We realise that joining a cycling club can seem like a daunting step if you’re new to cycling or unsure of your fitness. There is a lot that we take for granted once part of a club, and a newcomer might feel embarrassed to ask some of the basic questions. Here are the answers to some of the questions you might be asking yourself – but please, if you have any further questions do not hesitate to get in touch. We are happy to give advice even if you decide the Ards Cycling Club isn’t for you!
What kind of bikes do you ride?
Generally we ride road bikes as most of our riding is done on tarmac. Our bikes are often quite light, with narrow tyres that help us maintain a good pace. Inevitably we have members who enjoy riding quite expensive bikes, but many others of us have quite ordinary frames with mid-range components. In winter the traditional amongst us ride with mudguards, although this is not a strict rule as it is with some clubs.
I only have a mountain bike, will that do?
The problem with mountain bikes is that they tend to be heavier than road bikes and, with knobbly tyres, can make riding on tarmac seem like hard work! This doesn’t matter except if you are trying to keep up with the faster riders on a club run. Some of our members can keep up on a mountain bike but usually they ride road bikes. If you do want to use your mountain bike, you will find the ride improved by fitting slick tyres, but you may still have to improve your fitness as well.
My bike is only cheap, does that matter?
We’re not the kind of club who’s members boast about their expensive bikes! Some of us enjoy knowing all about the latest components but you definitely don’t need a posh bike to join us. More expensive bikes benefit from being lighter, which means they are easier to ride uphill, but ultimately it doesn’t matter how expensive a bike is, as long as it’s well maintained.
Do you all do your own bike maintenance?
A well maintained bike will run smoother, have fewer mechanical problems, and will be more fun to ride. Some of us build our own bikes from scratch, others of us need help from professionals. Generally we can sort out most ‘running problems’ for ourselves and we can give you advice if need be.
Do I have to wear lycra?
Not at all! Lycra can be a bit ‘revealing’, but we dress like that for reasons of comfort. The shorts have a synthetic pad which helps keep your bum comfortable. The materials used in all the clothing tend to breathe well, reducing discomfort from sweating, and they don’t flap around in the wind. Some people are more comfortable riding in jogging bottoms, but these may not be comfortable on a long ride. Basic rules for a beginner are ride in whatever you’re comfortable, and remember to keep warm, especially in the winter months. It is better to be too warm than too cold.
Do I have to wear a helmet?
Yes….for your own safety!
I really just want some advice on buying a bike. Can you help?
Yes, simply ask. Most of us have experiences of various bikes and equipment and will be only too happy to advise you what to buy, and what to avoid. We’ve made the mistakes, no need for you to copy our errors! Remember however that we’re predominantly a road-based club, so our knowledge of all-terrain or “leisure” bikes may be limited.
How old do you have to be to join in the club’s activities?
There is no minimum age for Ards Cycling Club membership. Young people can join in the club’s activities as soon as they are ready to, and (where relevant) as soon as the rules of the event allow. To take part in club runs, youngsters under the age of 13 must be accompanied by an adult parent or guardian and those between the ages of 13 and 18 must have parental permission.
I don’t like riding near cars or on busy roads.
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 away from traffic.
How fit do I need to be to be able to come riding with you?
You’ll need a reasonable level of fitness to be able to do a ‘club run’ (club run being a social Saturday / Sunday ride, usually with a café stop). By reasonable level of fitness, we’d suggest that you should be able to ride about 30-40 miles, once or twice a week, at an average speed of around 15-16mph. Our Saturday club run is geared towards new members and is first and foremost a leisure run with a typical average speed of 16mph. Whereas the Sunday club run is geared towards more experienced riders, with a typical average speed of 19mph for 50-60 miles.
Do I need to be in the club to come on a club run?
Not at first, we’d want you to be sure that you wanted to join. You’ll be more than welcome as a ‘visitor’ for your first couple of club runs. The most important thing is that your bike is roadworthy, you wear a helmet and that you are able to keep up with the run. Following your trial club runs, if you wish to continue riding with us you will need to become a club member AND take a Cycling Ireland licence.
Do you ride close together in a group on club runs?
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.
But why ride so close together?
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 speed than we could on our own.
Is everyone else fast? What if I can’t keep up?
Not everyone is fast, and we’re not the kind of club where everyone tries to impress each other with speed. But you do need a certain amount of fitness and speed. Our average club run speeds vary from around 15mph (Saturday run) to 19mph (Sunday run). 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, and someone will ride with you to ensure you are ok. We won’t leave you behind in the middle of nowhere.
Our weekend club runs are NOT tempo runs or training rides. The emphasis is on the leisure aspect of club riding. If anyone wants to push themselves it is better to organise such rides (via Facebook, text etc) for during the week. Keep the weekend club runs for building up your ‘base miles’ at a nice leisurely pace. Weekend runs will cover anywhere from 30 to 60 miles with a break for coffee during the ride.
If required we can split the leisure group up depending on the number/ability of those riders who turn up on a weekend club run. A faster A group average pace will be somewhere in the region of 17-19 mph whereas a more relaxed B group average pace will be somewhere in the region of 14-16 mph. Average pace will be also be dependent on route, terrain, weather etc and should reflect the group’s overall ability.
I’m not good enough to come out with you yet.
If you believe that you’re not fit enough yet to come out with us, then hopefully the Ards Cycling Club can still offer you something. For example, each club run goes to a predetermined café, and if you wanted, 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 by posting on our Facebook page so we can confirm the café and 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 give you advice on which club run would best suit you. If you stick at it and ride regularly you’ll eventually wonder what all the fuss was about!
I’m faster than 15mph. Your club runs will be too slow for me!
We have two levels of club runs (Saturday 16mph average / Sunday 19mph average), so if you believe the slower run is too easy or short, then you can choose to ride on the Sunday with the other quicker riders. That said, club runs are a social ride where we aim to generally keep the group together. It may split on hills but will regroup on the other side. Club members who race go on separate training runs which are a lot quicker. If you find the club runs too slow you should ask about these, and think about racing!
Do I have to race?
No! Although the Ards Cycling Club has a fine racing heritage, and we always have some enthusiastic racers, our strength is that we are definitely not purely a racing club. Many of our members have never raced, whilst others have a racing background but are now content to take things at a slower pace. What you will find in Ards Cycling Club is a huge depth of cycling experience going back over many years – you could find yourself riding beside an ex-international racer, a current or ex-National Champion, or someone who has toured extensively abroad. However, Ards Cycling Club do promote races (e.g. Tour of Ards classic race March / April), which rely heavily on volunteers, and members are expected to assist in whatever way they can, for example by marshalling and assisting in the preparation and organisation. Some members even eventually volunteer to take over the organising of events!
How much off-road cycling do you do?
There are a few riders in our club who ride off-road and occasionally off-road trips are arranged, particularly in the winter cyclo-cross / MTB season. However, generally speaking we are a road-based club. If your passion is purely for riding off-road then you may find another club suits you better.
Do you shave your legs?
Generally, no! Serious racers shave their legs, and we do have some members in that category. The main reason is not for wind resistance. Shaven legs are easy to massage and reduce chances of infection if you crash.
Do you do anything else other than ride bikes?
Yes, we certainly do! Please keep an eye on our website and Facebook page for more details throughout the year.
How much does it cost to join Ards CC?
Membership of Ards Cycling Club isn’t expensive: £15 per year for over-18s, £5 for under-18s and only £1 for ‘Supporter only’ members. Membership is normally renewable at the start of each year. However, if you join on or after 1 November, your initial membership runs till the end of the following year. Cycling members must also take out a Cycling Ireland licence (costs for 2014 range from £17 to £114 depending on the category required).
How do you keep in touch with members?
The website provides up to date information on Club runs, time trial dates, and race results. We also have a Facebook which is growing in popularity and is proving to be the quickest method of communicating with the majority of members.
You haven’t answered all my questions!
Please do ask us any other questions you may have via our Contact page.
If I wanted to join, what should I do next?
We’ll be pleased to welcome you to Ards Cycling Club – please download and complete the Club Membership application form and forward it to the Club Secretary together with payment.