Some people thrive in groups, feeding off of social energy and encouragement. Others are more lone wolves. We thrive on flying solo.
So what’s wrong with being a soloist?
Nothing. And you shouldn’t feel bad about it either.
But, be careful, being a soloist is a double-edged sword.
Here are 6 questions to ask yourself when trying to figure out your riding style, and considerations for what you might be missing out on if you fly solo:
#1 – Do you shy away from commitment?
Maybe you’ll leave for your ride at 10. Maybe you’ll have an extra cup of coffee and roll around on the floor with the dog for a while before you even think about pulling your chamois on.
You do what you want, when you want.
- However: You might sluff it off completely. I don’t know about you, but I take making time more seriously if someone else is waiting for you or meeting you at a specific time or place.
#2 – Do you identify as an introvert?
Introverts are all the rage right now. Have you taken one of these tests to tell you if you are? I haven’t. Mostly because I keep getting distracted. Where’s the link for that A.D.D test I’ve been meaning to take..? But what I know is that my partner and friends are all surprised to hear that I consider myself an introvert because I can be quite extroverted around them. That means if you’re like me, your introverted and shy at first until you’ve gotten the lay of the land. And also for me, it’s easier to connect with people in smaller groups than large.
- None of that pesky or horrific small talk. Sometime you just need to be in your own head.
- However: Staying in your comfort mentally is just as detrimental toward expansion as staying in your comfort zone physically.
#3 – Are you afraid you’re out of shape and won’t keep up?
Most of us, especially when starting out, have a fear of getting dropped on a group ride. There are definitely clubs out there that ride fast and stop for no one – yes, some groups are indeed that elite – but they’re pretty clear about expectations.
- You don’t have to worry about comparing yourself to others, something that is a definite bummer whether you’re talking about strangers on social media, being out of breathe on the bike, or being the last up the hill for no other reason than being the fat lass at the back.
- Drafting! You have no idea how physically, it can help a rider to being in a group of other riders (not a mile behind). It’s physics or science or something! It’s why pelatons are so damn fast.
#4 – Are you actually meditating?
One of my favorite things about riding a bike is the cyclical cadence of it all, from my legs, to the hum of the wheels, the chain, your breathing – even if it gets erratic from time to time. A lot of people, myself included, just zone out when on the bike. It’s meditative. Your brain is just engaged enough by the physical world to keep itself busy in the background to stave off monkey mind – usually. I’ve found that sometimes I need to be on the bike to think, but find that I’ve barely thought about anything during the ride other than being present in my environment – and yet I’m so much more mentally healthy when I’m back on terra firma.
- Meditating is good for you. You’re allowed to do make sure you engage in meditative tasks.
- Riding in a crowd may keep you from getting to where you need to be in your head for the ride.
#5 – Are you comfortable with mechanics?
If you get a flat, you should know how to fix it, or have some kind of a back up plan appropriate for your location and the type of ride you’re on. In a cities such as Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis and New York – there are bike shops and public transportation options a plenty. Sixty miles out of Omaha, maybe not so much.
- It’s a good idea to know how to change a flat and carrying the necessary tools for the job will keep you on a minimum level of self-sufficiency.
- If you ride with a companion or a group, you can help each other out when issues arise.
#6 – Do you value independence and control more than connection and camaraderie?
This is what it comes down to, friends. When you’re a soloist, you can do whatever you want. You can push your loop an extra few miles, or allow yourself to take it easy if that’s what you feel like you need. But there are a few things which you could be missing as a result, those things are connection, smiles, commonality, courage, support, and even results.
If you think trying on a group ride might be for you, I recommend you start looking at meetup.com. There are dozens and dozens of cycling groups, made up of all kinds of different people, identifying as all sorts of things, from Slow Riders to Women on Wheels. Just put in your location.
You can also use the Google, using exactly the search terms you’d think of:[women cycling], [bicycling club], [beginners cycling] + [your location]. Look for the phrases “no-drop” and check to see if they have different categories and speeds. If they do, and you’re not sure how fast you ride, just assume you’re in the D category and don’t worry about it even a little bit. If you want to see how fast you ride, you can use some basic math and science such to measure your speed: distance over time. Remember: slow isn’t bad, it’s just a fact. And if you’re looking to improve your speed, it will come with time, and effort. But don’t fret, or position it as a obstacle, because it totally doesn’t have to be.
If you think you’re looking for more of a one-on-one cycling buddy experience, you can start by checking in with your friends. Put it out there on Facebook, or even Twitter. You’d be surprised at how many people you already know would make great cycling companions! Maybe they didn’t know you were into biking, maybe they’ve been thinking about it for a while but you asking was the final tipping point for them to finally try on going for a ride! There are other ways to find touring companions, but if you’re just looking for someone to go on local rides with at this point, start with who you know, or even post on your local bike shop’s Facebook page to see if anyone else in your neighborhood is looking for a companion too.
I hesitate to suggest publishing a post on Craigslist for the obvious safety reasons, but if you’re comfortable with that sort of thing and you take care of yourself and know your surroundings, you could meet a person or two to try on a bike ride with. Have a good chat with them over the phone first and make sure your bullshit meter is calibrated.
If you find you have more than one person you like to go on a ride with, then start your own club! It’s so easy, especially with FB groups. Heck, join mine, if you like – we have a handful of riders sprinkled across New York, New Jersey, Michigan and Oregon!
But the more you dwell on this one question, the more you realize it’s like contemplating your navel or staring into the sun. Pointless, and somewhat detrimental to your overall aim of just getting out there and experiencing the world.
One might begin to wonder: Is the question itself a form of procrastination?
Perhaps. The good news is: it totally doesn’t matter! Try it one way, then another, and then another, and then another! Maybe it depends on your mood? Maybe it depends on the route, or the group! Just try something, anything and then try it differently next time!
If you already know your riding style, what do you think? Do you like to ride alone, with a group, or do you go back and forth? Why? Why not?
Are you looking for a group or cycling companion now?
Let’s start the conversation in the comments!