Social ride , night at out cyclist-friendly in Deko clothing

Group Rides

Social ride or group rides are another way for cyclists to engage. There are many different types of group rides, from early-morning long rides, for exercise or training, to evening social rides, where riders play games and prepare for a night out at cyclist-friendly venues.

Large social rides are often free. They are extremely beneficial to the cohesion of the community because every cyclist demographic is usually represented. They are safest when they respect the laws with regard to stopping at red lights and yielding at stop signs. This is a huge testament to the ride organizers, some of whom are very adamant about rule-following. Some rides have been more antisocial, but in general, ride-organizers are able to tame the herd mentality that some rides suffer from.

Cycling associations often organize group rides as a combination of community and safety on the road. They are usually free to association members and will typically start at a local bike shop. There are two main types of group rides that associations organize: classic rides and hosted rides. A classic ride will have one start, but different routes for different levels of riders. A beginner cyclist may become separated from the ride if he or she is slower that the group. Hosted rides are better for beginners.

There will be a host who will ride in front and tell everyone about the potential obstacles; there are also usually two “sweeps,” people who will ride in the back to make sure no one gets left behind, and one will often ride up to the front to communicate with the host. The sweeps are typically the best cyclists in the group, as they need to be able to ride back and forth along the group the entire time.

Main thing group ride is safety

The main thing a beginner needs to be concerned about when going on a group ride is safety. Though social rides are more relaxed, if you plan on doing long rides where people will be in a pace line, you really should ask the other riders to teach you. The main concerns here are riding predictably, learning to adjust your position without an over correction, making sure you don’t cross wheels, and keeping your head up. If your front wheel overlaps the rear wheel of the person in front of you, it can easily cause a serious wreck, so don’t do it. You can still draft while being a few feet behind the bicycle in front of you. It’s also very important to have enough water, to bring the appropriate equipment, to select a ride at the appropriate level, and to know whether the ride is “no-drop.”

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No-drop” rides are those that will wait for all riders to join the group every few miles. These rides will typically be hosted, so make sure you ask. Next, bring enough water. In the heat of a Texas summer, you will need at least 20 ounces of water for every ten miles, maybe more. Bringing enough water is crucial. You can typically only fit two water-bottle cages on your frame’s eyelets. So make sure you get seat-post-mounted cages or a Camel back if you plan to go more than 20 miles. You will also want the following, at minimum: an extra tube or patch kit, a CO2 cartridge or frame pump, an

It’s also a good idea to bring a multi-tool. Finally, when you are doing a classic ride, make sure that you have the route map and are fit enough for the ride level. Finding out your fitness level can be tricky, but you may be able to learn it by asking someone you are riding with or doing a time-trial designed to rate your skill level. It may seem annoying to make all this preparation if you want to just get out there and ride. But you’ll be glad


you did it when you are not stranded on the side of the road, 15 miles of hills from home.

Social rides are very large group rides that are more about community than fitness. They often involve some sort of stops or breaks simply for hanging out or playing games. A social ride is probably the most community-oriented of all the rides. If they grow very large, they can have considerable sway with local businesses. In the same way that concerts, karaoke, or trivia nights can bring customers to a bar on a typically quiet night. A popular social ride can often leverage its size and frequency to get large discounts at bars or restaurants where the riders decides to end. In general, the vast majority of social rides are free.


The vast majority of social rides are free

They are significantly more prevalent in cities with large cycling communities, but if you live in a city without one, it may be beneficial for the cycling community as a whole to organize a semi-regular ride. Some social rides charge money to attend; I’ve always been put off by this type of ride, as I’ve always been suspicious that the coordinator is using the difference. Between the advertised discounts achieved and actual discounts obtained by ride leaders to pocket some profit. While I’m not saying that practice would be inherently bad — people who put in the serious effort organization an awesome ride shouldn’t be ashamed of wanting compensation. I just value the benefit of community foremost from most social rides, which I’m not willing to pay for; any discounts are just a bonus.

Interestingly, the primary benefit of social rides for the cycling community is, arguably, political. Even more than blogs, large social rides are an extremely effective means of organizing coordinating support for proposed legislation with regards to cycling infrastructure. They provide an unparalleled venue for activists to talk about current issues, both casually and in depth.

While a blog post can use all caps and italics to try to stress the importance of a city-council meeting regarding some proposed change to a busy intersection. A social ride can actually go to that intersection during the ride. Illustrate the changes firsthand, and allow anyone with questions to ride along an expert for further discussion. Then, on the day of that crucial city-council meeting, the social ride can end at City Hall, thus making attendance and

civic participation effortless. This connectivity is crucial to organizing thoughtful, effective legislative efforts. Beyond just politicking generally for bike-related issues, social rides provide a venue for the nuances that matter in creating a better infrastructure.


Critical Mass is a particularly notable and controversial social ride. While I’d almost rather not even mention it, it is so historically significant that leaving it out would be an error of omission. In 1992, Critical Mass was started in San Francisco. This was when mountain biking was all the rage in America and urban cycling was more of an aberration. The ride had no leaders, stated purpose, or route. It began to take place on the last Friday of every month, during rush hour; essentially, it became a way for urban cyclists to ride around the city without fear of automobile traffic.

Mass of cyclists wearing DEKO SPORTS clothing

The name refers to the size of a group at which cyclists stop worrying about inattentive drivers; instead, their presence is so large that automobiles have no choice but to yield to the mass of cyclists. The purpose, initially, was arguably noble: to raise cycling awareness as a reminder to watch for cyclists on the road. It helped establish important precedents, like that cyclists following the rules of the road cannot be cited for obstructing traffic, because they are traffic.

However, as time went by, cities started to earnestly change their policies toward cyclists. Unfortunately, during that same time, Critical Mass became significantly more unruly. It is now, essentially, an anarchic mass of cyclists that put themselves and others in danger on a frequent and attention-grabbing basis. The polite signs of the 1990s, such as thanking cars for waiting

at lights for the Mass to pass, have been replaced by cyclists rolling into oncoming traffic, daring cars to hit them. Many of the founders of the ride have publicly denounced what it has become: a gigantic monthly act of bad publicity.

Many attempts have been made to reintroduce etiquette to the ride, and counter-rides have

been created (e.g., Critical Manners and Courteous Mass), most of which are no longer around, yet many of these counter-rides are the predecessors to modern, civil, social rides. Though Critical Mass now evokes a sharp division in the community. That the ride has dramatically affected the cycling community over the last two decades is undeniable.


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