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Starting and maintaining a casual cycling group?

Old 08-14-22, 09:19 PM
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BrenZan
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Starting and maintaining a casual cycling group?

Hi all! I've recently started up a casual cycling group for my town (to promote fitness and community) and have been trying to find people to join it, including local Councillors.

I'm worried about the long-term viability, however, as I know clubs formed without a fee/commitment prerequisite can often go cold (I saw another group made just earlier this year for the same purpose that died just after I had made mine). In addition, as I am a student, I won't be in town consistently, so the group would have to be self-sustaining somehow, but I don't know how to beget that. I'm thinking of planning rides every week or so and hope others keep the momentum going.

I would like for it to eventually develop into a quasi-advocacy and "official" town cycling group as well, but I know I gotta start small before I chase my cycling utopia dreams and make sure I can handle this at the very least LOL

Any suggestions for how to grow the group (what channels should I promote it through), and how to ensure it's long-term survival and viability?
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Old 08-14-22, 11:05 PM
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I don;t really have much experience in organizing. And I wouldn't presuppose to know how it all works. But I do have an eye an interest in observing. And have been involved in cycling for some time.
So maybe I can offer some observations.

'Casual' may be the feel of a group, but at it's core is usually something 'hard core'. Not necessarily the ride level. But something... What I seem to see is a 'core', a hard core of riders who want/need to ride, who like each other, and more often than not, show up to ride at a recognized time and place. They may not all show all the time, but many, most will show.
It doesn't require 'membership', some official 'club' status.
We have 'Rides' in our 'town' which have existed for decades, some were started by a 'club' of that era. But that club may have stopped or morphed away, while the 'ride' still runs. Every week.
Most of these 'Rides' have some 'social' aspect after The Ride - which allows a brief time of getting to know, camraderie, and general scratching of the Cycling itch.
Some offer a 'competitive' atmosphere, some leisurely, some offer the challenge of a group while still respecting 'level'.
The ones that survive and thrive are the ones with a strong, sustaining and longterm 'core'. Riders will come and go, and a few might eventually become part of the 'core'..
Those most successful, are so because the idea is simple, and 'One Thing'.
There are these same 'Rides' in Most of the Country, and likely many places around the world.
Adding in more Things, makes everything more complicated, with a much lower success and longevity rate - not saying you shouldn't, but the effort will be substantially harder.
Not sure what an Official Town cycling group is - other than a 'club' (official only in their own membership status). Not sure what quasi-advocacy for anything is - how can one be an advocate and quasi ? Quasi-racing, Quasi-safety, Quasi-Youth Development - see what I mean?
Groups come and go - Is the idea to share the enjoyment of cycling or is the idea to build an 'organization' ?
Many of these 'Rides' have a known day/time/route, some have a small variety of routes, chosen each week. - but they are mostly all a 'known' quantity.
An Unknown diversity of routes/lengths/levels puts doubts into the minds of possible participants - those rarely last.
The 'Core' sets the known aspects of level and skill - an unknown mix in cycling is not an 'invite', real group rides offer some consistency in skill and knowledge, which should assure a level of 'safety'.
How the 'Core' happens is Black Magic. Some aggregation which builds a small solar system, which might become a larger Galaxy. How? I don;t know...
I would expect that there are some bike rides on Meetup - but I would never check or consider - herding random cats, on public roads, with motor vehicles doesn't seem like a fun time to me.
'New' participants appreciate the 'guidance' of a 'regular core' to make a ride predictable, safe and therefore 'fun'.
...just some of my observations - none of which may actually fall into what you're considering.
Ride On
Yuri

Last edited by cyclezen; 08-14-22 at 11:09 PM.
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Old 08-14-22, 11:05 PM
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Facebook, Instagram, NextDoor, flyers at the local bike shop. It will become self-sustaining if the interest is sincere.
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Old 08-15-22, 12:38 PM
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A successful local cycling group was formed here on Meetup.com as an informal way for people to post up rides to join. They have been going 8 years or more and seem very active, and have road, gravel and MTB events listed every week that are well attended.
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Old 08-15-22, 01:35 PM
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Hard to be everything for everybody.
You will have to do a needs assessment of what is needed/wanted in your area.
Getting out and casually chatting it up at local cafes or rest stops that cyclists frequent could be a good place to start.
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Old 08-15-22, 02:03 PM
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I would just post on social media whatever rides you normally do, and invite folks to join in.
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Old 08-15-22, 03:54 PM
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As your group grows, remember that there'll be more people that may not want to ride in just the casual manner you and some others do.

So be ready with plans for that. And take note of those that might also want to ride less casually and assess if they might be someone that can sort of take charge of that other group as it forms up. No sense being at odds with each other. Then your group will disperse and be no more.

So just be ready to embrace and manage the changes by letting others go off with some one else for the fast ride and then be sure there is some way to manage stragglers from both groups. When the ride is over y'all can meet up to have snacks, beverages and kick back to boast or pick at each other.

A LBS might even provide you a place to meet up and even sponsor you to some extent. Even if it's just providing a snack or drink. Ask them.

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Old 08-15-22, 04:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Rolla View Post
Facebook, Instagram, NextDoor, flyers at the local bike shop. It will become self-sustaining if the interest is sincere.
What he said.

If you want a club with a charter, by-laws, elected officers, etc., that's a whole different level. If you just want to facilitate people coming together to ride once a week, social media and word of mouth are all you need.

There is a group that started riding together in Salt Lake City many years ago. No formal organization at all, they just put word out on meeting time and location (these never change, same time and place every week).

It has grown into a gargantuan monster. In the summer, they sometimes get hundreds of riders. Sadly, it has become a big rowdy party. It's mostly attended by college students, and they seem to care less about the actual riding than about drinking, smoking pot, and running around looking for mischief.

This is not the kind of group anyone should be setting out to form, but my point is that it has grown "organically." No money spent by its organizers, no formal rules, no written charter. It's always just been "Meet at the intersection of 9th and 9th, Thursdays at 9:00 PM."
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Old 08-15-22, 07:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Broctoon View Post
they sometimes get hundreds of riders. drinking, smoking pot, and running around looking for mischief.

This is not the kind of group anyone should be setting out to form
Why not? Sounds pretty fun.
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Old 08-15-22, 08:36 PM
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Broctoon refered to the key elements: same time, same place, and even the same route(s) every week.

I think that’s the way the go, and would even give it a catchy name, like Taco Tuesday Ride, and loop in a local business that’s the social focus and start/end point.

Put the route on RideWithGPS and make a Facebook page with the event name, and you’ll be off and running. You’ll need to advertise, promote and recruit until you get a solid core of regulars, but after that, it can go autopilot. You’re gonna have to pick a target audience, though, if you don’t want to do the heavy lifting of organizing, and cater to that element. Is a fast ride, or slow…recovery or training or sportive? Just be clear in your promo and let people know; be sure to mention it’s a drop/no sag ride, too, but with the route on RWGPS and other social media formats like Strava, that should not be a problem, and groups will form on their own.

I do think the post-ride social aspect is critical for it to be a ride with a life of its own, though, so the hard work will be in finding the partner venue that appeals to, and is willing to embrace, cyclists. Around here, it’s businesses like breweries and coffee shops primarily, but just think about the kinds of things which appeal to cyclists before you go out looking for the ideal spot: you’ll want parking, outside seating with space to keep an eye on bikes, more than one bathroom, etc. Of course, it also has to be a place where it wouldn’t be weird to waddle around in cleats and lycra, too, so keep all that kind of stuff in mind, and “set the table for longterm success.”

Good luck, BrenZan
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Old 08-15-22, 09:17 PM
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Originally Posted by BrenZan View Post
I'm worried about the long-term viability, however, as I know clubs formed without a fee/commitment prerequisite can often go cold (I saw another group made just earlier this year for the same purpose that died just after I had made mine). In addition, as I am a student, I won't be in town consistently, so the group would have to be self-sustaining somehow, but I don't know how to beget that.
In my experience, "I want to start something" and "I won't be there consistently" don't play well together.
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Old 08-15-22, 09:17 PM
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Originally Posted by BrenZan View Post
Hi all! I've recently started up a casual cycling group for my town (to promote fitness and community) and have been trying to find people to join it, including local Councillors.

I'm worried about the long-term viability, however, as I know clubs formed without a fee/commitment prerequisite can often go cold (I saw another group made just earlier this year for the same purpose that died just after I had made mine). In addition, as I am a student, I won't be in town consistently, so the group would have to be self-sustaining somehow, but I don't know how to beget that. I'm thinking of planning rides every week or so and hope others keep the momentum going.

I would like for it to eventually develop into a quasi-advocacy and "official" town cycling group as well, but I know I gotta start small before I chase my cycling utopia dreams and make sure I can handle this at the very least LOL

Any suggestions for how to grow the group (what channels should I promote it through), and how to ensure it's long-term survival and viability?
I've never set up a cycling club, but I did set up a classic car club. Thirty plus years ago there were a lot of weekly cruise nights where people would show up, show off their cars, eat, drink, sit around, listen to 50's music, and have a 50-50 raffle; same thing different location. We didn't do that for our events. We set up fairly close interesting destinations. Sometimes it wasn't even car related. An AF Base museum with a tour by a retired SAC pilot; great planes and great stories. Or a railroad museum, or a lighthouse tour, etc. We had a definite advantage over bikes since most places welcomed us setting up the old cars for people to see.

If you really want support from the local Council and you really want it to be a "casual" ride, maybe do something similar. I don't know if there are enough places where you can set up a 10-15-20 mile ride to a place of interest or a historical destination. But if you can, you might have an avenue to get city support because city representatives always love to show off their city. Pick out some destinations, do it on a monthly basis, and go from there. Since you are not going to be around to do weekly events, this is a way to start. If there is enough interest go to two rides a month.

John
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Old 08-15-22, 10:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Rolla View Post
Why not? Sounds pretty fun.
Oh, it can be a lot of fun, but it gets out of control sometimes. I was with this group a few years ago when a rider got killed by a train. There have been instances of trespassing, maybe vandalism, certainly lots of littering. I've seen a rider attack and damage a car, just because in his perception the driver was not being courteous. And traffic laws are out the window with this group. Like I said, lots of mischief. I believe this group is probably doing more to hurt than to help bicycling in the eyes of the general public and law enforcement.
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Old 08-15-22, 10:27 PM
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Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
Broctoon refered to the key elements: same time, same place, and even the same route(s) every week.

With the group I mentioned, the route is not the same each week. In fact, it's never exactly the same, and is not even planned out in advance. There are several de facto ride leaders, one of which will choose the route each week, usually deciding on-the-spot where to head. Several locations around the city are frequent stops, but you can join the group dozens of times and never repeat the same route. It is a good way to learn about parts of the city you might not otherwise visit.


Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
I think that’s the way the go, and would even give it a catchy name, like Taco Tuesday Ride, and loop in a local business that’s the social focus and start/end point.
Catchy name definitely helps. The one in SLC is called 999. It always starts at the intersection of 9th South and 9th East Streets. People begin gathering at 9:00, for a ride start around 10:00, give or take. I believe it is held year-round, but obviously in winter there are only a few die-hard souls. On Thursday nights in summer, I've seen upwards of 300 people there (perhaps a lot more than that).

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Old 08-15-22, 11:56 PM
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Thanks all for the replies! Seriously, this means a lot to me, being a college student with no bike group experience at all, so I really appreciate all the advice, even if I don't reply to it specifically, I'm taking it all in!

I've sent off emails to a couple local shops and posted everywhere I could - so far, 28 members in the FB group; I wonder how many will come to the first ride (length and difficulty to be determined after I get a grasp of who’s in the group)


This is what I’m taking away from all this:
  1. All rides should end at a local bike-friendly business where riders can refresh and shoot the **** and develop community
  2. Work around the differences in skill/comfort by either having a variety of rides or accommodating differences during a ride???
  3. Try to be consistent with times(?) and/or starting/ending locations(?) (this will hopefully be figured out after the first few rides)
Where I seeproblems arising, as pointed out, is from the informal/casual nature of the group - until a “core” forms, at least - as well as the catch-all nature and diversity of riders, which will definitely be hard to figure out how to accommodate during the start. I envisioned it mostly as a forum where people could find other people to do group rides with in their vicinity, but I guess you can’t exactly have a ride that pleases everyone, so I’d expect two streams - one casual, one classical cycling - to develop over time, assuming enough people from both streams join
Originally Posted by CAT7RDR View Post
Getting out and casually chatting it up at local cafes or rest stops that cyclists frequent could be a good place to start.

I live in the 'burbs, unfortunately, and am completely disconnected with the local cycling scene so I wouldn't even know where to look for them - but if I ever manage to find both a cyclist and the confidence to talk to them I'll certainly try
[QUOTE=chaadster;22611791]@Broctoon refered to the key elements: same time, same place, and even the same route(s) every week.

Put the route on RideWithGPS and make a Facebook page with the event name, and you’ll be off and running. You’ll need to advertise, promote and recruit until you get a solid core of regulars, but after that, it can go autopilot. You’re gonna have to pick a target audience, though, if you don’t want to do the heavy lifting of organizing, and cater to that element. Is a fast ride, or slow…recovery or training or sportive? Just be clear in your promo and let people know.[/QUOTE]
Same place might be tough as I live in a sprawling suburb and had planned for the group to mostly be a resource for a wide range of cyclists (including very casual, think <10km) to find group riders in their immediate area, but that actually might be a good idea - to find a location equidistant to most people in the group and start with that

Will also do the RWGPS thing for sure
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Old 08-16-22, 12:26 AM
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[QUOTE=BrenZan;22611920]...
Same place might be tough as I live in a sprawling suburb and had planned for the group to mostly be a resource for a wide range of cyclists (including very casual, think <10km) to find group riders in their immediate area, but that actually might be a good idea - to find a location equidistant to most people in the group and start with that. /QUOTE]

oh, I would suggest keeping novice/beginners separate from a variety of more experienced riders... it usually doesn't fare well for both types, when they mix.
10 km ...
one club around here, does a 'newcomers ride' (keeping away from the 'beginner' title) and even those are more like 10-12 miles - 16-20 km...
and they often 'lose' riders mid way through a ride, because, well, it's way too slow, not their cuppa...
getting a broad 'mix' of riders on your 1st couple riders could cause many to not return...
My belief is that putting some up front parameters on a ride helps keep disappointment at bay, and helps gets a compatible group...
...just sayin...
ride on
Yuri
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Old 08-16-22, 01:16 AM
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BrenZan the main thing about fixed location, time, and route(s) is that it lowers the required maintenance. If you’re not going to be consistently there and want something to run on its own, I think ease of administration and communication is critical…the most important thing.

With a variable route, someone will need to communicate changes; you’ll always need a ride leader. That changes the nature of the ride, requiring decisions like how to pace it, which immediately narrows appeal; some will think it’s too fast, some will think too slow, some will worry about not being able to keep up and not knowing route, etc. A whole other can of worms, which is not to say undoable, but given your level of experience and commitment, it will make it harder to achieve the desired result.

I honestly think that this is going to be hard to pull off without fanatical commitment on your part, even in the most basic format. As a beginning cyclist yourself, it’s unlikely you’re going to attract seasoned cyclists, cyclists who use navigational devices, or even those who know what RWGPS is. If they have that stuff, they don’t need your ride. If you can’t be consistent with the ride yourself, to guide it, you’ll have enough to do building your connections to a core group to do that and keep it going, so I wouldn’t advise making things any more complicated than absolutely necessary.

That said, I may be wrong, and maybe your local cycling community is ready for what you envision. I hope so.
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Old 08-16-22, 01:59 AM
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Originally Posted by BrenZan View Post
Thanks all for the replies! Seriously, this means a lot to me, being a college student with no bike group experience at all, so I really appreciate all the advice, even if I don't reply to it specifically, I'm taking it all in!

I've sent off emails to a couple local shops and posted everywhere I could - so far, 28 members in the FB group; I wonder how many will come to the first ride (length and difficulty to be determined after I get a grasp of who’s in the group)


This is what I’m taking away from all this:
  1. All rides should end at a local bike-friendly business where riders can refresh and shoot the **** and develop community
  2. Work around the differences in skill/comfort by either having a variety of rides or accommodating differences during a ride???
  3. Try to be consistent with times(?) and/or starting/ending locations(?) (this will hopefully be figured out after the first few rides)
Where I seeproblems arising, as pointed out, is from the informal/casual nature of the group - until a “core” forms, at least - as well as the catch-all nature and diversity of riders, which will definitely be hard to figure out how to accommodate during the start. I envisioned it mostly as a forum where people could find other people to do group rides with in their vicinity, but I guess you can’t exactly have a ride that pleases everyone, so I’d expect two streams - one casual, one classical cycling - to develop over time, assuming enough people from both streams join

I live in the 'burbs, unfortunately, and am completely disconnected with the local cycling scene so I wouldn't even know where to look for them - but if I ever manage to find both a cyclist and the confidence to talk to them I'll certainly try
[QUOTE=chaadster;22611791]@Broctoon refered to the key elements: same time, same place, and even the same route(s) every week.

Put the route on RideWithGPS and make a Facebook page with the event name, and you’ll be off and running. You’ll need to advertise, promote and recruit until you get a solid core of regulars, but after that, it can go autopilot. You’re gonna have to pick a target audience, though, if you don’t want to do the heavy lifting of organizing, and cater to that element. Is a fast ride, or slow…recovery or training or sportive? Just be clear in your promo and let people know.

Same place might be tough as I live in a sprawling suburb and had planned for the group to mostly be a resource for a wide range of cyclists (including very casual, think <10km) to find group riders in their immediate area, but that actually might be a good idea - to find a location equidistant to most people in the group and start with that

Will also do the RWGPS thing for sure
[/QUOTE]
I am starting my first group ride next Friday.

Here is how I started it…

First I spent numerous days riding to very interesting areas within a 30 mile radius of my home and documented it to a public group I’m building on Facebook. I then tag my local LBS, Sporting Good Stores, and several of the community pages to draw support for my group. I spend several hours each week hanging out at the LBS drinking coffee and chatting with fellow cyclists until today I finally got 6 people interested in doing a ride. The LBS is going to sponsor the ride, and I will be in charge of leading the group.

The LBS owner insisted that:
1) I have to be at every Ride
2) The ride must start and end at her business
3) The ride must be consistent with start time and mileage on the same day each week
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Old 08-16-22, 10:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Fahrenheit531 View Post
In my experience, "I want to start something" and "I won't be there consistently" don't play well together.

very true - i wanted to start a Clydesdale oriented - medium pace group ride and one of the shop owners in town warned me -

"If you dont show up every single time, the group will die"

i a saw this theory play out in a bible study group i was in devoted to singles - The group leader got married and thus left the "singles" group-- we tried to keep it going, but nobody had the consistency of the former group leader, so the group withered away and died
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Old 08-16-22, 11:55 AM
  #20  
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There is always a gorilla in the room when organizing a group ride of any type.
Unless it's a formal club, with dues, rules, and liability insurance, you could be opening yourself up to a world of poop.

Legally Speaking: Group ride liability, part 1 - VeloNews.com

Organizer liability at a Meetup event – Meetup
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Old 08-16-22, 01:30 PM
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Your goals are admirable and worthy, however the reality is that any “club” will need to carry liability insurance in case a member is injured/killed, or a non-member, is injured by a club member. This is real in this litigious country. You, or a trusted designate will need to lead the weekly or monthly ride. To be sustainable you will need to offer several pace groups and distances which you cannot do on your own.

instead, if you are looking for riding buddies, you can get on paid Strava and look for people who ride your routes at the same pace and relative distances and contact them or maybe use FB.

Most cycle clubs have regular staff, either paid or volunteered, web presence and most importantly insurance.
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Old 08-16-22, 01:51 PM
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The longest running rides around here leave from the same place every week, at the same time (depending on daylight saving time), and take the same route. No leaders, no sweepers, no sponsors, no paperwork. And all of these rides pre-date social media so in the old days you had to be invited or you might ask at the LBS. These rides are casual in organization, but they're not what I would call casual rides--they're essentially race rides.
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Old 08-16-22, 04:57 PM
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Originally Posted by caloso View Post
The longest running rides around here leave from the same place every week, at the same time (depending on daylight saving time), and take the same route. No leaders, no sweepers, no sponsors, no paperwork. And all of these rides pre-date social media so in the old days you had to be invited or you might ask at the LBS. These rides are casual in organization, but they're not what I would call casual rides--they're essentially race rides.
That’s true in my neck of the woods, too.
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Old 08-16-22, 05:26 PM
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Originally Posted by caloso View Post
The longest running rides around here leave from the same place every week, at the same time (depending on daylight saving time), and take the same route. No leaders, no sweepers, no sponsors, no paperwork. And all of these rides pre-date social media so in the old days you had to be invited or you might ask at the LBS. These rides are casual in organization, but they're not what I would call casual rides--they're essentially race rides.
same, same in these parts.
but there is a increasingly large group of us older regulars, who can;t quite hold the wheels of the young; that there are now alternatives, roughly the same date, time and a 'modified' route.
The 'Fun' part is there is an ever flowing 'supply' or riders to feed into the new 'B' rides... It's always a giggle, every month or so, another 'A Regular' starts showing on 'B',,, and becomes a nre 'regular'' LOL! The inevitable is that the 'B' is no longer just a fun ride, it's like 'A' abbreviated - shorter sprints, slower hill climbs and more guys 'blowing up' after their short pull at the front... LOL! But the Post Coffe sessions have become LONGER!
Ride On
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Old 08-17-22, 08:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Broctoon View Post
With the group I mentioned, the route is not the same each week. In fact, it's never exactly the same, and is not even planned out in advance. There are several de facto ride leaders, one of which will choose the route each week, usually deciding on-the-spot where to head. Several locations around the city are frequent stops, but you can join the group dozens of times and never repeat the same route. It is a good way to learn about parts of the city you might not otherwise visit.



Catchy name definitely helps. The one in SLC is called 999. It always starts at the intersection of 9th South and 9th East Streets. People begin gathering at 9:00, for a ride start around 10:00, give or take. I believe it is held year-round, but obviously in winter there are only a few die-hard souls. On Thursday nights in summer, I've seen upwards of 300 people there (perhaps a lot more than that).


Without naming names, it sounds like a certain group that rides around here on the last Friday of the month.
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