Friday, February 1, 2008

Safety in Numbers: Which Group Ride is Right for You?

There's no better way to meet new people, learn new things, and increase your fitness than by participating in group rides. And no matter what kind of cyclist you are, there's a group ride for you. Here are just some of the group rides you can participate in this weekend:

The Eternal Roll-Out Ride

Every group ride begins with at least a few miles of easy spinning. This allows riders to warm up their legs and catch up with each-other. Eventually, though, the chit-chat ends and the pace picks up. If you live in fear of that moment, The Eternal Roll-Out Ride is for you. Here, the camaraderie never ends and the real riding never begins. It’s 50 blissful miles of looking the part without having to actually play it.

The Epic Ride

The Epic Ride is the stuff of legend. Literally. Every Sunday riders meet at the local cafe and agree on the day’s exploits. They then disband, go home, and blog about it. Here’s a sample from the 16th paragraph of one of last week’s ride reports: “We hit the base of the big climb doing 60k. My wattage was off the charts as I took my turn at the front. After three miles of climbing in the big ring the gradient kicked up from 19% to 25%. Knowing I only had a few more bullets in the chamber, I made my move, shredding what was left of the group.”

The 29er Ride

Like 29ers and preaching to the choir? You’ll love The 29er Ride, which consists entirely of riders endlessly extolling the virtues of their big-wheeled machines to one-another. Ride highlight from last weekend: hitting that rocky climb again and saying for the fourteenth time, “Oh man, I never would have cleaned that on my 26-inch bike.”

The Knowledge Ride

This left-leaning group of academics has a penchant for long-reach calipers, fenders, and Avocet tires no narrower than 25mm. The pace of this ride is as sensible as the equipment, and as each rider takes the front he or she also holds forth on vital issues of the day. The route and the topics always change, but there’s one thing you can count on: someone’s going to drop the hammer—of knowledge! (This weekend, expect topics of discussion to include Barack Obama, the economy, and a guilty 20 minute diversion into Britney Spears’ latest hospitalization under the flimsy guise of a parenting debate.)

The Arby’s Sessions

Fixed-gear freestyling comes to New York City’s exurbs every Saturday night with the famous Arby’s Sessions, which take place in a fast food restaurant parking lot in Norwalk, CT. Rumor has it that this week, Drew, who got to third with Hilary Rubin one time and can smoke a whole cigarette with inhaling, is going to finally pull off a backwards circle. Also, Brandon is expected to show up on his new Pista Concept, which he’s been begging his parents for and which they finally bought him after he totally rocked the PSATs.

The Compact Ride

At first glance, this is a group road ride like any other. But look closer and you’ll see that every rider is using a diminutive compact crank. Yes, The Compact Ride means there is finally a place where the small of ring and BCD can come to feel safe from scorn and ridicule. It’s like a ¾-scale real ride. Expect lots of pro-compact chit-chat on that first climb, and expect even more anti-triple ranting.

The Newbie Ride

Every week, three or four nascent cyclists from the trendy neighborhood head out in their jeans on a motley assortment of fixed-gears and old road bikes to that place over the bridge they heard about at the bike shop. The first 20 miles is spent mocking the roadies in lycra who keep passing them. The next 20 miles includes lots of stops to struggle awkwardly with mechanical problems, a lengthy delay caused by a sneaker shoelace getting caught in a drivetrain, and a resolution to leave the locks and stuff home next time and bring water bottles. The ride home is awkwardly silent, and the rest of the day is spent nursing severe crotchal chafing. Be sure to show up the following week to see who caved first and bought cycling shorts.

The Recreational Cycling Club Ride

Do you call cycling “biking,” use flat bars on the road, and keep your cellphone in a fanny pack? If so, this is the ride for you. The only tattoos on this ride are chainring tattoos. Strap on your helmet, slip on that neon green windbreaker, clothespin that route map to your handlebars, and hit the road. Don’t worry about getting dropped—this ride stops for everyone, and it stops a lot. This weekend: a four-hour, 15-mile round trip ride to an ethnic restaurant.