Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The In’s & Out’s Of Cycling Clubs – Choose Wisely, The Fun And Time You Lose May Just Be Your Own.

Cycling Clubs, those rolling masses of personalities all mashed together for better or worse.  Kind of sounds like a marriage, doesn’t it?  However, in the case of a cycling club, if things do not work out, this divorce is not as costly as the actual affair.  On the other hand, if it does indeed work out, count your lucky stars and embrace the bliss.

Why join a club?

As humans we seek belonging, whether it is with family, friends, or a like-minded group sharing an activity we cherish.  Thus, the cycling club was born, and, like children, they are not all created equal. 

Some truly are clubs in the classic sense of the word.  The organization exists for the members’ benefit, not for the benefit of the leadership.  These are benevolent organizations where all of the members thrive.  This is where your cycling experience will grow.  The leadership is friendly and supportive, the membership is unified and helpful, and the rides are varied, thus challenging to all skill levels, without boring the fast and killing off the beginners.  There is a social interaction built around the common nucleus of cycling.  There is actual community interaction.  You can learn, grow as a rider and make friends here.  This club will prosper and thrive.

And now for the Dark Side.  These kinds of clubs are shanghaied by the leadership, for the leadership.  The membership has neither input, nor any rewards.  The members still participating follow like sheep, and the lack of members on rides has no effect on the leadership’s conscience the organization is in trouble.  There is no growth, no camaraderie, and certainly no joy – Except among the clique.  The leadership is selfish and aggressive, the membership distant and insincere, the scheduled rides a “Take-it-or-leave-it” affair (all favorites of the dominant clique), and new riders be damned.  The club is closed off from all external influence, as this would disturb the power structure of the clique.  Your cycling experience will be drained here.  This club will shrink and fail.
I just came from one of these clubs.  The divorce was a liberating experience.

Types of clubs

There are different kinds of clubs out there, and seek with an open mind which type you feel you want to join: 

  • True racing clubs
  • Wanna-be racing clubs
  • Fast, drop you for dead “No we are not a racing club,” racing clubs
  • Shop clubs
  • Enthusiast clubs  
  • Recreational clubs

Finding a good fit will make all the difference in your group cycling experience.  This is not to put forth that all riding must be done in groups (90% of my riding is done solo – And I like it that way).  Group riding is just another way to get out, get fit, and in addition, meet new, like-minded people.

Clubs, however, can indeed take on an unintended life of their own if not properly nourished.  I have ridden with clubs that were downright unfriendly, and I have ridden with clubs that were the nicest, most helpful people out there.  Seek out the latter when shopping for a club to hook up with.  To assist in the search, seek out a club with the following attributes.

Axioms of a membership organization (If not, they ought to be)

1)      The organization must exist for the benefit of the membership
2)      Show the benefits of membership
3)      Membership is a transaction.  If you receive no benefits, leave the organization

Cycling, like golf, contains many rules of conduct, some written, some implied, and some no one can fathom, but we are expected to follow, anyway.  The odd part is the expectation of stellar adherence to group dogma, while decorum gets forgotten in regards to courtesy, kindness, respect and empathy.

Is it all bad?  No, not always.

We live in a time of vast rudeness.  Integrity and kindness are almost dead in most people.  If you commit to a ride or ask others to ride with you, stick to it.  We, unfortunately, have proven many times over to not be people of our word, and it shows.  We have become so used to not taking the word of others seriously that we don’t even take our own word seriously, anymore.  We need to break free from this.  Cycling can provide an antidote.
So, what do we do now?

Cycling has proven to be one of the healthiest and liberating activities I have ever engaged in.  It has also proved to contain more than its fair share of selfish, petty, and immature weirdo’s.  Sure, there are the good and the bad anywhere humans are involved, however, this in no way should preclude anyone from seeking out the experience of the group ride.   

* Stay tuned for the upcoming companion article – “Truly Enjoying The Ride”

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