A Guide to Riding with the 5BBC
The weather is warming up and our Spring Training Series has started. This article discusses what you need to know about riding with the 5BBC.
BEFORE THE RIDE
Is this a good ride for you?. Many things enter into consideration, but primary must be whether your skill level is up to the ride. What is the pace of the ride? How many miles does the ride have? If you are comfortable with Happy Face or Moderate Rides, and you show up to a Quick Spin on your cruiser bike - I would suggest that this is not a ride that you will be able to handle. If the ride is far beyond your regular skill set at this time, don't do the ride. It is not fun for you as you try to keep up, but still fall farther and farther behind. You risk getting dropped. You risk bonking. And it is also not considerate of the rest of the group who would have to continually wait for you. That is not to say that you should not try to expand what you can do. The Spring Training Series is perfect for that. But success comes incrementally, and strength is built up over time. Know your limits.
Register for the Ride. This takes less than a minute but makes a big difference to the Leaders on the ride. It is good to know if there will be seven riders or 37 riders. We often have to call ahead to our lunch spots, and it is nice to give them a reasonably accurate total. Registration also gives the leader a way to reach out to you and provide additional information as well. Of course, if you wake up and feel like riding - you are always free to show up on the day of the ride.
Check the Web Page. The weather is iffy. Is my ride going out or has it been canceled? We are a leader driven operation, and different leaders have different weather tolerances. Indeed, even if the weather looks good, it is always a good idea to check the web page. Leaders get injured or sick. Life happens. Rides are moved forward or backward in time to accommodate weather forecasts. This can save you the disappointment of showing up for a ride - and being the only one there.
Check your Bike. Yes, we do the two minute bike check before every ride. But the best practice is to give your bike a good evaluation before every club ride. Do the tires need air? Is the chain clean and properly lubed? Are the brakes working? Did you remember to fix the broken spoke that you got last ride? Checking out your bike the night before is ALWAYS a good idea.
Lay out Your Stuff. Were are my long fingered gloves? Where is my balaclava? Where did I put my keys? I thought I brought snacks? Where are the good shorts? Setting out your things the night before saves you from the frantic scavenger hunt as you are trying to get out the door.
DAY OF THE RIDE
Check the Web Page. Yeah, do it again, just in case. You never know.
Show up on Time. We know, the trains suck on weekends. Most leaders will give a grace period and allow some late riders - but you should not expect a ride to be held for you beyond 15 minutes. If you know you will be a few minutes late - reach out to the leaders and let them know. They may be able to send you a cue sheet so that you can catch up.
Go to the Bathroom. If there is a bathroom at the start - it is usually a good idea to use it. Even when there are scheduled bathroom stops, you never know if they will be open on the day of the ride. Few things are worse for leaders than constant harping about "when are we going to get to a bathroom?"
Pay Attention during the Introduction. There will be plenty of time to socialize with your friends later. But this is the time that the Leaders get to speak to you about the ride. This is when you learn the route, discuss any issues, talk about safety, and any multitude of other things that can arise. If you are chattering during the Introduction, it is distracting for your fellow riders, and rude to the Leaders.
ON THE ROAD
Bring the Necessary Supplies. Everyone carries some different items with them. But there are some things that all riders should have with them. Unless you are damn sure that you will be back before dusk - take your lights. Take a spare tube or two. Take your tire levers and any other tools you need to fix a flat. Carry a small pump. Take a lock and know how to use it. If you know that you tend to bonk - make sure you have adequate water and snacks. On sunny days take sunscreen. Many people also carry small first aid kits.
Learn how to read a Cue Sheet. Good riders know where they are along the route. Most leaders will tell you on the Cue Sheet where lunch is. No need to ask a leader when you can just look at the cue sheet. Reading the Cue Sheet will answer many of your questions such as -how many miles have we gone? How many miles do we have to go? Many riders also save their cue sheets as momentos or to help them navigate the City at a later date.
Hold your Drops. If you are a drop - make sure that you stay there until the Sweep releases you. Remember, many riders may thank you - but only the Sweep can release you. Make sure you know who the Sweep is before you get on the road. If you feel that you are in a location for too long - call the sweep. The Sweep may be dealing with a mechanical issue further behind your position. Nothing screws up a ride more than a drop who leaves before the sweep.
Call out Hazards. In a perfect world - the streets are well paved, motorists are well behaved, and there is no debris. But we live and ride around New York City. We have potholes, we have glass and other debris, we have cops parked in the bike lanes. We have motorists flinging their doors open into traffic. In short, while you are riding pay attention to the environment - and call out or point out hazards for the riders behind you.
Ride Safely. Through most of the city - single file is the best way to ride. In more remote areas and on certain bike lanes two abreast is fine. But, it is never okay to sprawl out all over the road. As we all know, there is a tenuous relationship between bicyclists and motorists in NYC - lets not give them any more to bitch about. Keep your distance between fellow cyclists. There is also something nice about having a bike club riding single file responsibly - We look like we know what we are doing.
Have Fun and Be a Pal. We are NYCs Friendliest Bike Club. If you see a newer rider - talk to them. Introduce yourself. Feel free to give tips on gear or riding skills. Your happiness on the road rubs off on all riders - new and old.
We hope that this guide is useful to some of our newer riders who are just gearing up for their first or second season riding with the 5BBC. Hope to see you all out on the road.
David MEL Meltzer
Day Rides Coordinator