cycling club:
- Traditional local club affiliated to (British Cycling & CTT) - Nearly all local traditional clubs have changed massively in the last 10 years, and as a result are now much easier to find and are better equiped to support new members. Try to make contact with the membership secratary and ask if you can join the club for a few try out rides. Remember that these types of clubs are run by volunteers, who may have full time jobs, so it may take a few days for your email to be answered. When you join a local club, you become part of the history of the club and this can mean that as well as being part of group, you'll experience being part of a real cycling culture.Traditional clubs will tend to focus on a main cycling activity and you'll get clubs that specialise in Road, Track and Time Trial Races or just ride for pleasure.
- Amatuer Race Team - These are often run by stalwarts who put their time and money into something that they love. Often a shop owner will have been a bike racer who wants to start their own team to support local talented riders and promote the shop. Joining will normally be by invitation only i.e. you'll be aproached following a good performance. What you get with these teams can vary from a bit of shop discount, or maybe some free clothing and a race license - all the way up to an Elite teams with everything included: bikes, clothing, expenses, coaching etc. With race teams what you get out will be generally in proportion to how you perform in competition - but atitude is also very important - always respect your sponsor and think about how many products they have to sell to pay for your sponsorship package.
- National Cycling Clubs - Since 2010, there have been a number of organisations that have started to offer access to a national online club - but there have been clubs that have been providing this facility for decades, such as the Cyclists' Touring Club and National Clarion Cycling Club. More recently there have been a number of commercially owned clubs that have offered a form of cycling club membership via the internet, that link together riders who own or enjoy a particular brand.
Some Reasons to Join a Cycling Club:
- To gain more cycling knowledge - None of us can know it all - fellow club members will become a wealth of information on topics like where to ride, how to train - or maybe even how to enter your first race. Often, cyclists that have been riding the same roads for years, find a new favorite road when they ride out with a club. Probably the best reason to join a club is so that you can find out what is happening in your area. If you are a newcomer to the sport, you will probably be shocked to learn that it is normally possible to race 2 or 3 times a week! Many events are low key and are only heard about through word of mouth. So whether it's mountain biking, track cycling, or road riding, there's a bike club to fit your interest. A good club will have a qualified coach that can help you with specific problems and help you to continually improve as a rider.
- A sense of belonging to something - Joining a cycling club should be fun, whether it be to pound out the miles in preparation for a challenge event, practicing pace making for races, or just a summer evening ride to a country pub. A good all-round community club should be inclusive of all abilities and have a membership made up from a wide cross section of society.
- Moral Support & Motivation - Can you think of occasions when you have set goals but things drift due to outside commitments, like work and family? - sometimes a quick phone call or e-mail from a team mate, can keep you focused.
- An opportunity to give something back - The longer you spend cycling, the more you learn. You might have once been a racer in your youth or have experience of following travel, belonging to a club allows you to pass your knowledge on to younger or less experienced cyclists. Just because we learnt the hard way doesn't mean that the newcomers to our sport have to. Even if you are not as active as you once were, you might wish to be a valuable part of a team by helping with events etc. A good beginner club will be non-elitist and have a structure that allows an easy flow of information from it's most experienced riders through to the novices.
- To train and race as a team - With the exception of individual Time Trials, cycling is a team sport at elite level. You may have watched how riders in the pro teams in the Tour de France use team tactics? A well drilled team of average riders can often beat a disorganised team of fitter riders. The value of the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts as the saying goes.
- To meet new friends - Bike clubs should offer oportunities to meet up off the bike socially - often that's when you really get to know other members - and even properly recognise them when they are out of their cycling gear! Once you make the decision to make contact with a club, you'll find that they are very welcoming and they should really want you to become a member
Some More Reasons:
- Being able to wear club clothing that is not available in shops is a really cool thing to do - you are making a statement that you have moved up a level in your cycling interest and have become part of something a bit more exclusive
- Riding with more experienced riders will improve your technique for sportives or racing. Learning how to draft on a wheel, do through-and-off, bit and bit, climb, sprint for village signs etc. can only be practised safely with a group of experianced riders
- You will be able to see how you measure up against experienced riders in terms of skills and bike handling, as well as fitness
- There can be safety in numbers - riding on the roads in a well drilled group or peloton can be safer than solo riding - if you do have an accident - you will not be left alone
- Can you fix a broken chain? Can you fix your gears if they need indexing? Are you confident changing an inner tube in under 5 minutes? - One thing is for sure, you'll never run out of spare tubes on a group club ride! - other members will be happy to help you become more self sufficient in bike craft
- Wan't to read more? - here's a great Daily Telegraph article on joining a bike club
- How much will it cost me? - The cost of joining a bicycle club averages to be about £20 per person and depending on quality, you will normally pay around £30- £70 for a cycling jersey in club colours. Many clubs factor in additional savings with the discounts offered at local area bike shops and various cycling associated businesses.
If you are new to the sport, the best club for you will generally offer the following:
- Be able to demonstrate a history doing what it says it's going to do - it's relatively easy to start a new club, it's a lot harder to keep one going for more than 5 years or so!
- Achieved ClubMark Status - has met Sport England enhanced requirements regarding constitution, links with community
- Affilation to British Cycing - The National Governing Body in the UK
- Acheved Go-Ride Status - Suitible for young people under 18 - i.e. Child Protection Policy, Welfare Officer
- Affiliation to Cyclists' Touring Club - The National Campaigning body in the U.K.
- Access to British Cycling Level 1, 2 & 3 qualified coaches - who use the same coaching principles used by the sucessful olympic teams
Of course, i-Team.cc offers all of the above and,if you are near our base in Portsmouth, a lot more too, including weekly rides for different abilities and member groups
Our honest recommendation is that if you are interested in joining a cycling club, you should first check out a few local clubs in your area and see what they offer and how they fit in with your needs.
Of course, if you wanted to join i-Team today - you'd be very welcome!
Frequently Asked Questions:
- A lot of the things that experienced cyclists take for granted can be a complete mystery for newcommers to the sport. And with the advent of the internet, there is so much advice out there, it can be hard to know who's opinion is right. Of couse the final decision will be yours but fellow experienced club members can be a great help to you by filtering the information and channelling what is appropriate for you as an individual - something that no website can really do.
- At i-Team we remember that we were all beginners once and that a newcomer might feel embarrassed to ask some of the basic questions. Here are the answers to some of the most common questions that we get:
What kind of bikes do you use on club rides?
Depends. When the weather is great, some of us will ride our best road bikes that cost a lot of money. A lot of the better riders will keep their best bike for racing and will ride a relatively cheap bike. The important thing is not how much the bike costs, it is does the bike fit you properly, can you ride it safely and is it the bike is well maintained.
I only have a mountain bike, will that do?
Mountain bikes fitted with slick road tyres shouldn't be a problem on club runs. We also have 2 BC Level 2 Mountain Bike Coaches who organise weekly coaching sessions in Summer at our own private Mountain Bike circuit near Clanfield in Hampshire.
My bike is only cheap, does that matter?
Not if it does the job and is properly maintained - here's a guide on what to check for
Do you all do your own bike maintenance?
Some of us build our own bikes from scratch, others need help from. Most experienced members can sort most problems that happen out on the road and also have tools at home for most maintenance jobs. Becomming more mechanically minded definitely helps you get more from your cycling.
Do I have to wear lycra?
No - but a million cyclists can't be wrong! Although Lycra can be a bit ‘revealing’ it is the most comfortable material for long rides. Proper cycle shorts have a seat pad that is designed to be worn against the skin for comfort, so your shorts will move over the sadlle, rather than your skin chafing against your underwear.
I really just want some advice on buying a bike. Can you help?
Of course! And potentially our qualified coaches and experienced members could save you a fortune if they have the opportunity to help you with unbiased advice, before you buy the wrong size bike or equipment that isn't appropriate to your needs - in return we would welcome you becoming a member of course.
How old do you have to be to join in the club's activities?
There is no minimum age for membership. We organise weekly coaching sessions for 8-16 year olds and regular sessions for all other age groups. The minimum age for riding with the club on the open road is 14 (with a parental consent form signed) and 12 if accompanied by a parent or familiy member over 18.
I don’t like riding near cars or on busy roads.
Same as us then - we generally avoid busy roads as much as possible and choose routes using quiet minor roads and rural lanes.
How fit do I need to be to be able to come riding with you?
If you can ride solo for 1 hour at 14mph average, you'll be fine but you also need to be able to ride comfortably in a group. At first this may take some getting used to, cornering with other riders by your side, in front and behind - but this is the place to learn these skils, it's what the rides are for - so don't be intimidated, you will be encoraged and given advice.
Do I need to be in the club to come on a club run?
Yes - apart from prospective members who are very welcome to come along for up to 3 try out rides before deciding if they want to join us. The reason for this rule is twofold: 1) By making the ride exclusive it adds value to the ride because everyone has the same agenda - i.e. to keep the ride together, not show off how fit they are. 2) Our British Cycling club insurance places limits on how many non-members can be on the ride.
Why do you ride so close together in a group on clubruns?
Riding close saves energy, meaning we can cover a lot of ground in less time - and it's sociable and can actually be less inconvenience to other road users (compared to the same nuber of cyclists spread out along the road randomly in pairs and solo. Once you have the skils, riding in a bunch of riders is much safer than it looks because the riders are in fact behaving as one unit - everyone accellerates, manouvers and brakes together - see our guide to riding in a peleton
I’m just not good enough to come out with you yet...
OK, but why not ride out to where our rides start, say hello and maybe ride with us for 1 mile? Then each week you can aim to ride further and further. Riding with better riders tends to have the effect of making you improve very quickly. Keep at it and within a year, you could be one of the members of the group that beginners are envious of!
Your club runs will be too slow for me...
Every structured training plan will require you to include active recovery sessions, this is what our racing members use the Saturday club run for - i.e. they train hard on Friday and Sunday - or do a couple of hours before and after the club ride.
Anything else that we haven't covered? - Please get in touch and we will do our best to help
Edited by Guy_Watson