Are you thinking about joining a cycling club? Stop thinking - and do it! Clubs are the foundation of grassroots cycling - cocooned in a close-knit community you'll find all the resources you need to flourish as a rider: maintenance advice, route guidance, fitness tips and training/cake-eating buddies, as well as one very important ingredient: friends.
The first step is usually to research your local clubs, choose the best option for you, and then follow the joining procedure usually on their website. Next, you'll either turn up at or be invited to a club ride - this is your chance to make a good first impression.
Though good cycling clubs will always be welcoming, they'll always be a little more welcoming to riders who make an effort to impress - here are a few suggestions...
Be self sufficient
Take the basic tools you would take if you were riding alone: tyre levers, a spare tube and patch kit, a pump and/or Co2 canisters and inflator, and a multi-tool. People will always help you if you have a problem, but you should be prepared to be self-sufficient.
Have food and drink
Take enough food and drink with you - at least one full bidon, two if it'll be a long ride, a few energy gels or bars, and some cash - it's likely you might stop for coffee and cake somewhere, and some rural cafes don't accept cards.
Know the lingo
Know the hand signals that are used on club rides - pointing at a pot hole, waving up and down next to your hip to tell riders behind you're slowing, or pointing behind your back to say you're moving around an object as well as indicating left and right.
Check your bike over before your ride
Are the gears running smoothly? Are the brakes working - the pads aligned with plenty of life in them? Are your tyres in good nic, without too many scuffs or slices that could tempt waiting flints? It might also be worth checking with the ride leader before you turn up if it's customary to have mudguards fitted- or fit them just in case. Some people don't like being splattered with mud by the rider in front. We've no idea why either.
It can be easy feel nervous when riding with new people in a new environment - but do try to relax and enjoy conversation! This will be easier if you select a group that you know you can ride at a comfortable pace with (most clubs have groups setting off at various speeds), there will be plenty of time to pitch yourself against the faster riders later if you want to.
Don't arrive late
Firstly, if they don't know you're coming, the ride will probably leave without you, and chasing after the tail end of a moving group is never fun (trust me...)
Ride in line
Don't half wheel or overlap wheels. If you're in a larger group, you'll ride two abreast as this makes it easier for drivers to overtake you. In this scenario, try to ride next to your partner - don't pull slightly ahead of them - this is called half-wheeling and basically means they're constantly chasing you. Also keep square of the wheel in front - don't allow your front wheel to protrude to the left or right of their rear wheel - this is called overlapping, and could cause a crash if they need to swerve for any reason.
Riding in a group does take some skill - check out these etiquette points and formations for more information.
Listen to the ride leader
There will probably be someone in charge of keeping the group on course, more than likely they'll have planned the route and they'll probably be the only one that knows every twist and turn. Listen out for any calls from them.
Don't treat a club ride like a race
This point isn't just for fast riders - it also means you shouldn't need to feel nervous or upset if you're struggling - assuming you've chosen a ride of a suitable pace then people will be more than happy to regroup and wait for you. It also means if you find you're stronger than everyone else, you'll need to put a bit of a lid on it and spin gently, especially at inclines if you're a mountain goat.
Get ready to order large amount of club kit
You don't have to wear club kit to ride with the club, but it's nice. Once you've got the shorts or bibs, and jersey, it's highly likely you'll be tempted by the matching gilet, mitts, socks and cap. Well - what what else where you going to spend that pay day splurge on?!
At the end of the day, it's all about having fun and meeting new cyclists. If you enjoy your rides, you might even pop along to some club time trials - read more about what to expect here...