Group Rides: Casual, Competitive and Colossal

When Pierre and Ernest Michaux invented the modern bicycle nearly a century and a half ago, it is unlikely that they envisioned the multiplicity of enterprises for which it would be used. We use bikes to get places more efficiently and more economically, we use them to stay in shape, and we use them to enjoy the simple pleasure of spending an afternoon outside. In all of these activities, we see utility, and we believe that the utility of bringing together like-minded people for a group ride is as important as the utility of riding from point A to point B. The group ride – large or small, fast or slow is the most basic celebration of the bicycle. And, just like the bicycle, group rides come in an amazing variety of shapes and sizes.

The Casual Ride

After commuting to work all week, or pushing your lactate threshold to its limits on training rides, cyclists of all backgrounds and styles can come together for the casual group ride. Lots of local advocacy organizations and bike shops coordinate the details of a casual group ride with the intention of getting a group of people together that love to ride bikes for different reasons but all still share the same passion about the sport and the machine. For many people, the casual ride is an excellent way to get back into cycling, and for other people, it is the perfect way to unwind. The social nature of these rides often transitions seamlessly into dinner and drinks, and adding a theme to a casual ride can spice things up who could turn down the opportunity to ride in a onesie with the Bike Happening?

Image Credit: The Bike Happening
Image Credit: The Bike Happening

The Shop Ride

The Shop isnt necessarily a bike shop (although it often is). Coffee shops are a common host to weekly rides, as are many restaurants. Whether youre looking for an organized training ride or a way to log some extra miles within the safety and comfort of a peloton, shop rides are an excellent way to learn the rules of the road, gain confidence riding in a group, and meet people with similar riding interests and goals. It is important to do your research before you head out on a group ride. Some rides have no-drop policies (a ride leader stays with the slowest of the bunch and ensures a safe journey to the finish), and other rides are more aggressive, less forgiving hammerfests that are not intended for the faint of heart. Make sure that before you depart on a ride, you are comfortable with the groups policies and procedures.

The Big Ride

RAGBRAI, the Registers Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, is the oldest, longest and most popular weeklong ride in the country. In seven days, cyclists of varying abilities travel more than 470 miles on their bikes in this supported tour. The event features entertainment, an Expo and plenty of merchandise for participants and fans to take home, and RAGBRAI has become the quintessential big ride that draws participants from all over the world to ride together across Iowa each July. Many other big rides are also charity rides, including Bike MS (which has chapters all over the country) and the American Diabetes Association Tour de Cure, which give cyclists a chance to ride for a good cause. Finally, several progressive bike-friendly cities organize rides that allow people to experience the city by bike in a safe and organized fashion. BikeDC, for example, is scheduled for May 23rd, 2010 and will take riders on a 19-mile tour of the nations capital on a car-free, supported course past a collection of impressive sights.

Whether you love to ride for no reason at all, or you enjoy the additional motivation that comes with participating in a charity event or an organized weekly training ride, there is a group ride out there that suits your needs.

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