I had a lot of firsts this morning:
- First time doing a group ride with a group of relative strangers
- Frist time doing a group ride on the open road
- First time taking my new tri-bike out on the open road
- First time riding my bike on Davis Island
One of my mini-resolutions this year was to become more comfortable on my bike in a group setting. Group rides have always terrified me in the past. The fear of slowing the group down, riding in a tight line, and being the set of eyes for the person in front of you can be very overwhelming. Especially when you throw in the fear of riding on open roads in the mix (my sister was hit by a car a few years ago and I’ve been mainly sticking with trails ever since).
However, I know groups can be very helpful in a training sense. Riding XX amount of miles by yourself on the same trail over and over again can get really boring after a while. Plus, the best way to gain speed on the bike is to ride with cyclists who are faster than you and make you want to push your limits (same is true with running!).
So I’m slowly trying to overcome my fears. Baby steps.
I started testing myself by riding with my friends. They taught me how to ride in a line and all the proper etiquette that comes with. Then I practiced some line riding with my siblings and slowly got the hang of it. The next big test was finding a casual no-drop cycling group that I could do a ride with.
Enter Outspokin Bicycle‘s Saturday Ladies Ride.
My friend Megan sent a text yesterday asking if I was interested in joining her for the 7:30am ride. She’s been looking for group rides to join and found this one on Facebook. Figuring I had to get a ride in anyway, I tossed all my group ride fear out the window and said yes. I didn’t know it was an all ladies ride until I arrived. I didn’t really think about it before hand, but I did kind of enjoy the fact it was ladies only. It definitely made it less intimidating for a newbie group rider like myself.
The group meets every Saturday at the new Tampa Outspokin location (GORGEOUS STORE! I want to go back to take advantage of their indoor training class ASAP). The store is new (just opened last month) so they’re still trying to get the word out about their group rides. There were four of us today, not including the store’s co-owner, Val, who led the group. Val was great. She seemed really opened to leading future groups whenever we’re available to ride. She encouraged us to email her our optimal riding schedules and she’d organize group rides from there. Love that!
We left the store’s parking lot at 7:45am and headed out to Davis Island via a few back roads and Bayshore. I’ve run along Bayshore hundreds of times, but this was my first time riding my bike on it. The road was very cyclist friendly and had a nice, wide bicycle lane that was easy to ride in. At first, I was so tensed up and nervous, that my hands were starting to ache from gripping my handles so hard. Eventually I began to calm down and loosen up. The cars zooming by weren’t as scary or intimidating as I thought they would be, and I felt very comfortable riding with the group in the bike lane.
Before we took off, we all agreed to holding a 15 mph pace. There was also a no-girl left behind philosophy, which made me feel good knowing the group wasn’t going to take off and leave me in the dust. Val was great at keeping a pretty consistent pace and, thankfully, I never felt like it was too fast or too slow – it was absolutely perfect.
We crossed the bridge from Bayshore to Davis Island and did a couple of loops of the Island. Davis Island is pretty much fitness central – I saw more runners and cyclists on the island than vehicles driving by.
We definitely lucked out with gorgeous weather for our ride. There was a cool breeze and not a cloud in the sky. The kind of weather that reminds me why I’m thankful to live in Florida.
After our third loop of the Island, we turned around and headed back to the store. The whole ride took us a little more than 20 miles. Whenever I’m on a trail the miles seem to drag and drag, today the miles felt like they flew by. My speed wasn’t any different (I think it may have bee a little slower), but a lot of it has to do with the change of scenery and focusing on the cyclist in front of me instead of just the long stretch of road ahead.
I really enjoyed the ride and the great group of girls I rode with. I felt comfortable with them on the road and never felt overwhelmed or panicked. Hopefully I’ll have the chance to join the ladies ride again in the future!
Do you ride with a group?