So you’re going for a big ride, your first club run, a sportive or maybe a race. Learn from my mistakes and be prepared!
Do leave your home with plenty of time to spare, I’m bad at mornings, so I tend to leave late. It helps to get your kit ready the night before and check your bike over, pump up the tires, clean/lube the chain if it needs it, check the brakes are good etc… You don’t want to have to rush in the morning, arriving a panting sweaty mess, and you want to have time to…
Do …introduce yourself, if you’re new then don’t be afraid to say “Hi I’m new, mind if I ride with you?”
Do – bring enough food and water. Minimum on a cool spring day 1 bottle of water and a banana, on a summers day two bottles of water, ideally bring a bit more food like some flapjack or energy bar. Maybe a gel just in case you push yourself too much and run out of steam.
Do – bring a spare inner tube, ideally bring 2. You also need all the tools you need to fix basic mechanicals. At very least tyre levers and a pump or CO2. I’d recommend CO2 over a pump – its much quicker to inflate a tyre, and you don’t want to keep everyone waiting. In my saddle bag I have 2 tubes, 3 CO2 cannisters and a valve, 2 tyre levers, a multitool, a chain quick link and some patches.
Do – bring a phone with plenty of charge. Put your ICE number in, ICE stands for In Case of Emergency.
Do – bring some money just in case you stop at a café.
Do – bring ID with emergency contact (ICE) details. You probably wont crash, but you should always carry this if you ride on your own or with people you don’t know.
Do – wear a helmet, expect to be turned away from organised rides if you don’t have one.
Do – fit mudguards to your bike if its wet. Some clubs will turn you away if its a wet day and you don’t have them.
Do – make yourself familiar with the hand signals and calls a group might use. These are mostly pointing out pot holes, parked cars and cars approaching from the front or rear.
Do – make sure your bike is in good working order, turning up to a club run with brakes that don’t work is going to make you very unpopular. And if your gears are jumping about or noisy you’ll feel pretty embarrassed. At least give your bike a clean.
Do – check out the route beforehand if its published on the club or organisers website. Check you’ll be comfortable with all the hills, some club runs can be very hilly.
Do – I’d recommend getting clipless pedals, and some lycra before joining a club. This isn’t 100% necessary though, so don’t be put off by this or feel you have to. If you’re a beginner don’t feel you have to do things like this. However, if you want to show that you’re a dedicated cyclist and already a member of the clan, then shave those legs. :-p
Don’t – ride in a group with earphones in.
Don’t – spit or clear your nose when you’re riding in front of others in a group.
Don’t – choose to ride in a group that you’re not strong enough to keep up with. If there are several groups then chose one you think you’ll be comfortable with on your first ride.
Don’t – boast or try to impress your new friends, let your legs do the talking and be humble. If someone gives you a push say thanks!
Don’t – overdo it in the first half of the ride only to bonk and suffer all the way back. Don’t be afraid of sitting in the stronger riders draft all the way. Some groups will be taking it easy for the first half of the ride, and the fast stuff generally happens on the homeward leg of the journey.
Don’t – skip breakfast. Make sure you’re well fuelled.
Don’t – have 10 pints and a late night before a club run. Get plenty of rest and drink plenty of water. Similarly…
…Don’t decide that midnight the night before a club run (or any sort of event) is a good time to take your headset to bits or take your cranks out. These should be 10 minute jobs, but things always seem to go wrong at this time of the night. So for this reason I’d recommend giving your bike a once over as early in the day as possible and not just before you are going to bed.