Neither do we. Generally, all our rides are on quiet minor roads and lanes, away from cars as much as possible. We get out to these lanes as soon as we can. Of course, if you are on a mountain bike outing, a lot of the ride will be off-road away from traffic.
Yes, we do tend to ride in fairly close formation and this does take a bit of getting used to if you’re new to cycling. However, there’s no need to be daunted. If you’re a bit uncertain then it’s best to start at the back of the group where you don’t have to worry about people around you. From there you can soon learn some basic things about group riding and your confidence will increase. If you find that you are having difficulty in keeping up with the main group then it is important that you notify other members so this can be taken into consideration by the rest of the group.
Riding ‘on someone’s wheel’ as it’s called gives you the benefit of slipstream. Riding close enough to the person in front of you can save you as much as 15-40% of your energy, depending on the speed and size of the group, which enables us all to maintain a higher average than we could on our own.
Group riding is safe; there are very few reported incidents of rider on rider accidents, especially if simple rules are followed. When it does happen, the most common cause is sudden stopping, or a sharp change in direction. If you need to stop for any reason, shout ‘stopping’ before you slow down. This also alerts the group if you are stopping due to a mechanical problem.
Not everyone is fast, and we’re not the kind of club where everyone tries to impress each other with speed. Our average club runs vary from around 13mph (slow group) to 18mph (fast group). Remember, though, it is ALWAYS easier when you are riding in a group, and you may be surprised how easy the miles pass when you are chatting away. If you start to struggle, don’t worry, we’ve all been there. We will do our absolute best not to leave you in the middle of nowhere!
If you believe that you’re not fit enough yet to come out with us, then hopefully the Sotonia can still offer you something. For example, each week the club run goes to a pre-selected café. You could make your own way there at your own pace, meeting us for a slice of cake and some tea. Just let us know that you’ll be there so that we can look out for you. We may even be able to arrange for one of our members to meet up with you for an initial ride and advise on which group would best suit you. If you stick at it and ride regularly you’ll eventually wonder what all the fuss was about!
We usually have three more levels of club runs, so if you believe the slower run is too easy or too short, then you can choose to go with the quicker riders. That said, club runs are a social ride where we aim to generally keep together. Club members who race sometimes go on separate training runs which are a lot quicker and harder. If you find the club runs too slow you should ask about these, and think about racing!