cycling · Guest Post

My First Group Ride (Guest Post)

Samantha has kindly been offering to take me on my first group ride for quite some time (I think it’s actually measured in years). “Not this time” I’d reply, “but keep asking.” Honestly I was too self conscious to go with other cyclists. I’m wobbly. I have an old bike that needs love and the forward posture of my road bike makes me feel…lumpy & exposed.

So finally I succumbed to Samantha’s invites and agreed to go Saturday, Sept 20 with her, Tracy and Mallory. The time was 7:30am and I tried to hide the abject horror I felt at setting an alarm for 6:30am on a Saturday. There may have been a few explicatives, even the morning of. However, I really needed a win, having had a pretty tough week on the personal and professional fronts, and I needed to get over this whole group ride fear thing.

All good in theory until Friday night when my anxiety went to full blown panic as I REALLY looked at my bike. I had left the old tires on while using the rollers as I didn’t want to wear out my new tires that way. I figured if I blew out old tires in a hallway no big deal. I hadn’t used the brakes much at all, on the rollers to stop I just stop pedaling and they were not in great shape.

I took out my brand new cycling shorts I bought at the Kincardine Women’s Triathlon and worried I’d be too cold. While I was fine with my lumpy legs on my own, with other people I felt exposed. Excuses, excuses, excuses!

The morning arrived and it was probably the most gorgeous fall day I’ve ever seen. I put on leggings with my shorts and a light fleece jacket, thinking I’d be cold. I got out the door and at the bottom of my street realized my brakes were super dodgy not to mention squeaky!

I ran into Tracy as I thought I’d gone to the wrong spot, turned around and we met with Mallory and Samantha. Sam gave my bike a quick looksee, it’s a 1963 ten speed. Honestly I love the dang thing, it cost me $100 and is dusty rose. I feel cheeky just riding it (I’m worried I might be part hipster).

We headed off down an easy bike path on a less than 20km loop. The pace was conversational and Sam taught me a few group riding hand signals. We weren’t attempting drafting or anything else, this was a ride to give me a sense of where my baseline was and spend time with my friends, perfect.

I really enjoyed chatting and riding, something I’ve never done before. When I shared how self conscious I was of my butt looking like it was eating the seat Samantha dropped back. She assured me “it looks like a butt on a seat, nothing scary”. A true friend does this, I am very lucky. I also know if anything looked askew she’d tell me to get a new saddle etc.

The path down to Springbank Park is essentially flat, with a couple bumps more than hills, so it is a great newbie ride. On the return leg we peeled off the main path to go for coffee and there was a little downhill with a turn. I actually said “WHEE!” involuntarily and then nearly hit a small dog, really must do something about those brakes.

There was a bit of an uphill on the way to the café but I geared down and huffed along, it felt doable. We got to the café and I put my left leg down to dismount but my knee collapsed and I completely wiped out on the sidewalk. I laughed and Tracy assured me it wouldn’t be a good outing if I didn’t get a bruise. I don’t even clip in, just my general clumsiness.

We had coffee and snacks then Tracy and I headed uptown after Samantha and Mallory told us the best route to take. There is a fairly big hill coming out of Harris Park onto Dufferin and I ended up walking the last bit, just too much at the end and I was out of gumption. We got to where we went our separate ways and I got home feeling pretty good.

4 lessons learned:

1) I was way over dressed, shorts and a light long-sleeved shirt would have been enough for me, I’m a sweaty human who warms up fast.

2) Water bottle holder on my road bike. I forgot it was only on my mountain bike. OOPS. Thankfully it fit in my pocket.

3) Bike maintenance is not only a good idea but a safety issue, change those brake pads and pack a spare tube! Actually, invest in a repair kit and put it under my seat.

4) My tires were underinflated. I thought they were at max pressure but after the ride I checked, I could have added another 25lbs of pressure and still been in range.

4 things that were better than expected:

1) Raising my handlebars this winter was exactly the right thing to do. When I want to go low I can and when my core is too weak to maintain the most aggressive posture I can adopt a more cruising stance.

2) My seat height is great. I had been playing around with it and now have the sweet spot.

3) Although I didn’t train over the summer I still have a baseline that made the trip within my comfort zone.

4) Peak lycra: Yes, I can wear lycra, on a road bike or at a café and the world won’t end. People won’t even point and scream, actually no one seemed to notice at all.

All in all it was a fun trip. I’m still working on reclaiming group exercise after my military years and this certainly went a long way in establishing how fun group cycling can be, I’ve even agreed to go again next week!

10 thoughts on “My First Group Ride (Guest Post)

  1. So glad you enjoyed your ride! I love riding with friends. Makes the km pass by quicker!
    I actually wanted to ask (if you’re willing to share) about your comment on reclaiming group exercise after military experience.
    I feel we may have a lot in common!!

    1. I served just under 12 years in the Canadian Forces. I attended Royal Military College from 1993-1996 where group exercise was the norm. There would be group competitions and the notion that the team was only as strong as its weakest link. This would often mean the slowest runner, shortest person, the person who could lift the least. Pitted against most men my age I was slower, shorter and weaker and often identified as the weakest link. There’s a lot of shame and punishment that comes with being identified as the person who is the slowest, even more so in a highly gendered space.

      I think the worst moment for me was on a group run when I had an asthma attack and they made one of my peers, who was also asthmatic, piggy back me to prove that asthma was not an excuse for slowing down or stopping.

      I find it hard to uncouple group exercise and shame. I have an irrational fear that I will ruin everyone else’s experience because I am slow, asthmatic, fat…whatever. It’s very at odds with how social I am. I enjoy other people. I find humans endlessly fascinating.

      So while exercising in a group can help any of us explore our boundaries or push our limits, and I think there is better safety in a group for that, I haven’t always experienced that as a positive, especially when pushed beyond my limits.

      I can’t imagine voluntarily signing up for a “boot camp” style workout. The yelling, the power dynamics, way too much for me. I like collaborative mentor-ship and encouraging coaching without the pressure and judgement of “dig deep, push hard”.

      If that makes sense?

  2. Beautiful bike, great ride, good coffee after. Hard to find a better way to kick off the weekend.

  3. I’m impressed – this random internet stranger has liked seeing your transformation towards reclaiming your body/health/exercise

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