I have been on so few group rides in my life due to the facts that:
- I usually ride on or close to my limit
- I like to get the prescribed distance done as quickly as possible
- I don’t want to talk about bicycles and only bicycles for 5 hours
- I don’t want to stop at every 7-11
- I do want a coffee and cake somewhere good though
- There’s usually someone sprinting from the lights and I’ll have to make him suffer later even if I don’t really want to
- Having to instruct people that half-wheeling is in fact not cool rarely ever enamours them to you (unless they are strong enough to take it, and you come out of it with a good friendship, that’s you Klaus!)
- I’m just a grumpy old bastard and always have been, even when I was 15
Every once in a while you meet a group of folk, it might be 3 people or 8, usually a small confederation, of really good people, people that can ride safely, two abreast, can read the traffic and the road well, and yes can converse about some things cycling but, lo and behold, they can also chat about other issues, things, whatever, about the world and life, be it music, dogs, beer-making, photography, aliens, in-grown toenails, et cetera.
The opposite is like the people, always blokes, I’d meet in England. They could be lurking anywhere. At a cafe, a party, a wedding, a bus stop, driving a taxi…
“What’s your team?”
Oh Jesus here we go. “Liverpool.”
“Liverpool?! Bloody hell!”
And then it’s ten minutes straight of football talk, until you pop half the cyanide pill you keep for such occasions as these, not enough to kill you, but it’ll mean a week in an induced coma then three weeks of rehab but it’s better than listening to any more of this, Mr. All-I-Can-Talk-About-Is-Football-And-Which-Roads-Are-Best-To-Use-To-Drive-From-Nottingham-To-Leeds.
But yes, every once in a while you meet good folk. And I’ve met them here in Taiwan, more than my fare share over the years. There’s one group I love riding with, we’ll call them the Molteni Group. We don’t just ride, we laugh a lot too, wise, funny men, kind also. We went for beers a couple of times and had a blast, not enough times actually IMO but CoVid put the kaibosh on that area of life anyway for a good while.
And there’s another group I met, through one of my coaching clients, Mr. Adamus. He invited me out with them.
“Do you know TSC? That’s who I ride with.”
“Taipei Slow Cyclists.”
Went for a ride, big group, 18 or so people, and it wasn’t that slow to be honest, so they were fibbing there a bit, but on other occasions I’ve been, beginners do join, and people coming back from injury, and people who aren’t interested in cracking 300w for 60 mins but who do clearly love the bike and love riding it. They may not be well-versed on the exploits of VDP and Van Aert these past few years, but they will tell you how getting out on a Sunday really cheers them up and from the smile on their face you can see that is true.
This is my kind of club. I’ve always hated – despised – the hierarchy in cycling. Because you’re faster, you’re better? At what? Being a human? Being nice and kind to others? Usually not. In fact it’s often quite the opposite.
So yeah, I love riding with these guys, egos left at the meeting point, lots of smiles and often a sore face after from laughing, with some decent kms under the bibs and a tasty sarnie and a good coffee afterwards. As it should be. We need more of this.
Cycling needs more inclusiveness, not exclusiveness. It’s daunting enough to go into a bike shop for the first time for many people, daunting too for most women, as they look at what is a male-dominated sport, littered with men who seem to be raging against the dying of the light, egos pumped up and shades down, lenses mirrored inside and out.
Let’s be nicer, not ‘cooler’. Let’s try smiling a bit more at a new rider, and help them a little to feel more comfortable, less judged, more at ease. That’s the real ‘cool’: to be kind.
Doesn’t matter what kit you have on. Nor the brand of your bike. Nor if you don’t have a power meter. Nothing matters apart from, does this make you feel good?
A chap named Marco Mezger started the club, and I salute you sir, for your generosity of spirit and inclusiveness, and I salute all of you in the club, thank you for taking me in and making me feel at home, and even though my racing-guy persona does peek out a bit from time to time (see the video), I am working on it!
I hope one day we will see a London Slow Cyclists, a Tokyo Slow Cyclists, a World Slow Cyclists!
And I’m not joking 😉