When I learned how to mountain bike, I had the good fortune of being about as self-aware as a puppy running in a park. I had no idea that I was going out riding for my first time with a couple of guys who were Cat 1 (Expert level) downhill racers. Even if I had known, it would not have occurred to me that I might be slowing them down, and that they might enjoy their ride more without me tagging along and crashing all the time. They asked me to go riding, so I went.
Good thing I was more excited about mountain biking than worried about what other people were thinking, because the assumption that I would be a damper on their fun would have been completely wrong.
People of different abilities do things together all the time, and the more skilled have just as much fun as the novices. For example, my mom enjoys the outdoors, but is not very athletic. But if she asked me to take her hiking, I would jump at the chance. Not because I could show her how nimble-footed I am, or how much gear I can carry, or how I could make it to the top first. No way. I would enjoy just being with her, doing something challenging together, and I would delight in her triumphs up the hill. We might not even make it up to the top, but that wouldn't be important. The important part is just getting outside with good company.
Similarly, when someone of greater ability than you asks you to go bike riding, it's not because your he is looking for a hammer-fest training ride and wants to see how fast he can drop you. Especially if it's someone who knows he is a better or faster rider than you. Most people enjoy the company, and truly don't mind helping others along or waiting for them.
There will always be people better than you who will be delightful to ride with, as well as others who are miserable to ride with. Don't let your fears about holding people up, or a past bad experience with a particular rider interfere with your getting out on the bike with others. Of course, you should know what you're getting yourself into and be careful not to get in over your head, but also know that when someone asks you to ride, she usually hopes you will come along.
If you are the one doing the asking, tell the more experienced rider that you want to do a relaxed ride, and what duration you'd like the ride to be. If your hammer-head friend turns you down with no encouragement, she may be one of those who only takes long hard rides; don't take it personally. You might ask her if she knows someone you could ride with.
Finally, if you are looking for someone to ride with and simply know no one, here are a few resources:
- San Diego Team LUNA Chix (click on San Diego on the map)
- South Bay Women on Wheels (WoW) Facebook page
Just enter your ZIP code on the right for the list of groups in your area. Or try this one.
Good list of Bike Clubs
If you've tried these places and still can't find a person or a group, contact me. I'll find you someone to ride with or gather a group of people myself. :)
Now go outside and play!
Laura is a member of the San Diego Team LUNA Chix, a group of eight women who organize and lead local bike rides, sports skills and informational clinics, and host charitable events benefiting the Breast Cancer Fund. For information on LUNA Chix bike rides, please see: teamlunachix.com, and click on San Diego.