Joining a cycling club isn't as simple as one might think. You don't just join the first one you come across or hear about. Or at least in my opinion, you shouldn't do it that way. There are a lot of different things to look out for when considering a cycling club to join. Now i'm not saying this is the right way or the wrong way to do it, but from my own personal experience and comments I have had from others, this is how I think you should break it down.
What Type of Cyclist are You?
Are you cycling years but never thought about joining a club until now? Maybe you are relatively new to cycling but want to meet other cyclists like yourself and progress at the same time? You could be a weekend road warrior, sprinting for every speed sign you see with the ambitions to take up some form of racing.
Once you establish why you cycle or what you are hoping to get from it, will make it 100 times easier when it comes to choosing a cycling club to join that ticks the boxes for you.
Types of Cycling Clubs
There are a few different types of cycling clubs out there. Let's take a brief look at some of the main points. It is a massive help if you know someone within a club already, talk to them, get their opinion and see what suits your needs. Firstly you have your standard leisure club. Almost all clubs have leisure cyclists in them and this type of club and riders make up the backbone of our huge cycling community. Nice midweek spins and a longer weekend ride generally with a cafe stop along the way somewhere. Who doesn't love some coffee and cake on a Sunday spin? If that is what you're after then you want a leisure only club.
Then you have the racing clubs. Does exactly what it says on the tin. Specifically there for guys and girls who want to race. Whether you are looking at getting into racing or people already racing but want a core group of riders around them to train with and attend races with at the weekends. Generally speaking there will often by different category racers within any club which, if you are unfamiliar can range from A1 to A4. Midweek training rides are a normal thing working on specific goals and power targets with winter weekend rides in the off season consisting of big base miles.
Most guys and girls I have been lucky enough to meet through racing have a coach or training plan of some sort which seems to be very much the norm nowadays, myself included and we train on our own quite often or sometimes with only one or two other riders. We would often be training to specific power figures etc depending on your plan and goals so a regular leisurely weekend club ride isn't always possible. With a racing club however, as long as you are fully committed you can be sure to become the best rider you can be.
Now you do have clubs that are a mix of both. Larger member numbers, excellent community spirit, meeting like minded people of all abilities, several groups of varying distances and speeds planned. A healthy amount of competitiveness. The majority of cyclists I know are in this type of club, including myself. Here you can spend the first while taking part in leisure events and trips with the club. As times goes on, you get fitter and stronger and possibly develop the itch for racing and can now do that within the club (don't forget to upgrade you Cycling Ireland licence) This is excellent for you to grow and develop further and everyone in the club encourages you to do your best.
Now we get to the slightly different type of club/group that was setup through your workplace. Most large businesses now have some form of social club or arrange their own social events for their hardworking employees. I've seen a massive increase in the amount of people to take up cycling through the 'Bike To Work' scheme then all of a sudden there's a dozen employees who want to now cycle together and create a club within the workplace. This has huge benefits as typically everyone is starting off at roughly the same standard and can enjoy the road ahead together in improving and attending sportives etc. For the employer themselves it also works as a great form of advertising having a large group out representing the workplace.
Now at the end of the day, nobody is perfect and you will find pros and cons to all forms of clubs no matter what type it is. It's rare that someone finds a club that ticks 100% of boxes for them, there is always something that they might like to see done differently but that's another can of worms we won't open. Here are a few that have been compiled from a few different people of all ages and ability from around the country.
"In a group ride, you will always have to ride at the speed of the slowest rider"
"Not always great for specific training reaching certain distance or power targets"
"Some clubs never start their group rides on time which can be frustrating for you if you need to be home by a certain time to do other things"
"There is always someone who splits the group up, especially on climbs and this can irritate others within the group"
Ultimately though, clubs are there to bring us and the overall cycling community closer together. Arrange events, meet new friends, discover new places and routes all the while doing something we love.
Now, more than ever our community needs to stick together through these unsettling and uncertain times. Look forward to brighter days and better times ahead when we can all come together again, get out and enjoy the road. Here's to many safe and happy miles ahead.