So, you're interested in signing up for a group bike ride but are wondering what you need to know first? Read this post to understand what to expect and to learn some tips for getting ready.
This is a guest post from Karen, one of our brand ambassadors (and sales rep!) in NYC.
The beauty of the recreational group bike ride is seeing lots of people coming together to enjoy themselves on all types of bicycles, seeing the sights from a different POV and speed from walking and driving.
Group bike rides give me hope for the future, one in which the roads are full of smiles for miles. You may encounter people who think they’re in a race against time or against other riders, but remember that the ultimate goal of a group bike rides is to enjoy your time in the saddle with others.
Photo from @kristenhphillips
For peace of mind, safety and preparation is key! It’s best not to wait until the night before a group bike ride to check for the basic Bike ABC's:
- AIR in your tires
- BRAKES are working safely
- CHAIN/DRIVETRAIN are clean, not rusty, and gears change smoothly.
If you aren't mechanically inclined, get your bicycle checked over at local bike shop at least a week before the big ride. You won’t be the only one looking for a tune-up before a big event!
Photo from @karenfoto
Group bike ride rest areas are usually quite crowded or you might not be able to eat the provided snacks for dietary reasons, so outfit your bike with water bottle cages and bike bags to carry electrolyte powder or tablets to mix with water, healthy snacks to keep your energy level up because typically. Rides like the Five Boro Bike Tour here in NYC have restrictions on what riders are allowed to use (no covered baskets, backpacks, panniers) and so far our Kinga Handlebar bag and Uptown Trunk bag have passed the test with flying colors!
I like to think of group bike rides as a dance with a destination. There are basic predictable moves like starts, stops and turns, but everybody has their own take on how to execute them. Here are some tips that have made my life easier since learning them:
Get comfortable standing over your bike, put your pedal in a power position (I like my foot at 4 o’clock on the R or 8 o’clock on the L) so that when you push down, you can stand and get your butt in the saddle and pedal forward straight and smooth. Taking a wobbly baby step start means you might bump into your neighbors to the left and right of you when you’re all starting from a stop.
Starting / waiting position illustrated here:
Photo by @karenfoto
Always be pedaling if you’re ever moving. This indicates to those who are riding behind and looking at your feet that your bike is in motion. If you coast along, you might wobble and your speed (or lack thereof) is hard to predict to those behind you. Soft-pedaling is better than not pedaling at all, so at least people know that you’re still in motion.
Turning / Slowing / Stopping / Obstacles
If you aren’t comfortable with taking your hands off the handlebar to make hand signals to those around you about your riding intentions (illustrations for turns, slowing, stopping) or road hazards, you can announce them (“Right turn!” “Slowing!” “Stopping!” “Hole Left!” “Glass!”). Being able to ride in controlled manner is the most valuable skill to have in times like these. Practice riding slowly in a straight line and also around obstacles to build balance skills so that when the time comes, there will be less need to put a foot down and fumble to regain momentum in a crowded situation.
Imagine there is a halo around your front wheel that you need to protect. Don’t overlap your front wheel with other people’s rear wheels because they may ride unpredictably and if your wheels touch, you might go over the handlebars. The best place for you to be is side by side with people, directly in front or directly behind.
Photo by @karenfoto
The main takeaway from my list of tips about group bike rides is that you are one cyclist amongst many others of various skill levels, and you all can’t read each others’ minds, so maintaining clear communication will help distinguish yourself amongst the crowd and people will respond positively to this and will learn from your example.
Karen Chin is a Po Campo rep and brand ambassador for the NYC area. Her first group ride was the Five Boro Bike Tour 2007 when she won an Electra Townie from Bicycling Magazine, and she has volunteered for various group bike rides by Transportation Alternatives and taught Learn to Ride for Kids and Adults with Bike New York to help give back to the community. She wants to thank the women of WE Bike NYC for helping her gain the confidence to try all sorts of riding styles (velodrome track cycling, alley cat / scavenger hunt, etc.) and most importantly guiding her towards her current position as a salesperson and women’s cycling ambassador at Bicycle Habitat.