Getting on your bike is easier when you’re doing it with others. And age or a heart condition don’t have to get in the way, as Sarah Brealey found when she met members of Darlington Cycling Club.
The veterans of Darlington Cycling Club come from all walks of life. Some have cycled since childhood; others took it up in retirement.
However, they are all united by a love of cycling and the benefits of club riding – not just someone to shelter behind on a windy day, but the banter, the chance to learn from those with more experience, and support through tough times. At least five of the veterans – who jokingly refer to themselves as the ‘Old Gits’ – have a history of heart conditions.
They haven’t let those conditions, or the fact that most of them are in their 60s and 70s, stop them heading out on rides of 60–70 miles every Tuesday and Thursday.
Join a cycling group
If you’re interested in joining a cycling group, it’s important to find the right club for you. First, what kind of cycling do you want to do – mountain biking or road, leisure or racing?
CTC (Cyclists’ Touring Club) has member groups across the UK, for all abilities – so if you’re new to it, this is a good place to start. Visit the CTC website or call 01483 238337.
British Cycling has more than 1400 affiliated clubs – find one at the British Cycling Club Finder.
Your local bike shop can probably point you towards cycling clubs.
If you’re worried whether you can keep up with a group, contact the club secretary in advance to get an idea of distance and pace.
Most clubs have a modest membership fee, but you’ll usually be able to try out a ride before joining.
Group cycling tips
If you haven’t cycled in a group before, be aware of these safety guidelines:
- Let others know of hazards ahead by pointing and calling out. "Car down" means car approaching from the front, "car up" means car behind.
- Shout and signal if you intend to move out or stop. Riders at the front shout "clear" or "stopping" as they approach a junction.
- Don’t ride more than two abreast, and go in single file if that’s more appropriate to the road conditions.
- Don't overlap wheels with the rider in front.
- Ride in a straight line – don’t weave about.
- If you’re struggling to keep up, stay at the back of the group.
- If you're leaving the group, drop to the back and let someone know.
- Carry basic tools – at least a pump, spare tubes and tyre levers, and wear a helmet. Don’t forget lights if you might need them. In winter, proper mudguards are a good idea and are a courtesy to your fellow riders.