Some time ago a reader mentioned trying to find a local cycling group via Meetup.com. I took their advice and found one rather easily. It’s a road and mountain biking group here locally with over 200 members. They do a lot of their own group rides but also coordinate meeting at other area group rides. I’ve been a member of the group for a couple of weeks but didn’t meet for a ride until yesterday.

The 9 AM Monday Morning ‘Social’ Ride

Monday was a holiday so with me not working I took the opportunity to try a group ride that I wouldn’t normally be able to make. The ride was a ‘social’ ride and was one of the weekly rides put on by the North Florida Bicycle Club. Four other members of the Meetup.com group were RSVP’d to attend so it looked like fun. Plus, the start point was only a mile from my house so it was easy just to ride to the start. Seemed like a no-brainer for my first group ride here in Jacksonville.

Muppets Group Bicycle Ride

PhotoC: neotint

When I showed up there was already a group of 20 or so cyclists standing around. The group included men, women, young, old, and mostly road bikes. There were a couple of the older gentlemen (one was 82) riding recumbent trikes and a new lady rider on a nice Specialized Hybrid. The vast majority though were road riders. I wasn’t there but a couple of minutes when several people introduced themselves. They made me feel right at home which was awesome. By the time we started there was probably about 25 riders.

Before we started the ride leader gave a short pre-ride brief. It was your basic stuff like expected speeds, who was leading what groups (fast, medium, slow), and safety. One thing it didn’t include, and I wish it had, was a review of the route. More on that later.

We started out and I fell in with the main bunch of riders to kinda feel it out, see what they’re riding style was like, and see where I would fit in speed wise. It became obvious right away that I was too fast for the slow group which was a great feeling. I tucked into the rear of the medium speed group and stayed there all the way until the first rest stop which was 9 miles into the ride.

After having ridden 9 miles with the medium group, stayed on well with them, and not being winded at all at the rest stop, I was feeling really good. I remember thinking to myself that maybe the riding I’ve been doing has paid off and I won’t embarrass myself too bad today. Oh how I was wrong.

Slapped In The Face

Slap in the face

PhotoC: Vermin Inc

We took off from the rest stop and I’m with the same group I had just ridden with. Within a couple hundred yards people start going around me. Then some more. And then a couple on a tandem. I turn around and I’m last in line and I’m riding around 15-16 mph. We approach a church where the group takes a couple of laps around the parking lot (I heard somebody say they do that to add an extra half-mile to the ride) and then start towards the second rest stop about 10 miles away. Within about a half-mile the group is really starting to pull away. I end up having to ride at 22 mph for several minutes to even catch the tail-end of the group but I can’t stay there. I end up a couple hundred yards back for the next five miles and then we take a right turn and head South. Straight into a stiff headwind.

The next 2 or 3 miles are very difficult for me. The wind is smacking me in the face and punishing for my thoughts of adequacy back at the first rest stop. I’m having a real hard time maintaining 14 mph into the wind and can just barely keep two riders in my sights due to turns in the road. We eventually turn back to the West and I can pick my speed up some. I eventually catch the two riders ahead of me and as we pull into the second stop I’m wasted.

Route Confusion

The leader says that the group is going to head back to the start/finish point and describes the route back which is really simple. Thankfully, the remaining few miles we have a tailwind and I can keep my speed up. But before long I’m gaped again and the group is a few hundred yards ahead of me. I can see them up ahead of me as they approach a stop light and this is where the route confusion comes in.

I’m expecting the group to make a left to head back to the start/finish. Instead, they make a right and go the opposite direction. I’m totally confused because there’s no direct route back to the start/finish via the direction they went. They would have to loop around and backtrack in order to make it to the finish. I look behind me and there’s nobody I can ask what’s going on. I take it as an opportunity to finish my ride for the day. I make a left at the light and pedal on home.

Post Ride Analysis

For the ride I put in 23.44 miles at an average speed of 14.1 mph. That average speed over 23 miles is pretty good for me. The slow group was supposedly riding at around 12 mph so that would have been too slow. I was probably riding in the right group but just don’t have the fitness yet to stay with them. Yet.

Overall, I thought my first group ride experience here was good. Everybody was friendly and made you feel welcome. A lot of the groups rides are at times I can’t go because of this thing called ‘work’ so I’ll have to hunt around for some Saturday group rides I can attend. A friend on Dailymile mentioned one that’s no-drop so maybe I’ll try it.