What would the cycling community be without a good group ride, or, club run? Well, as we enter the depths of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, it's probably fair to say that we'd be collectively warmer and drier, but also a little bit bored and sick of the headwind which is inescapable when riding out alone.
Club runs change with the seasons. A bit like track sessions at my local outdoor velodrome, where sessions emigrate from 'inters' (intermediates) to 'winters' once the clocks change - this Sunday, if you're in the UK - the pace gets dialled down to cater for the traditional training needs of the off-season months and the five extra layers you're all wearing to simply make it outside.
Here's a few of the recognisable characteristics of a good ol' winter club run...
Someone will plan an epic century+ ride
Some enthusiastic member will rally the troops for a grand adventure. Riding from Surrey to Manchester, or something equally obscene. Because it's the "off season" and so it's "all about the base" ('bout the bass, no treble...).
Nobody wants to be the weak link, so the following weekend you're all assembled at 6.30am and ready to roll.
There’s disagreement over fenders/mudguards
It may not be raining as you roll out, but those who have fitted fenders/mudguards are keen to point out that it might - and, they're probably right.
Those without are keen to point out that if it does, they'll just sit at the back of the group, which demonstrates that more forethought has gone into this lack of winterisation than might have been evident at first.
There are major discrepancies in bike choice
Frank, the 70-year-old who has been riding with the club for 50-years has gone for a singlespeed with afore mentioned mudguards. Lisa has a disc brake machine that has a stopping speed 20 seconds quicker than Frank's, whilst Dave is still riding the same carbon beast he had all summer - which he precedes to use as a weapon every time the road goes upwards.
The 'hard nut' has their legs out
It's five degrees outside but one rider (usually sporting fuzzy legs) doesn't seem to feel the cold at all. So you all spend the entire day trying not to look - because catching a glimpse of bare skin makes you feel chilly.
The rider who punctures will have the toughest tire/rim combo
Well, this struggle has escalated with the convergence on tubeless ready tires, even if they're not run tubeless.
Great if you're legs were tired and you wanted a break anyway, but not so great if it's cold and wet and you just want to keep moving.
A personal favourite was the winter rider who spent 15 minutes changing a puncture (whilst club mates vigilantly waited) - only to declare a need to 'go ahead alone to get back before dark' when someone else flatted twenty minutes later.
We've not seen him out on a club run since, or at all, come to think of it...
No one wants to leave the cafe stop
Admission of personal guilt: I once spent over two hours in Ditchling tea rooms under the misguided opinion that the rain would 'slow down'. It didn't.
Of course, you always have to make a move eventually - but top marks for those who found the radiators for their gloves and jackets and are stepping out in heated garments.
Someone takes the short way home
No one needs to ask where Dave's gone. See ya later, mate.
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