Joining a cycling bunch is a rewarding way to enjoy cycling and make it a social activity – After all Cycling is the New Golf. It gives you time to connect with others and compare bikes and gear). Your aspirations could be competitive or social and there are a few things to know when joining a bunch. Firstly we will look at finding a bunch and secondly the etiquette for joining onto a cycling bunch of unknown riders.
How do you find other riders? You probably already know if you are a mountain biker, road cyclist or into other styles of cycling and this (of course) is a good starting point. Here are a few places to start – and remember that it does take some effort on your part which includes going out of your comfort-zone to find the right group of riders.
Finding a Cycling Bunch and Riders
Colleagues and Friends
Probably the easiest way to start is with colleagues and friends – talk about cycling and pretty quickly you will find out who else rides, and plan to go for a ride together. You can also get referrals from your connections to cycling groups – it is always nice to have an existing connection.
Your Local Bike Shop
Good local bike bikes shops often have shop rides and some even have teams connected to the shop. For the bike shops, they are an excellent way to increase loyalty among customers – and in turn, customers can join regular local rides. Some shops will have different rides, such as monthly rides for beginners and weekly rides for more advanced riders.
Your Local Cycling Club or Bicycle User Group
Cycling clubs are generally for competitive cycling and often members will cycle together during training rides which may be organised by the club or independently by members who enjoy cycling together. Some clubs offer recreational membership for riders who are not interested in competing and social rides.
Bicycle User Groups (BUGs) are often recreational and accommodate riders of all ages and abilities. These are a good avenue for riders who are interested in cycle tours in the local region. BUGs may also be orientated towards cycling advocacy and engaged in building or fostering cycling routes in the local area.
Online Bunch Ride Finders
There are hundreds of online website which connect cyclists, simply turn to Google. Cyclists will also turn to local cycling forums to reach out to others and connect and other cycling interest groups. While there is often a disconnect between virtual / anonymous communities and the real world, take time to understand and judge a group. Also be aware that a stranger or group of strangers online will not necessarily follow-through and be as reliable as in real life.
Etiquette for Joining a new Cycling Bunch
Whether you have found a brand new bunch of cyclists to ride with or your are out on the ride and want to join onto a group of riders, there are a few things worth knowing.
The first is that there is a lot you don’t know. This includes how well each of the other cyclists can ride in terms of fitness, bike handling skills and regard for others. You also don’t know the etiquette of the group – for regular cycling bunches, they may have their own protocols and make assumptions for all riders.
If you have organised to rider with a new group, take a few moments before setting off to discuss etiquette. For example if you are a beginner rider without experience riding the planned route, let this be known. Often there will be a ride leader or senior rider who provides guidance for the whole group – it is worthwhile connecting with them.
In a new bunch, it can make sense to ride at the back and observe until you are familiar and comfortable with the group.
The Unknown Bunch
If you are riding solo and come across another bunch who are riding at a similar speed, it can be nice to join them however etiquette is needed.
Firstly, ask the riders if it is ok to join them. Some groups may prefer not to have unknown riders; they may be concentrating on training or may be wary of the riding ability of strangers. In this case hang well behind the group and if you choose to overtake, don’t slow down.
Similarly, a bunch that overtakes shouldn’t slow down and you can ask them to speed up or drop behind if they are distracting.
For a new bunch, it is worthwhile remaining at the back and some bunches may allow you to join but prefer that you don’t take part in the rolling paceline. If you are welcome in the group, do take your turn on the front of a rolling paceline and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Follow ride etiquette within the cycling bunch, pointing out obstacles and holes plus signalling your intentions. It is better to do too much, in the effort of safety, rather than not enough. And just as important, chat with the other riders.