Can I confess something? The first time I showed up to a group mountain bike ride I walked into the hosting bike shop, looked around at all the other experienced looking riders and promptly walked right back out to my car to hyperventilate for a few minutes. What if I was too slow? What if I made a fool of myself? What if no one talks to me? Am I wearing the right gear? What happens if I get a flat tire and I can’t fix it?
I took a few deep breathes, quieted the naysayer in my head and walked back into the bike shop with my chin up. I introduced myself to the ride leader and explained that it was my first time showing up to something like this. Turns out, all those tough looking mountain bikers were actually pretty nice and very approachable.
Are you thinking about showing up to a group ride? Feeling a bit anxious? Not sure what to expect? No problem. It can be nerve-wracking to head out for your first group mountain bike ride and showing up prepared is the best way to calm those fears.
Without further adieu, here are 9 tips to make your group ride adventure smooth and stress-free for everyone.
1. Skill & Fitness Check
Be sure you’re showing up to the right ride for your skill level. If a ride route is listed, take the time look up the trail difficulty in advanced (checkout MTBProject, Singletracks, Trailforks for trail ratings). If you aren’t sure on the skill level, contact the organizer and double check.
This should go without saying but if you are an experience rider looking for advanced riders to shred with, don’t show up to a beginners ride complain about the pace. Okay there, I said it. Phew.
2. Group Ride Definitions
You will frequently see rides listed as “no drop”, which means no one will be left behind and the group will stop occasionally to make sure everyone is still together.
In addition, there is almost always a designated “sweeper” who rides in the back of the group and makes sure no one gets separated from the group. Don’t feel bad if you are in the back and the sweep won’t pass you – it’s their job to be the kaboose!
3. “Hello, my name is _______”
Introduce yourself. Meeting new ride buddies is one of the best parts of group rides so take advantage!
At the end of a group ride, I enjoy inviting other riders to join me for a plate of tacos. It’s a proven fact that all mountain bikers love tacos! #tacosforthewin
4. Don’t delay!
Be ready to go at the scheduled ride time. “Wheels down” means the group wants to be riding at that time, not waiting 20 minutes for someone to lube their chain and braid their hair. Show up early if you need a hand with bike setup, tire pressure, or print-mixing your kit. Pro tip: mountain bikers call outfits “kits”.
5. Be prepared
Bring water, snacks, and a flat repair kit (tube, pump, tire levers). Even if you don’t know how to fix a flat (yet!), being prepared with one makes it easier for someone to help you out on the trail. It’s always better to be over prepared than under prepared!
Consider throwing a jacket or extra layer in your pack. Group rides often include a number of regrouping stops and throwing on a jacket when you are breaking can save you from getting chilled!
6. Get out of the way, please.
If you bail (meaning you can’t ride a trail feature), get off the trail. It’s okay if you aren’t comfortable trying to get over an obstacle, but the person behind you may want to give it a go. If it’s safe, move over to let them by, take notes on their technique and cheer them on!
7. Know the Rules
Make sure to familiarize yourself with the universal rules of the trail! Be sure to leave no trace, give uphill riders the right of way and if you encounter a horse on the trail (hopefully with a rider on top), dismount your bike and allow the horse to pass
8. Chin Up, Buttercup!
The most important part of a group ride is having fun! No one likes the rider who shows up to a group ride and does nothing but apologize the entire time and listing out excuses. If you’ve followed the tips above, you should have no reason to be apologizing on the ride. If you are a little slower than the pack or you don’t clear a feature, it’s all good! Really! Be confident, be kind and go ride your freakin’ bike.
9. Finding A Group Ride
Not sure where to find a group ride in your neighborhood? Checkout your local shop, bike clubs, bike festivals and demo events. Or call up some friends and organize your own group ride!
I attended an intermediate skill clinic last year and had an awesome time. My riding improved instantly and I have...
I attended an intermediate skill clinic last year and had an awesome time. My riding improved instantly and I have really enjoyed the increased confidence jumping my bike over obstacles. My muscle memory takes a while to kick in and Coach Richard and his crew of master Ninjas were really patient with me. I even got some bonus education on climbing faster during one of our warm-up laps! Even though I have been riding for years I learned something new with every skill taught. The clinic was worth every penny and I will be signing up for an advanced one this summer. ~Michael W.
Went to the beginner Ninja clinic at Alison. Richard and Kristen were awesome! We all got the opportunity to work...
Went to the beginner Ninja clinic at Alison. Richard and Kristen were awesome! We all got the opportunity to work on improving our skills with their feedback. Next time I would definitely do the intermediate clinic or do a one-on-one session. Richard is super patient and provides great feedback and riding tips. ~ Lisa D.
My speed and confidence going down steep descents have been SIGNIFICANTLY improved!
I just had my first race (XC endurance) since I did the camp and both my speed and confidence going...
I just had my first race (XC endurance) since I did the camp and both my speed and confidence going down steep descents have been SIGNIFICANTLY improved. I would not have attempted 50% of the drops and jumps on the course prior to participating in the clinic, and my overall time would have been much slower. The first two hours of the class (int/adv Sedona) made the whole thing more than worth it, and the rest of the two days seemed like a bonus. Both Courtney and Richard were encouraging and patient, and both had that classic mountain biker charm and humor ready when the moment called for it. Overall a very enjoyable and valuable weekend. For reference, I participate in amateur XC endurance races (with no hope of ever coming close to winning anything) and have been riding for about two years. I was worried before taking the class that I would not be skilled enough, but the int/adv was appropriate for my skill level. If you're worried, just go for it anyway. There is a good mix of people and everyone was very friendly! ~Alana Bencivengo
The course was very fluid, engaging, and I would highly recommend it.
I took the intermediate/advanced course in Balboa Park after having ridden for just over 2 years on my own. It...
I took the intermediate/advanced course in Balboa Park after having ridden for just over 2 years on my own. It covered a wide breadth of skills, some of which I already felt aquatinted with and others I had little to no experience with. I found all of the material useful. I was able to improve skills I already had and was able to learn new skills. I also feel confident leaving the course that the instructors have provided all of the information for me to practice and improve outside of the course setting. The environment of Balboa Park was perfect for learning and sessioning the skills covered. The instructors were friendly, fun, and attentive to all of the participants. They spent more or less time on certain skills based on how the entire group was grasping them. They also gave individualized attention to participants that required more help with technique. The course was very fluid, engaging, and I would highly recommend it. ~Heather B.
We are a group of passionate, dirt-loving, community oriented, world class mountain bike skills instructors committed to helping you reach your personal riding goals through clinics and camps. We are excited to work with riders of all ability levels and share the joy (STOKE) of mountain biking.