Weather keeping you off your bike? Adele Mitchell on the motivating power of a group ride.
I’m standing in the kitchen with my bike, mug of tea in hand, watching the rain through the window. It’s my day off, and I’m due to meet three girl friends – Alice, Claire and Chrissy - for a mountain bike ride in exactly half an hour. Unfortunately every inch of my body wants to curl up in front of the fire with a magazine and a latte.
It seems I’m not the only one: a WhatsApp message arrives. “Sorry ladies – not feeling it this morning…will be back next week. Have a good ride!”. So, Alice is out and that leaves three of us. And it’s still raining.
Another message … “Anyone mind if I’m a bit late? Delayed getting the children off to school… bit stressed… life getting in the way!!” That’s Claire, and I know she’s testing the water to see where everyone else’s motivation levels are.
And it’s still raining. I’m wearing all my winter gear, recently retrieved from the box under the bed, but I’m not looking forward to the inevitable cold blast you have to ride through before you’ve warmed up.
My finger hovers over the phone, ready to suggest staying home, but - before I can type a word - another message arrives, this time from Chrissy.
Forget about Life!!!! It’s a beautiful morning for a pre-ride cuppa at mine and then some fun in the mud!!!
I laugh. And I get on the bike and head out of the door.
Forty five minutes later, fortified by a second cup of tea at Chrissy’s house and having reassured her that yes, she does need winter gloves, the three of us are ready to roll.
‘Which way shall we go?”
“Let’s start with a big hill and get warmed up!”
“Do we have to ride uphill?”
“Kind of difficult to ride downhill if you don’t…”
And somehow we banter each other along for twenty minutes until the conversation changes.
“I’m pretty warm now... shall we ride that segment again… what’s the best line on the next section?… hey the sun’s coming out… anyone fancy staying out a bit longer?”
Two hours into the ride, Claire makes a confession.
“I actually wrote a message to say I wasn’t coming this morning but then I didn’t send it because I didn’t want to let everyone down”.
At this point I own up to the appeal of my magazine in front of the wood burner – and we both thank Chrissy for her message that had changed our minds. She refuses to take the praise, and happily admits that she had no idea how cold it was when she sent her upbeat message.
Even cold, wet rides have their rewards!
We are rewarded with a wonderful, if somewhat slippery, ride. Pushing ourselves when it would have been so much easier to stay at home, and finishing in sunshine, has only made the ride better. Yes, we miss Alice – but we know her well enough to be sure she’ll be back next week. After all, we’ve ridden as a group for ten years and the desire to maintain something so special is bigger than the weather will ever be!
When it comes to cycling there truly is strength in numbers… even if it does take 45 minutes to clean the mud off my bike afterwards.
How to make a group ride work
Our group came about because a few of us had partners who rode and we all fancied joining in the fun (albeit at our own pace, not theirs!). That was over ten years ago and in the meantime new riders have joined us while others have moved on. Our group ride, however, has remained a constant. Here’s how we make it work:
1. We always stick to the same day of the week (in our case, Friday mornings during term times). That never changes so it’s simple to book out in our diaries, or plan as a day off.
2. We've evolved as a group so that we have similar levels of ability, ambition and fitness, which means everyone has fun and no one gets left behind (nor fed up waiting). Being closely matched means we can enjoy fast, flowing rides without worrying about being either over-paced or bored!
3. We welcome new riders – but do explain, gently, that we expect them to fit the criteria above (or commit to getting fit pretty quickly!).
4. We are supportive of each other. Having ridden together for so long we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses on the trails, and try to help out if someone is struggling on a technical section (and if we’re all struggling we have been known to get off and walk!) or not quite up to speed on the climbs.
5. Once the ride becomes a regular part of your life you realise you would really miss it if it wasn’t there, and then everyone makes an effort to keep it going, whatever the weather. It’s a team effort, and that is what helps make it so much fun.
What’s the secret of the success of your group ride? Share in the comments section below:
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