THEY MAY CALL THEMSELVES bike clubs, but you could also think of them as support groups. Many of the members were once where you are now and are glad to help you grow into the sport.
There are a number of benefits from riding with others. You learn about other routes, become a stronger rider, expand your biking gear, strengthen your traffic skills, learn the etiquette associated with the type of riding you’re doing, and of course enjoy good rides.
Rides are social events and often include stopping for a drink and snack. After you have a few rides under your belt, you might even try leading one. I’ve gone on club rides with as few as three and as many as 150 riders, and I enjoyed every one of them.
Most clubs—and quite a few local bike shops—offer rides from about March through September although there are some that ride year-round. Most rides are “no drop,” meaning you are not left behind to fend for yourself. They may regroup a couple of times and let everyone catch up or they may have experienced riders who stay with the smaller groups that tend to form on well-attended rides. Experience has taught many of us that watching everyone else fade into the distance is no fun. And getting lost just makes it miserable.
Our area is loaded with recreational riding organizations. THE SPOKANE BICYCLE CLUB (www.spokanebicycleclub.org/rt) has been around since the mid-1980s. They have scheduled rides on most days of the week and they include all ages and skill levels. They also offer a Bike Buddy program in which an experienced cyclist can help you select your best commute route, ride safely in traffic, or do basic maintenance such as changing a flat. TWIN RIVERS CYCLISTS (twinriverscyclists.org) is a similar recreational and bike advocacy club in Lewiston, Idaho. The TRI-CITIES BIKE CLUB (www.tricitybicycleclub.org), the Wenatchee Valley Velo (www.bikewenatchee.org) and the CHINOOK CYCLING CLUB (www.chinookcycling.com) in Yakima round out the offerings in Eastern Washington.
WOMEN ON WHEELS (www.wowcycling.com) typically have weekend rides of 25-40 miles, usually centered around a restaurant or food stop somewhere on the route. BELLES AND BASKETS (www.facebook.com/BellesandBaskets) is an all-women group whose typical ride is 10-15 miles.
For mountain biking you have the FAT TIRE TRAIL RIDERS CLUB (www.fttrc.org) who not only ride the trails but help build and maintain them. The Spokane chapter of BELIEVERS ON MOUNTAIN BIKES (BOMB) (www.spokanebomb.com) emphasizes the fellowship and ministry aspects of its organization while fostering enthusiasm for mountain biking. In the Palouse, you can connect with the MOSCOW AREA MOUNTAIN BIKE ASSOCIATION (bikemoscow.org), and in Sandpoint is the PEND O’REILLE PEDALERS (www.pendoreillepedalers.com).
Lifetime Members for Life are already familiar with the FBC (fbcspokane.blogspot.com) and its flagship ride, the Full Moon Fiasco. It’s a laid back evening ride that begins at one bar and goes to another. Some rides are themed such as the Festivus and Back To School fiascos. A new chapter of the FBC just started up in Sandpoint (fbcsandpoint.blogspot.com). The FBC has one rule: don’t be a jerk.
Want to go fast? SPOKANE ROCKET VELO (www.spokanerocketvelo.com) says they are of average to above-average fitness/talent with a bent towards road racing, but they include an occasional mountain bike or cyclocross race. All their rides are no drop, but they recommend you try one of their low-key rides first to see if you’re ready for the more intense ones. The BADDLANDS CYCLING CLUB (www.baddlands.org), going on its 24th year, also focuses on racing and offers scheduled rides. In Walla Walla, check out the WHEATLAND WHEELERS (www.wheatlandwheelers.com).
Some of the clubs I’ve mentioned—and this is not intended to be an exhaustive list—have very affordable dues and some are informal. While there are plenty to choose from, they are not the only game in town.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn how many local bike shops hold regularly scheduled shop rides. The type of ride depends on what routes or trails are nearby the shop; but just about every bike shop I spoke to offers something.
THE BIKE HUB (www.thebikehubspokane.com) has trainers for indoor winter cycling. In Sandpoint, the GREASY FINGERS bike shop organizes competition sprints that take place at Laughing Dog Brewing, a bike-friendly pub (www.greasyfingersbikes.com, click on “Sandpoint Winter Goldsprints” in the Upcoming Events box). They have four bikes on trainers interconnected by computer. The first rider to reach 500 meters from a standing start wins. These double elimination tournaments make for an evening of both fun and exercise.
So next time you’re getting your bike tuned at your local bike shop, ask about their shop rides. There might be something to suit your interests.
Try a club ride or two and see if that’s a group of people you can have a good time with. From my experience, the odds are in your favor—cyclists are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met.