How to Choose the Right Cycling Club for You
So you have the bug – cycling might just be your thing. Now, you're looking for a cycling club to take your riding to the next level, further entrench your fitness into your life and make all-important social connections that'll help you hit the road with like-minded friends.
When I started cycling I thought it was perfect: all I needed was my bike. I could hop on whenever I had a bit of free time and ride – by myself. I completely underestimated the power of teammates and common goals. My first introduction to anything more than family rides around the block was the My First Fondo clinic the previous year. It had connected me with other rookies and they were instrumental in motivating me to work longer and harder and to finish my goals.
Starting the cycling club search
I was facing last March’s rain, yearning for more outside time and looking forward to getting on my bike. I was wondering what was next. The My First Fondo clinic coach was part of a cycling club and off-handedly said we could join if we wanted. Great, I thought, that is a good place to start
The number 1 reason I did not join his club was simple: the website was down. Luckily, Vancouver is ripe with cycling clubs. Glotman Simpson, Steed, Gastown, Kits Energy, Escape Velocity and many, many more. I had seen many of the clubs on the road. I’ve been completely rattled by them when 75 people buzz by going 40+ km/h. Some say hi. Others cheer you along. Some are too busy bro’ing it up to make the pass even feel safe, let alone like we are all apart of the same community.
From my research most of these clubs didn’t seem very open to newbies. It seemed easy to find programs for novices and lots for experts and advanced recreationalists.But what about the intermediate rider? The rider who wants to go faster than 25 km/h and wants to tackle 60+ km a week but isn’t ready for 35 km/h and 100 km rides right out of the gate?
Eureka! A women's cycling club
It never occurred to me to look for a women’s cycling club. I had seen so few women on the road, I didn't think a feisty group would team up and start a club. It is estimated that only 12 per cent of road cyclists are women. TWELVE! I see that on the road. I had entire training days where I didn’t see another woman. New to the sport, I wasn’t confident enough to even do a test ride with most of the clubs. My goal was to find an intermediate-friendly club – ideally with a good mix of men and women.
Late one night I stumbled on Wow Ride Cycling. The website was peppered with #StrongerTogether, Uniting Women Cyclists and inspiring women to hit the road with. I was barely off the home page before I was hooked. This was a club that ticked all the boxes and boasted many more bonuses, like rides from my own neighbourhood, Vancouver’s North Shore. I would soon meet powerful dynamic women that inspired me on and off the road. I'd found my club.
How to pick YOUR cycling club
- Flexibility: Look for a club with a variety of distances, speeds and abilities. This may be hard for new clubs but they should clearly define what rides they offer and how they communicate – it is never fun to be the rider at the back, feeling you are holding everyone back.
- Schedule: Find a club that offers a number of rides on different days and at different times. If you can’t make at least two of the rides, perhaps you need to find a different club. If you can’t regularly attend, these aren’t your teammates.
- Passion: Find a club that is active in the local cycling community. You want engaged and passionate leadership active in local politics or advocacy.
- Fun: We all love to ride but, sometimes, it is nice to see the group out of their kit ready for some fun. Social events can be an important part of creating a cohesive and supportive community.
- Communication: How does the club get its information out? Is the website up to date? Are they engaged on social media? Is there a weekly or monthly newsletter? You don’t want to be out of the loop. No one likes to be dropped – on or off the road.
- Education: All riders can improve their skills. Whether it is a post-ride session of changing flats or improving nutrition – education sessions and full-on training days show the club is passionate about creating safe, lifelong cyclists
- Do a guest ride: Check out the group dynamics and see if they work for you. Most clubs allow guests to join on special days or some may simply require a small fee to cover insurance if you don’t have your own. If you ride more than twice, buy the kit and join up.
Beware of some potential pitfalls
On any given Saturday or Sunday each city has its classic ride routes. Hit up the rest and regroup locations and hang out. Observe the clubs' different dynamics. I am on my second year with my club but I know which club I will join if I switch because I have seen its camaraderie and welcoming spirit by bumping into its members on so many weekend rides.
- Leadership: Is the club open and transparent? Do the members feel listened to and engaged?
- The clique: Again, is the club truly open or is there a little exclusive group that makes others feel like outsiders? This can happen in all clubs. If there seems to be an inner circle of extra fun, extra joy and inside jokes – give the club a pass.
Check out these other women’s cycling clubs in other parts of British Columbia and Canada:
She Rides Penticton (Penticton)
Team Tranquila Women’s Cycling (Central B.C.)
WOWride (Lower Mainland)
Team Fresh Air Athena (Kelowna)
DirtGirls Mountain Biking (Edmonton)
Spin Sisters Mountain Biking Club (Calgary)
X Elle Cycling Association (Kelowna)
MuddBunnies (chapters throughout Canada)
X Elle Women's Cycling