Back in September I decided to take part in a charity ride. It was my first and though I have been told never to say never, it will likely be my last. I had listened to several folks tell of their issues on rides like this and they gently cautioned me against participation. Looking back, I really wish I had listened.
I am no stranger to riding in groups. My BuRP group has been riding together for over 10 years now. At our peak year, we h
ad close to 50 bikes in our pack. The crowd at this charity ride easily dwarfed our group when I arrived and there were still tons of bikes to come. I’ve learned over the years that I prefer smaller groups and this solidified my feelings on group riding: less is more. This was way more that I cared to ride with but I had hoped my apprehension would ease once we got moving.
Now, I am not saying that I am the best rider out there. My limitations are clear to me and I ride within my ability. There were a lot of riders in this group who had no business on a ride of this size. I saw people who did not understand staggering, pace, safe distance, etc. Frankly, there were several moments on this ride that were downright scary. Constantly looking out behind and in front of me, I quickly got nervous and it effected my enjoyment.
This is where things get really interesting and honestly, there are a couple ways to interpret what happened. In retrospect I cou
ld have handled the situation differently and as I am not familiar with protocol for group rides like this, I may be completely in the wrong. At one point in the ride, I realized the route would be going right through my neighborhood. I pulled off to text my wife so she could bring our kids to see all the bikes. Once I was done, I looked for an opening and pulled back into the pack.
Half a mile up the road another rider pulled up next to me and told me I wasn’t part of this ride and I needed to get out of the pack. Certain he was joking and trying to figure out how I knew him, I asked if he was serious. He assured me that he was and told me again to pull off. I explained I had left from the dealership and I was going to continue the ride. He then admonished me for jeopardizing the safety of other riders by pulling back into the pack like I did.
A little taken aback and angry, I kept my cool and told him I thought he was making a mountain out of mole hill. He assured me he wasn’t and sped up to get in front of me. I was not happy with how it had played out so I pulled up to him again. Do not worry, the fact that all of this is more dangerous than my original transgression is not lost on me but I digress. I asked him if he really wanted to talk about this which opened the can of worms. He shouted, with nodding approval from his wife, that I was a dangerous rider and inconsiderate and had jeopardized the lives of everyone on the ride. Going on, he explained that the group was in formation and I had made everyone shift. My response was that this was normal on a group ride and I had to do it all the time to which he disagreed.
At this point, I felt like I might be dealing with an individual who had ulterior motives of some sort so I just let him get in front of me and didn’t think about it again. Pulling in to park at the halfway point, he rode up to me again and explained that he saw my registration wrist band and I had a right to be on the ride but he still thought my actions were reckless. I told him at this point, seeing that trying to talk while trying to park in a group of hundreds of bikes was a bad idea, that I would come find him once I stopped.
As I approached he immediately started in on me, in a much calmer and less accusatory tone, about all the things he had previously stated. Before it got too far, I stopped him and introduced myself and shook his hand. He continued on and I let him without interruption. My rebuttal was simply to state that I disagreed with his position and that my intention was to have fun and and a good ride and not to hurt anyone. I apologized if my actions upset him and we parted ways.
I’ve talked to several people about this incident. I have a general consensus about what most folks seem to think but I’ll let you form you own opinion. What do you think? Leave a comment below, I’d like to hear all the takes on it I can. Regardless, it is enough for me not to throw myself into another obscenely large ride with a group of complete strangers. I am certain I would feel this way even if not for this incident but if ever there was something that drove a point home, it was this.
Back on the bikes, I found the route and the pace to be boring. It just wasn’t the type of riding I enjoy. Being in an big, escorted group kept us from really opening up or being able to set the pace faster and therefore more enjoyable. If I were organizing the ride, I would have considered having different groups based on riding style, experience level, etc. The route was mostly through parts of the city and though we did hit some rural areas and great views, I felt like it could have been more interesting. The organizers mentioned construction kept them from using other, more scenic routes. I still feel like there were better options. Again, I’ve never done a ride like this much less organized one myself so perhaps the voices of experience dictated a lot of why these things did or did not happen.
If you are considering doing a ride like this, be ready to stop and go a lot. Don’t expect to be killing it in terms of speed. The slinky effect is even more present in groups of this size so you need to be on your toes. Stay focused on the group in front of you and keep an eye on your rear view. While my ideas on my enjoyment of big group rides were confirmed, do not let me me discourage you if you are interested in doing one. There are tons of ways to ride and a multitude of bikes to ride on. Just because it was not for me doesn’t mean you might not enjoy it.