Group Riding

07 August 2018

Once you are gaining confidence on the bike, and your braking and cornering skills are becoming more natural, it’s time to start riding! Well riding longer both in time and distance.  

At lunch times and after work, I have been using the work bike to ride around Bicentennial Park. Sydney Olympic Park has over 30km of cycleways, which is great to get a beginner rider cycling. In Bicentennial Park there are a lot of loops you can do that require no road riding at all. These can often get busy on weekends and around peak hour so they are also a good place to practice:

  • Judging actions of pedestrians and other cyclists i.e. 2 groups of pedestrians walking opposite directions. You will need to slow your speed and judge when to overtake the group in front of you – so you don’t come across them at the same time.
  • Ringing your bell or calling out to pedestrians when passing to let them know you are there
  • Judging hills – getting into the right gear/approaching at the right speed
  • Turning corners at the right speed and keeping an eye out for what is around the other side
  • Learning the special signs that cyclists must obey.

Plus if you don’t own your own bike just yet, there is also bike hire available in the park.

After doing a few smaller loops during the week, about 4km, my confidence on the bike was getting better. Learning to trust your judgements but also making sure you are riding to a level that you comfortable/confident at. If you don’t feel ok riding down a steep hill, don’t do it. If you are worried about how far you can ride, just make it shorter. In the early stage of riding you don’t want to give yourself such a fright that you don’t continue riding. It’s about incremental steps.

My next step this week was my first group ride. I met Charlene from Addventageous at Parramatta near the ferry wharf.  

Any good ride leader will talk through the basic route, in particular any tricky bits of the ride. You will usually have a ride leader at the front and a sweep at the back. The sweep ensures the group stays together. Plus usually in a group ride, you will ride in single file.

As a beginner rider, listen to the instructions of the ride leaders. Remember to keep a 1 metre distance from the bike rider in front, but don’t let them get too far away either.  If you aren’t feeling too confident, let your Ride Leader know and they can keep an eye on you. Plus, your first group ride should be at a slow pace and a shorter distance. For example mine was 9km/h across 6km. For me, I felt fine at the end of this ride, but cycle to your strength. If you aren’t feeling confident let your Ride Leader know.

Our loop was from the Parramatta ferry wharf up around Parramatta Park and back. It was a great loop and at around 10am, there weren’t too many people out and about.

A good thing about going on rides in a group, is usually the Ride Leader has done that loop often. They will know the tricky sections and will let you know in advance. On this route, there is a section where you go down a hill, loop under the bridge and have to cycle back up the hill on the other side. However it’s a blind corner so you really need to stay to your left but also be prepared for the hill the other side.

Parramatta Park is great for riding. It has a 3.2km loop where pedestrians, cyclists and cars are segregated.  However the cyclelane is on the road with only a line marking to distinguish it so you will need to be aware of what the cars are doing around you. The loop has a few hills so you can practice using your gears as well. Definitely a good place for a first group ride.

You can read more about the track here.

I was happy with the first group ride, nothing too challenging but I do need more practice on steep hills! Going up is ok for me, it’s the down that is the issue.

This week also just happened to be the Ride Leader Training Course at Bicycle NSW. 15 or so candidates had to complete various requirements in order to become a qualified ride leader – one of them includes leading a ride. On these rides there are 7 ride actors who play out various things that can happen on rides i.e. a slow rider, a fast rider, an accident, mechanical issues etc. So I did manage to get some more group riding in for this week plus also learn what can go wrong on a ride.

You will often notice in group rides they will shout out hazards ahead i.e. “stopping” (group are stopping), “slowing” (group is slowing), “people up” (pedestrians coming), “bike/rider up” (bikes coming), “bollard” (bollard ahead). With these it’s good to shout it down the line so all riders know what is ahead. It’s also advisory to brush up on what hand signals mean.

I did receive a few handy tips from this group, mainly buying a pair of gloves. If you do happen to fall off, you will try and catch yourself with your hands. The gloves will soften the impact and protect your hands from cuts and abrasions.  

Also, if you are swapping bikes like I am you will notice that most bikes have different gears.  My first bike with Charlene had the twist gear however the work bike has levers. It is good to try out different bikes, so you know what you feel comfortable with before you buy your own.  

Where are you riding this week? Let me know by sending me an email.