Do your mountain bike rides typically consist of yourself and two wheels? Sure, that can be relaxing—if not downright meditative—but chances are, every once in a while, you’re searching for some excitement. Look no further than a weekly group ride in your town (or the next town over).
Your local bike shop or mountain bike club should have information on times and places. But they won’t tell you what to do once you commit to a ride. Like many things in life, group rides are what you make of them. Follow these tips to reap the benefits of a great group ride.
1. Do Your Homework!
Often, an entire group will meet at the same time and place, but split up for the ride. When researching the group ride (whether in person or online), look for categories signifying different levels of intensity and decide which category best suits your riding ability. The group I ride with meets and rides in the same area, but splits into “A” and “B” categories. Generally speaking, you won’t ride at a relaxed pace if you join the “A” ride. So, if racing is not your definition of “enjoyable,” pick a different category!
2. Show Up On Time
Rides leave on time and typically do not wait around for stragglers—especially since the number of riders in the group may fluctuate from week to week. The last impression you want to give is that of ignorance. Just like you, other riders lead busy lives as well. They want to enjoy their mountain bike ride, but they also want to start and end on time so they can get on with their home life.
3. Ride Safe
Safety encompasses many areas: bike repairs, dressing for weather changes, night riding, nourishment and first aid. Be prepared for it all, or your sweet ride might turn sour as fast as you can say “faceplant.” Carry tools for common bike problems, adequate clothing, a bike light if you’ll be out in evening (or close to evening) hours, food and water, and a first aid kit just in case. Also, use common sense when it comes to your riding, and don’t ride beyond your personal abilities. As always, be sure to wear a helmet!
4. Be Patient
Made it to the top of the climb faster than everyone else? Great! Now, catch your breath—and utter some words of encouragement—while waiting for your fellow riders to get there too. Not everyone likes the same trails or pedals at the same pace. Some may struggle to keep up on descents or technical sections, while others can do so with ease. No matter what level you ride at, always wait for slower riders and never bail out of a ride early without telling anyone. It’s important to think beyond yourself and compromise where necessary to make the most of your group experience.
Aside from finding and riding trails you may be unfamiliar with, one of the best reasons for riding in groups is to meet other mountain bikers. It’s not enough to just join the ride, however. Speak up during the ride to build the basis for a conversation later on. Next time the guy in front of you messes up on the same log you did, call out to let him know it was tricky for you too. Or when the girl behind you groans going up a steep hill, say a few words of encouragement over your shoulder to pick up her spirit.