This week's BikeWalkLee column provides tips on participating in group events. There are plenty of group events in SWFL, which you can always check out in our Monday morning "Upcoming Events" blog post.
If you’re interested in riding (or running) as a group, this is your time of year. There’s a ride or run almost every weekend, it seems, with myriad motivations or missions propelling them onward.But if you’ve never tackled a group event such as this before, what should you expect?
We’ll start with biking, as it’s more complicated… and, potentially, more accessible to the novice. Here are some points to consider:
• Distance: Most locals rides offer multiple distances, a way to ease the newcomer into the group ride process while allowing more experienced riders to up their game as they see (or feel) fit. Pick the distance you think you can do… which for many newcomers will be 15 miles, say. Seem long? Well, if you ride 10 mph (a pretty slow speed achievable by most), a 15-mile ride is an hour and a half… and some even have a rest stop at the halfway point (although that’s more common in the 30-and-up mile rides).
If you’ve got a few miles under your tires, an organized tour ride is a good way to reach a little further by going a longer distance, knowing you’ll have somebody (fellow riders and support in the form of a SAG) looking out for you. That might inspire you to try for a metric century (62 miles) or an actual century (100 miles)… but be sure you can finish the ride in the time allotted. Most formal tour rides post the time after which support will be stopped and the course swept of remaining riders who don’t want to go it alone.
• Equipment: For most rides, helmets are required – so don’t show up without one. Similarly, make sure your bike is in good working order, and you bring along any parts you might need to replace (and the skills you’ll need to replace them). Again, many rides offer support on the route, but that’s only to ensure you get back to the start (by hauling you there) – not to fix your bike in the field. Obviously, you’ll need to dress appropriate to the weather – and with the ability to adjust as the day warms (since most rides start early). Rain is less of an issue than in the summer, but wind and chill can necessitate some extra layers.
Also, since most rides start somewhere that’s usually not in your neighborhood, you’ll need to be able to transport your bicycle to the ride. If you toss your bike in the trunk or the truck bed, bring a few tools in case things get bent out of shape. A better choice is a bike rack, especially if you plan to make a habit of this and have a bike that’s worth protecting. They’re affordable, can carry more than one bike, and will expand your riding range dramatically… just remember to tighten up those straps before AND after you load the bikes.
• Skills: Nothing special is required, but it’s a good way to hone your talents if you want to get better. How used you are to group riding may determine how much of it you do… because if you’re not comfortable riding in close quarters at a reasonable speed, now is not the time to try it out (but it is the time to see how it’s done and what you need to know to get better at it). But if you know your way around a paceline, you know a group can go farther faster than any lone rider can – and group rides are a good time to enjoy that.
Another major skill when riding with others nearby is communication, whether verbal or by hand signals. That’s how others will know what you’re going to do as well as what’s ahead (or behind) the group that could impact cyclists. Know your basic signals, ask questions about those you don’t know and make sure the riders around you know what you plan to do. (It beats a major pile-up or worse.)
• Camaraderie: Riding with a group of similarly skilled cyclists is a lot of fun, a way to make new friends or catch up with old ones (assuming they share your cycling bug) – and probably go further than you normally would because you’re having a good time doing it.
When it comes to group runs, the criteria are easier (as are the choices).
• Distance: If you regularly run at all, a 5K (3.1 miles) is easily within your reach. As the distance goes up, so must your preparedness and training… so don’t make a marathon your first group run unless you’ve put in the miles to do it. In fact, a common mistake new runners make is attempting their first marathon much too soon, which inevitably leads to overuse injuries, some severe enough to make you hang up your running shoes.
• Equipment: Good running shoes and proper clothing that keeps you free of chafing and overheating are all you really need (except perhaps a race bib holder, although safety pins will work just fine). A digital, weatherproof watch will allow you to estimate distance when running in unfamiliar areas.
• Skills: Put one foot in front of the other, repeat until done. The only caution is if you’re no used to running in a crowd, mass starts can be overwhelming. Unless you have a real chance for an award (which means you already know how to deal with groups), stay to the side or behind the horde until the crowd thins out down the road.
• Camaraderie: Again, a group can motivate you either by competition (having someone to push you) or distraction (you’re too busy interacting to notice as the miles roll by).
— BikeWalkLee is a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County—streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Information, statistics and background at BikeWalkLee.org.
• Thursday, Nov. 27: 35th annual Turkey Trot, Cape Coral Wellness Center 609 SE 13th Court, Cape Coral. 5K run/walk, 1-mile fun run and tot trot, starts at 7:30 a.m.; registration opens 6 a.m. Proceeds to benefit Golisano Children’s Hospital. (ftmyerstrackclub.com)
• Saturday, Dec. 6: 36th annual River Run, 10K run and 2-mile walk, across bridges from downtown Fort Myers (ftmyerstrackclub.com)
• Sunday, Dec. 7: Everybody Rides/Runs. Choose a family-friendly chip-timed 5K or half marathon. All finishers will get to run into JetBlue stadium and run right across home plate! 7 a.m. start time for the half marathon. 7:45 a.m. start time for the 5K. (everyonerides.org/)
Cycling & other events:
• Saturday, Nov. 15: Bicycle Bully Busters, Trek Bicycle Store of Estero, 8001 Plaza del Lago Drive #101, Estero. Get on your bike, make a stand against bullying and raise awareness about safe cycling in Southwest Florida at this fun family event. 40-mile ride starts at 7 a.m.; 25-mile ride starts at 7:30 a.m.; 10-mile fun ride begins at 8 a.m. (caloosariders.org)
• Friday, Nov. 29: Black Friday Century. Fort Myers to Naples and back. Details at caloosariders.org
• Sunday, Nov. 30: Iron Joe Turkey Ride. Begins and ends at Naples Cyclery, Pavilion Shopping Center, Vanderbilt Beach Road and U.S. 41. Fully supported rides: 7:30 a.m. breakfast; 8 a.m. Metric Century (100 km); 9 a.m. 30 mile; 10 a.m. 14-mile family ride; 10 a.m. Beach Walk. (www.raceroster.com/events/2014/2892/9th-annual-iron-joe-turkey-ride)
• Sunday, Dec. 21: Christmas Sprint Triathlon and Duathlon (run/bike/run), Sugden Regional Park, 4284 Avalon Drive, Naples. (www.active.com)