Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Group rides prove there’s strength (and fun) in numbers

BikeWalkLee column, the News-Press, 2/15/2017
by Ken Gooderham

Group rides offer different distances, allowing
riders of varying capabilities the opportunity
to participate
. (Photo: news-press file photo)
What can you expect at your first group ride?

Well, to be surrounded by lots of people who like to bike. If you discover that’s not the case, you may have joined the wrong event.

Seriously, a sizeable group going for a ride together is one of the attractions of group rides. There’s strength in numbers, of course, but also camaraderie, a chance to explore some new roadways and perhaps make new friends (or reconnect with old ones).

That said, there are also some things you should be prepared for if this is your first outing.

  • Be early: Assuming you’re hauling your bike via motor vehicle to the ride start, allow time to park, unload and make your final preparations. Don’t roll in at the last minute and expect a smooth transition from car to bike.
  • Know your start time: These aren’t timed events, but different lengths of rides usually go off at different times – to accommodate the expected travel times and also to spread out the bevy of bicyclists taking off at the same time.
When on a group ride, remember you’re on the roadway and need to act more like traffic…
signaling, obeying red lights, at least acknowledging stop signs, etc. 

(Photo: Special to The News-Press)
  • Know your limitations: Usually, group rides offer different distances, allowing riders of varying capabilities the opportunity to participate. It can be fun to test your endurance by picking a ride distance that’s a little outside your comfort zone… but if this is your first time out, don’t pick the longest distance as your place to start, unless you’re ready for a very long day.
  • Know the cutoffs: Tied to ride length, many rides will set cutoff times for either support or pickup. (It’s both to rest their weary volunteers and to tear down support stations, portalets and other infrastructure.) Know what yours is, unless you’re willing to finish the ride on your own.
  • Be prepared: Yes, most group rides offer support… but it can take time for help to get there if you’re out in the middle of nowhere (which is where a lot ride take you). Being able to deal with flats and other routine inconveniences on your own can help keep you moving, and save the support drivers for the big stuff.
  • Be polite: There usually are a lot of riders involved, so patience is a virtue (and a necessity). It’s also good form to keep an eye out for other riders, so ask the person you just passed by the side of the rode if they’re OK before pedaling on by. Also, remember you’re on the roadway and need to act more like traffic… signaling, obeying red lights, at least acknowledging stop signs, etc.
  • Know your route (a little): Most group rides provide maps and directions, so look at them. The good rides also mark the roadway, using arrows for turns and different color for different ride lengths. Still betting to have a little bit if a clue where you’re going then to get seriously lost where no one will come looking for you.
  • Have the right gear: Starting early (as most rides do)? Dress in layers so you can add or subtract as necessary. Chance of rain? Bring a water-repellent jacket. Chance of riding in the gloom? Have lights handy. Own a helmet? Bring it, as most rides won’t let you ride without one.
  • Have fun: That’s kind of the point, right?
Make sure you have the right equipment for your ride. If riding in the gloom, for example,
have lights handy.
(Photo: Special to The News-Press)
Want to practice your group riding skills, or try one out for the first time? Start with one of the best: The 19th annual Royal Palm Classic on Sunday, March 12, presented by the Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club. It starts and ends at Fort Myers Brewing Company, 12811 Commerce Lakes Dr, Suite 27-28, Fort Myers… so adult beverages are likely on the menu. There’s a staggered start for the three ride lengths: The 62-miler starts at 8 a.m., the 40-miler starts at 9 a.m. and the 15-mile ride starts at 9:30 a.m. Info online at

Right after the Royal Palm are two more group ride options: Cycling for Fallen Heroes on Sunday, March 19, with 10-, 28-, 42- and 62-mile rides starting from the Trek Bicycle Store of Estero (; and Pedal and Play in Paradise on Saturday, March 25, with, 15-, 30- and 62-mile rides plus a mystery tour based out of Laishley Park, Punta Gorda (

A final note: The very popular (and prolific) Critical Mass rides are a different critter than the group rides discussed here. They are slower and geared for the easy rider, well guided and protected, focused on fun more than fitness… and held at night, which means lights are a must (and the more the merrier). Of course, a sense of courtesy as well as fun is always recommended, whatever the ride.

Ready to ride or run?

Run? If you’re looking for crowds and noise, this is your Saturday… the venerable Edison Festival 5K kicks off at 5:45 p.m. in downtown Fort Myers ( If that’s not your style, you can go long (or not) at the Paradise Coast Half Marathon & 5K, on Sunday at Lely Resort, Naples ( The following weekend has a trio of 5Ks: the Swamp Stomp 5K, to benefit the Caloosa Human Society. 7:30 a.m., Grandeur Oaks Town Center, LaBelle (; the fourth annual TALC Fun Run 5K, by the Teachers Association of Lee County at Hyatt Place at the Forum (; and on Sunday the Naples Coconut Run 5K.7:30 a.m. at Lowdermilk Park, Naples (

Ride? Critical Mass rides abound: Friday is the Roll Estero ride; the following Friday is the Cape Coral ride; Saturday, Feb. 25 is the starter morning ride in downtown Fort Myers; and the original downtown night ride is Friday, March 3. For the night events, bring lights (and a good attitude, of course); helmets recommended for all, and details are at


Have a favorite route you like to bike, or a unique walk you’d like to share with others? Tell us about it at, and maybe we can feature it in an upcoming column.

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Ken Gooderham writes this on behalf of BikeWalkLee, 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 online at

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