A couple of weeks ago I met up with Barnet Cyclists for the first time. So far my recreational rides have been very much on my own – exploring the countryside north of Barnet and building up my stamina for longer rides. I’d not really thought too much about riding with a group, but then after I joined the London Cycling Campaign I started getting emails from Jo telling me about meetings and rides. The first one I was able to make was Sunday 2nd September, one of their “Turn Up and Go” (TUAG) rides with Macdonalds in North Finchley as the meeting place.
I turned up in reasonable time, went in and asked the group sitting near the door with all their cycling gear on if they were Barnet Cyclists – like there was anybody else there at that time on a Sunday morning! My question got the answer it deserved from somebody with a similar sense of humour to me – “No” – but said with a smile. After introductions my next question about where we were going was met with “We haven’t decided yet – has anybody got any ideas?” To cut a long story short, a lady called Alison took the lead on a ride which took us out to Shenley for morning coffee, St Albans for a pub lunch, and then back towards Finchley via the services at South Mimms for afternoon tea.
All this apparent obsession with food and drink is easily explained by the club’s coat of arms and Latin motto.
As we supped our tea in the afternoon I asked what the Latin motto said. As it turned out there was a dispute over the actual translation as two Latin scholars were involved. I offered to get them a third different opinion by running the motto past my wife. In the end it was revealed that whatever the Latin actually said, the intention behind it was to say “No open café knowingly passed”.
Whatever the Latin motto may say, the reality is that we did a fair amount of pedalling, covering about 30 miles over the day and at a fairly gentle pace – this is decidedly not a racing club. It certainly put my mind to rest about being able to keep up, especially on hills.
Turning up with Bob provided a real degree of interest as I was the only person on a recumbent and this was clearly a bit of a novelty. Some members had seen them around and read about them, and there was definite interest in how I’d get on with hills given the reputation that recumbents have in this regard. As it happens I didn’t have any problem with hills, partly because the group was going at a pretty slow pace at times – slower the further uphill we went. Making sure I stayed within the group meant that I just geared down and didn’t push as quickly or as hard as I would have done on my own. In fact this helped provide me with one of my greatest lessons of the day – going slowly with minimal effort and regular breaks meant that I covered 30 miles and didn’t feel particularly tired at the end of a very pleasant day. Well that’s opened my eyes to the possibilities of being able to manage touring!
With a starting group of 17 I’ll say now that I certainly don’t remember everybody’s names, but I certainly don’t mind going back and finding out again.
Upsides to cycling with a group?
- Going places I didn’t know about and probably wouldn’t have found – or not for a long time!
- Meeting new people, making new friends
- Not having to worry about where we’re going because somebody else is leading the group
- Being able to relax and enjoy the ride
- Having my natural enthusiasm for pedalling restrained a little by staying within the group meant I learned how much further I can go by taking my time and having regular breaks
- Not getting to know the area quite so well because I’m not having to pay so much attention to the route – too busy socialising on the ride!
- Taking photos on the way isn’t easy in a group. You can’t just stop off for a minute to get great photos of the scenery