Joining a cycling club is a great way to improve your cycling skills and your enjoyment of riding. The UK has a fantastic club network. Wherever you live there will be a club suitable for you not too far away.
One of our recent recruits at Cycle Exchange, Hazel, we got to know because her club often come in store for coffee. They are now a partner club for Cycle Exchange - Richmond Park Velo. Here Hazel talks about her journey into club life with RPV.
Having come to cycling relatively late in life, I found my passion and enthusiasm for the sport grow along with my confidence, and my ability to sit on a saddle for longer periods. It got to the point where as much as I loved my solo Richmond Park laps, I wanted to explore further afield with a bit of company, so I started doing a bit of research on my local cycling clubs.
There are many clubs to choose from these days, and given my location near Richmond Park, I opted for one that started there. You'll be able to get a good gauge of what type of club it is from their website, and I went for one that felt a bit more laid back as I wasn't looking for anything too competitive. I just wanted to enjoy my rides and meet some new people with a common interest.
Most clubs will have different levels and you'll be split up according to your ability. This is important as it means that you're riding with people of a similar speed and saves you feeling like you're constantly trying to catch up or being slowed down for that matter! It also offers great steps for progression within the club and the other members give great encouragement and support to help you achieve your cycling goals.
When you're part of a club, you do feel like you're in one big family, everyone looks out for each other and you have the increased security of riding with others, both from the traffic perspective and the offers of help if you end up with a puncture en-route.
In my club we have a no drop ride policy so we all start and finish together, so you know you're not going to end up in the middle of nowhere wondering which way home or left to sort your puncture on your own. The rides are varied, sometimes it's a nice easy Windsor route for that famous Cinnamon bun (one of my favourite cycling cafes), or heading out to Surrey hills for a few more hills; or our more challenging annual 110mile round trip to Brighton. All rides are planned and mapped out by our trusty leaders so you don't need to have a GPS yourself. They are pitched at a suitable level for each group, and generally groups are made up of around 6 or less.
Over the 3 years I've been with my club my cycling has improved a lot, and I believe the group riding and general cycling skills I've learned is the result of having some amazing people in the club to give guidance, feedback and support, and occasionally a little push when I forget to charge my Di2. Some clubs offer rides on different days of the week, and sometimes evenings so it's worth checking out what suits you.
Some clubs are female only, some are quite competitive with a focus on racing, some are all about the laid back scenic routes or finding the best coffee / cake stops! Whatever the angle, there will be one out there for you, so it's worth trying out first as most clubs allow you one ride before you've got to sign up. Membership is usually around £35 annually, so less than a night out…
For me, my rides are about meeting some lovely people, getting out and about to clear the head and challenging myself but ultimately just having a lot of fun and working off that last cake stop!