Mountain bike group rides: how to keep it together & happy

Mountain biking on your own can get lonely, and the fun increases with like-minded friends to ride with. Adele Mitchell has some tips for successful off-road group rides.

Group rides boost the fun factor. (Image by Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious)

Riding in a group brings a fantastic social dynamic to cycling, helps build skills and fitness, and is lots of fun. But even the most relaxed ride depends upon some basic ride etiquette to roll smoothly.

  1. If you’re leading the ride it’s best to briefly discuss the route and agree on a finish time before you set off, but beyond that don’t sweat the detail too much: a bit of spontaneity makes the ride more fun.

  2. Short note to persistent lateness offenders, stopping to use your phone offenders and got no cash/inner tube/tyre lever offenders. When everyone says they don’t mind? Eventually, they probably will.

  3. Ride pace tends to determine itself depending upon who comes out and how many ride. In my experience a smaller group is almost always quicker, while larger rides tend to be more relaxed and chatty.

  4. Always at the back and fed up of looking at lycra clad bums disappearing into the distance? Ask the more experienced riders for a few tips on upping your pace. The best advice is unlikely to be ‘go and buy a really expensive new bike’ – sometimes even a minor adjustment to your riding style or set up will be all it takes. If you’re still keeping everyone waiting then it may be worth building your fitness and skills before riding with the group again, or find a group more suited to your pace.

  5. Give a short briefing at the beginning of the ride so everyone knows what to expect. (Image by Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious)

    It’s really important to stay together, both for safety and group politics. If you’re heading up the front of the ride or pulling away from the group then always wait at the next junction for everyone to catch up. And if someone needs to head back to the car park, make sure someone goes back with them.

  6. If you’re about to ride a technical trail then brief everyone who is new to it at the top of the trail. That way more experienced riders can go first and show how its done while less able riders will have the opportunity to either have a go or choose an easier route. If you end up behind a slower rider don’t shadow their back wheel, it only ups the pressure on them. Best to hang back and give both of you space to enjoy the trail until you can overtake safely.

  7. Turn off that Strava app. Turning the pace up to 11 might make you Queen of the Mountains, but it will also rapidly turn you into Princess of No Friends. This is especially true if everyone else wants a nice relaxed ride in the lovely countryside, or, worse still, it’s one of your ride buddies who has just been dethroned by your showy burst of speed.

  8. A pacey ride will only stop to give everyone an opportunity to catch up and get their breath back or to sort a technical issue. If you find yourself ten minutes into a rant about your Tesco delivery and everyone else has started to shiver and look off into the distance then read the signs: it’s time to move off.

  9. Think like a team player and drop back every so often to offer slower riders a bit of camaraderie on a hard climb or when they’re flagging. We’ve all struggled at the back and a bit of support not only helps keep the ride moving but is also the sort of generous gesture that makes the world a better place to be.

  10. That tricky ‘women’s ride clique’ issue: sometimes you might just be made to feel that you’re not welcome. For your own sanity it is best not to strop off in tears, assuming that they are all plotting against you or that you must smell a bit odd. Chances are its not personal. They may just be happy with their group dynamic and don’t want newcomers. Best to find another group (ask at cycle stores) or get out there and start your own ride.

Looking for a local mountain bike group? Try MeetUp, CTC, or why not kick off your own via our forum?


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