By Joel Zanatta
The Cycling Lawyer

Rachelle Grace knew she wanted to join a cycling club. She had always been active, but was new to cycling. And she didn’t have anyone she could call up to go for a ride.

Rachelle knew exactly the club she was looking for. She wanted a group that wasn’t too competitive or intimidating, and female-friendly. She wanted coaches who could introduce her to the sport. She wanted a fun, social atmosphere. The problem was, she couldn’t find it. So never having ridden before, she launched her own club.

“I started with an idea,” says Rachelle. “And then it grew.”

In the six years since Rachelle founded the Lotus Cycling Club in Vancouver, it has grown into more than 140 dedicated members and become one of the most respected clubs in the city. And she’s proud to say it’s evolved into the club she had dreamed of—welcoming to all levels of riders, full of guidance and motivation, and also—a whole heap of fun.

As Rachelle says, “It’s such a great way to connect with people, we all have a common goal and offer each other encouragement. There’s so much support, it’s so much better to ride with others, and meet new friends who share your interests.”

Without a doubt, joining a cycling club is the best way for those who are new to cycling to get a solid introduction to the sport.

Clubs teach riders the rules of the road, cycling etiquette, and skill development.

“The real value of a riding club is safety in numbers,” says James Wilson of North Vancouver’s Obsession Bikes. “Cycling can be super-intimidating with the roads, cars, complexity of the bikes, how they handle. A group gives a person an opportunity to learn in a real-time setting.”

He’s run cycling groups out of his shop for the past 16 years, and he’s watched hundreds of riders learn and grow and gain confidence in the sport. He’s also made a lot of friends.

But clubs aren’t just for newbies. For instance, a club like Vancouver’s Glotman Simpson has members of all levels. Even the most competitive, experienced cyclist could easily find a group within the club that would challenge and push them to new levels.

So how do you find a cycling club that’s right for you?

As most of us aren’t motivated (or organized) enough to start our own club, start by asking around. If you have a friend who rides, ask them if they know any clubs. If you have a favourite bike shop, ask if they have a club (many do). And if they don’t, ask them to recommend one that would be the right fit for your abilities. If you’re just starting out, you clearly don’t want to join a competitive racing club.

Ideally, a club won’t hit the road in one big lump. It should offer several group rides, ranging from beginner up to more competitive.

You always want to feel comfortable with the level of riding in your group and be challenged enough without being pressured.

There are literally dozens of cycling clubs in every major city. The Ontario Cycling Association lists every registered club in the province, as do most provincial cycling organizations across the country. There are clubs specifically geared towards women riders, to seniors, to those new to the sport. You name it, I guarantee there’s a cycling club for you, so think about what you want to get out of it.

Sometimes all people really want is motivation. Most cycling clubs meet a couple of times a week—mid-week and then again on weekends, and often having that commitment is enough to get people out the door and onto their bike. Cycling clubs aren’t free, they can cost anywhere from $100-$200 to join, but most include a branded kit with membership, and often, access to discounts on products.

Rachelle definitely didn’t establish Lotus to make money. She has a demanding full-time job in an entirely unrelated field.

“It’s for the moral support, and motivation. It was to make new friends and improve as a rider. The thing a lot of people don’t know about this sport is that it’s a suffer-fest! It’s hard. You can always get better, there is always stuff to learn.”

For me, it’s about the people I’ve met, the new routes I’ve discovered, the hills I’ve ridden, the coffees and beers I’ve enjoyed after a ride, and ultimately, the memories I’ve made along the way.

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