If you’re new to cycling and, better yet new to group rides, you’re likely to experience some level of anxiety when choosing a ride. We’ve all been in that position at some time in our life. You don’t know the people and don’t understand all the lingo, including the ever important “average pace” and “ride difficulty”. You might see the posted pace as 15-17 mph and say to yourself “I’ve gone that speed before; I’ll go out with this group”. Then you find out quickly that sometimes the group is moving at 12 mph and then accelerates to 21 mph and you’re hanging on for dear life – then you bonk – and spend the last half of the ride gasping and trying to find your way home.
Hopefully, we can provide some good advice. When you see a posting that says a ride averages 15-17 mph, that should tell you that when you get into the parking lot at the end of the ride, your average speed for the ENTIRE ride will be in that range. It doesn’t mean that the group will be traveling within that range at all times during the ride. The “rolling speed”of the ride may be below, or significantly above, the “average pace” at any given time. In fact it’s not unusual for a given ride to travel for a distance at a speed several MPH faster than the average.
The other criteria to be aware of is the “difficulty rating”. Not all clubs use this, but we thought it important in that it should give you an indication of what kind of terrain you’ll encounter on the ride. It does make a difference. A 15-17 mph average on a route with no hills is very different from that same average on a route that includes significant climbing.
On any given week, Shawnee Trail Cycling Club offers rides with a range of pace and difficulty to fit almost anyone that rides a bike. Check out our ride ratings, look at rides that fit you.
In summary, be prepared and know what you’re getting into. If you aren’t sure you can maintain the pace and keep up with the group you’re looking at, step down a group and try that for a week or two. If you find that the group is too slow for you, next week bump up. Remember, riding your bike shouldn't be a challenge to yourself to climb Mt Everest the first time out – but is supposed to be a lasting experience, that's both fun and healthy. Start slow and gradually work your way up until you find the group that fits you and your goals. Speak with others on the ride and accept input from the more experienced in the club.
Please, don't be offended if a Ride Leader or other member offers advice on ride selection. They are only trying to help make your day a better one. All of Shawnee Trail Cycling Club rides are “no drop”, but that does not mean you should join a ride that is way over your head and expect the Ride Leaders to accompany you on the route. This ends up being no fun for anyone. Choose wisely. All of us have been in your position at some point. Please, if you have any questions regarding ride choice, post in our Forum, on our Facebook page, or email us for advice.