A fun and easy way to get people involved in your rides (be they mountain or road) is to come up with a theme. A theme adds an element of fun, helps to build relationships, and can take the pressure off of riders who are worried about keeping up with faster, more competitive cyclists.
Since cyclists generally love to eat and drink, starting, stopping at, or ending your ride at a favorite coffee shop, bakery, food cart, or brew pub gives people something look forward to — as well as a way to socialize before, after, or during the ride. It also gives cyclists who’ve been off their bikes (due to injury, illness, or time constraints) a chance to catch up with and maintain their connection to the group.
While many café and coffee shop owners love being the meeting place for cycling groups, make sure your riders won’t be tying up valuable parking space throughout the duration of the ride — the owner may resent this. Some shops also appreciate a heads up that you expect to bring in X number of cyclists in for food or drink at a specific time — they may staff up on your account. And, if you develop a long-term relationship with the shop, they may offer your group a club discount!
Ending a ride with a meal and a glass of wine or beer is a wonderful way to celebrate an afternoon or early evening ride — plus it gives riders a chance to talk about more than that hill they just climbed. Bend Area Cycling Enthusiasts (BACE) offer a weekly Martini Monday ride that is popular as much for the social aspect as for the riding. The Bend Bella Cycling Club did a spin off on the idea, offering a Margarita Monday ride, that ended with a dose of tequila and a dash of lime.
The Bella’s also do a great early-season road ride that ambles through town, stopping at bakeries. This is really popular with cyclists who are still finding their legs after a winter of indoor spinning and other workouts. The group gets to reconnect in a fun, non-competitive environment while eating tasty cookies, croissants, and cupcakes. The calories consumed are worth it!
For creative spirits, costumed rides can be tons of fun and you learn a lot about your friends by how daring they are with their costumes. Halloween, the 4th of July, and Christmas are all great occasions for decorating your bike and yourself and taking it to the streets. I’ve seen costumes that have ranged from gorgeous to hilarious. Add a strand of battery-powered lights to add flash and make yourself more visible on the road.
Rides that encourage spending time together out of the saddle can build relationships and strengthen friendships — making your cycling group a more fun, cohesive unit. Brainstorm with your favorite riding partners and see what kind of ride ideas you can come up with. The sky’s the limit.