I love cycling! I have said it before and I will happily say it again…..repeatedly! Most of the time I ride solo or sometimes with a friend but every now and then I arrange to meet my brother Tim and we head out for an early Sunday ride. Both having young families, a 7am meet seems to suit (although I’d meet at 6 if he managed to get up in time). I have resigned myself to the fact that he will always be (that little bit) lighter, fitter and faster than me, so when we ride out we tend to cruise along at a nice steady pace which allows us to chat. One of the topics of conversation that comes up regularly is when am I going to get out for a ride with his cycle club The Yorkies CC (York Tavern Cycling Club)! Now having ridden on a regular basis for the last few years, I like to think that I cycle at a pretty reasonable level but 95% of my rides have been either solo or with one other (sometimes two if I am feeling sociable). The thought of riding with an experienced cycle club made me nervous but after several months of “you should get out with us”, I finally decided to ‘go clubbing’.
Being apprehensive about what to expect, Tim and I arrived at the York Tavern pub where the club meet for their Tuesday rides. Looking at the bikes on display, my 2011 Forme Rapide, although modified, felt a bit cheap and very heavy. But as fast as the thought of ‘I’m out of my depth’ set in, it quickly disappeared with how friendly everyone was. Based on the numbers of riders we split into two groups. As this ride was two days before the club cycled up to Yorkshire for the start of the Tour de France, it was decided that we would do a route of about 27 miles. I thought this would suit me nicely, especially as the last few miles passed near to where I lived so I could peel off home. We set off in the second (faster group) with about 15 riders and I tucked myself somewhere in the middle. I have been cycling for long enough to know some of the hand signals and calls to notify your fellow riders of hazards in the road or traffic but sadly my brother forgot to advise me of a few that his club use. For example, the first time the riders in front wrapped their left arm behind their back and pointed to the right, I should have realised that this meant avoid the parked car (it’s kind of obvious looking back). Instead I copied the gesture and then swerved frantically to miss the parked vehicle. As we left the built up urban roads and headed out on the country lanes, the pace increased to a high but comfortable level. I slowly found myself slipping back but this was more out of choice (I wasn’t ready to take a turn on the front) and soon found myself towards the back of the group where I began to relax into the ride. I engaged in some conversations with some of the more regular riders and another new chap. Being on narrow roads and riding in pairs, the cars we encountered meant that there was regular calls of ‘car up’ meaning a car behind the group and ‘car down’ meaning oncoming car. As you can imagine, getting this the wrong way round can lead to some confusion which I realised as everyone continued to look straight ahead whilst I had a van sitting on my rear wheel. After getting my car up and down mixed up a couple of times and clinging on to the back of the group for about 15 miles, I thought I’d better take a turn towards the front. I now knew the roads we were riding and although the pace was beginning to activate my ‘cramp’ sensors I was confident that I could ride through it. I put in a kick eased my way round the outside of the group and planted myself at the front. Completely forgetting what Tim had told me about pedaling at half speed to allow the pace to set! I carried on spinning at the same at the same speed that I had used to move up the group. It was only when I heard a cry of “slow down on the front” that my embarrassment caused me to brake (quite hard). “Don’t brake” was the next thing I heard. Oops! ! It was then that the club leader subtly rode up alongside me and slowly passed, I relaxed again and I was able to maintain a nice steady rhythm. In all of my anxiousness to impress, I had forgotten to just enjoy the ride. At about the 20 miles into the ride I decided to branch off home. Bidding my farewells I continued up the hill whilst the club peeled off the the right. Arriving back at mine I felt like I had ridden hard but coupled with an 18.5 mph average over 24 miles I felt pretty good.
For my first ‘proper’ club ride, it was a great experience and I really enjoyed it. The Yorkies CC are a friendly, well organised cycle club with over 70 members. As well as their club rides, they run various social events and fund raisers from the York Tavern which is very family orientated. Despite their experience of riding together, I was made very welcome as a ‘newbie’. The Tuesday night rides are well thought out (usually) with 3 riding groups which allow riders of varying experience and speeds to enjoy a good social club ride. For more details about the The Yorkies CC, check out their website http://theyorkies.cc. I will definitely get out again with the ladies and gents from The Yorkies CC (if they’ll let me) and would highly recommend getting involved with a local cycle club. It’s a great way to improve your riding level, fitness and social life.