We operate weekly club rides out into Essex, Hertfordshire and sometimes beyond. These are usually advertised on our Facebook Page. If you have any questions about the club rides that aren't covered below then ask them there.
When do you go?
We have club runs on Sundays almost every week (unless it's Christmas Day or the weather is truly apocalyptic).
Where and when do you meet?
We meet at the gates to the Town Hall on Forest Road in Walthamstow: http://streetmap.co.uk/map.srf?X=537723&Y=189785&A=Y&Z=115
The idea is for the various groups to depart at 9:00 am. Inevitably, things can get delayed by 5 minutes or so, but you shouldn't gamble on this - if you turn up at ten past you will probably find everyone has gone. A few meet up for a pre-ride coffee in the Winwood Art District cafe (just round the corner at the top of Chingford Road, near The Bell), but most just turn up at the town hall from 8:55 am onwards.
The idea is to have a second meeting point at 'Acorn Hut' (aka the green tea hut) at High Beach in Epping Forest:
There are often several different groups (more details below) - the more 'social'-paced groups try to meet there with the intention of departing again at 9:45 am. The faster groups sometimes do this too (on these occasions they normally take a diversion to do a climb up Mott Street on the way there, while the social group rides straight up the Epping New Road), but on other occasions they will get there earlier and depart nearer 9:30 am, or some weeks not go through there at all. If in any doubt, it's best to check on the club's Facebook page for the latest plans.
How many riders are there?
Obviously this varies from week to week, but I would say typically we might have about 20 when we set off from Walthamstow and pick up another five or so at High Beach. However, we don't ride in one group - partly because different groups of people want to go at different speeds, and partly because of safety (a big group makes it very difficult for cars to overtake us and could lead to unpleasantness). Typically a group would have 8-10 riders in it. When the weather is bad, fewer people are likely to be out (although having said that, we still had over 20 riders when the temperature was -5C) and there are several weekends when the club organizes a race or other event and this means many people are not available for the club run - as above, check on Facebook to see what the situation is.
How far do you go and how fast do you go?
Again, this varies from week to week. We have started trying to designate different groups/rides with letters to make it simpler:
Group A: fast and hard, ranging from 19 mph to >20 mph chaingang, if you're dropped no one is likely to wait for you (usually 50-70 miles)
Group B: moderately fast, with an average speed from 17 mph to 18.5 mph, possibly a coffee stop depending on what people want (usually 50-60 miles) (Edit: the pace for this group tends to rise when the weather gets warmer. For a while in the summer of 2017 the Bs were averaging 20mph)
Group C: social, 14-16mph, coffee stop very likely - distance as above, but depends on when people want to get back (Edit: this has now evolved into two separate groups, C going at 16-17mph, and Social going at around 14mph, generally following different routes)
Introductory ride, gentle pace (12-13mph), shorter distance (maybe 25-30 miles)
This doesn't mean all of these groups necessarily happen every week, though: there should be a 'B' group and a social ('C') group almost every week, but A will only happen if there are enough fast riders around that weekend. Similarly, the introductory ('D') ride only happens if there is someone to lead it. We aim to put a route up on the club's Facebook page by Thursday or Friday, which will be followed by the A/B groups, though not necessarily by the others. There is usually a discussion on that thread where people negotiate which groups they will be in and who will be the ride leader.
There is now also a monthly Women's Group ride which has been going since December. This is usually slightly shorter (more like 40-45 miles) with a cafe stop and the aim is to go at a pace that everyone can manage (perhaps 14mph). This is also announced on Facebook, usually several weeks in advance. Of course, women are welcome on the normal rides every week as well, but are normally outnumbered eight to one or more - the women's rides redress the balance a bit!
If you are coming out with us for the first time, try to choose the most appropriate group. If you are new to cycling and haven't ridden far before, the introductory ride is the best place to start. If you are more experienced, it's probably best to err on the side of caution in terms of which average speed would suit you best (i.e. if you're not sure whether to go with B group or the C group, try the C group first) - you don't want to get dropped on your first ride.
When would I get home again?
This depends on the distance and pace (see above), whether there is a cafe stop, whether you have to stop because someone has a puncture, whether there's a horrendous headwind on the way back, etc. As a rule of thumb, the B group would normally get back to Walthamstow* some time between 12pm and 1:30pm. The A group is usually similar. If John is leading the social ride he often tailors the distance to what people say they have time to do - if enough people are up for a long one, they might not get back till 3pm, but if people want to get back earlier, then that's what happens. You often get people who say "I have to be home by X o'clock" who peel off and turn back early, or who plough on when others stop for a coffee, so don't feel obliged to stay to the bitter end if you've got other commitments.
*not that everyone goes back to Walthamstow - as the ride leaves Essex and returns to the fringes of London the groups start splitting up as people head their separate ways to Leytonstone, Hackney, Chingford, Stratford, or wherever they live.
What do I need to bring with me?
At the absolute minimum, everyone should have at least one spare inner tube, some tyre levers and a mini-pump. Ideally, you should also have a puncture repair kit, a little multi-tool and perhaps another inner tube. If it's the winter or it's raining, it's best if you have mudguards (out of consideration for whoever is riding behind you) - race blades are fairly easy to fit (and remove) on most road bikes. If you're likely to be out when the light is fading, or if the weather is particularly bleak, you should also have a front and rear light.
Without wanting to sound alarmist, you also need to be prepared for the worst - you could end up being involved in an accident that completely wrecks your bike and/or leaves you in hospital. Make sure you have some money with you if you end up having to get a taxi or train and some kind of ID and contact details if people have to call your next of kin. Take your phone as well, so that you can call for a taxi / lift from a friend if you need it. If it's going to be raining, make sure your phone is in one of those waterproof pouches (I learnt this lesson the hard way).
Common sense says you should have at least one drinks bottle with you and something to eat (most people favour a banana and some energy gels), especially if your group is not going to have a cafe stop. When the weather is hot we often end up having to call in at a shop to buy more drinks.
Also, you should know how to get home. If you aren't familiar with the roads in Essex (or sometimes Herts) you should take a map - or, much more common nowadays, either a phone on which you can access a map, or better still a Garmin with maps on it. If you're going on the A/B group ride and you have a Garmin, download the route we stick up on Facebook and put it on your device. We don't want anyone to get dropped on any of the rides and try to avoid this, but you should be prepared.
What is a ride leader? Who are the ride leaders?
The ride leader should know the route and either lead the way or shout out directions (though, hopefully, other riders in the group should also have the route on their Garmins). Ideally, the ride leader should also keep an eye on how many riders there are in the group to keep track and check if anyone has been dropped (especially as we can get separated at junctions / on climbs). The ride leader should also give a shout out if he/she feels there is a need to stop / slow down / go single file for whatever reason (though anyone can do this - it doesn't have to be the ride leader).
We try to negotiate ride leaders for different groups each week on Facebook. If there is an A group, the leader is often David or Barnaby, the B group is often led by me (Jamie), Karl often leads the C group, John often leads a social group, Edward is the person most likely to lead an introductory ride, and Chrystyna and Monika have been organising the women's group rides (Edit: now Alice).
Where do you go?
We have different routes every week, but the vast majority of the rides are in Essex. Broadly speaking, some routes head east of Epping Forest through places such as Abridge, Navestock, Ongar, Blackmore and Hanningfield. Others head north-east through places such as Theydon Bois, Toot Hill, Moreton, Matching Green and Hatfield Heath. Less frequently, we head north-west through places such as Nazeing, Roydon, Much Hadham, Broxbourne and Essendon.
Every now and then there are train-assisted rides where we ride out somewhere and get the train back. In recent times we have gone to Saffron Walden, Cambridge and Brighton.
What kind of bike do I need?
You should have a road bike. To be honest, unless you're on an introductory ride, you would struggle to keep up if you were riding some kind of mountain bike or hybrid. Similarly, you ought to have cycling shoes and pedals that you clip into or you will find it very difficult. Although tri-bars (aka aero-bars) are great for reducing wind resistance in time trials, they are not appropriate for group rides so please don't use them.
What do I need to know about group riding?
We have to share the road with other users, so be considerate. Unless we're out in the middle of nowhere and we can clearly see that there's no other traffic around, we'll be riding either single file or two abreast, not sprawling all over the road. Two abreast is generally preferred - it means you can communicate with each other more easily and it also means any cars don't have to travel so far to overtake us (i.e. a line of five pairs of riders is half the length of a line of ten individual riders) - but there will be times when it's safer to ride single file (e.g. approaching horses, or approaching a tight bend on a narrow lane, or going at high speed on a descent).
You want to ride close enough to the wheel in front that you get the benefit of riding in their slipstream, but not so close that if they suddenly touch their brakes you crash into the back of them. Ride alongside the person next to you - i.e. your front wheels should be level with each other. Don't ride with your front wheel level with someone's back wheel - they can't see you and could swing out and knock you down / slice your spokes.
Bear in mind that lots of people are riding close to you and they need to know if you're going to do anything unpredictable. Whoever is at the front of the group should make people aware of hazards. If there is a pothole or something lying in the road, people will point at it - those behind should copy this so that the instruction filters all the way back (if it's a serious hole, people will shout out 'hole!'). If there is an obstruction on the left (e.g. a parked car, someone walking a dog, a jogger, a slower cyclist about to be overtaken), people will put their left hand behind their back and point to the right (before moving out that way). If someone wants to push in the line in front of you (perhaps when the group is changing to single file) they will point to show that's where they want to go.
If you're at the back and there is a car (or other vehicle) following the group and looking to overtake, let the group know by shouting 'car back!' or 'car behind!'. If we're on a main road with lots of cars, don't feel the need to do this for every car, but if we're on a narrow country lane and the car can't get past unless we go single file, it's important to know. When the car starts to overtake you can shout 'car through!'. Again, if it's a narrow country lane (especially a twisty one) and you're at the front of the group, you should 'car up!' or 'car ahead!' if a car is coming towards us**. Whoever is at the front should also shout 'slowing!' or 'stopping!' if we approach a red light or a traffic jam. When we come to a junction, those at the front should say if we have to stop - if not, shout 'clear!'. See also: https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/knowledge/article/izn20121221-group-ride-0
Be careful around horses. Slow down and go single file. Give a shout to let the riders and horses know you are coming. Pass as wide as you can. More tips here: https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/knowledge/skills/article/izn20150106-Horses-on-the-road-0#wimtWI78eQXPPAg1.99
**a long-time club member has pointed out that the traditional shouts around this part of the world are 'oil up!' if there's a car behind and 'oil down' if there's a car ahead. To be honest, you will hear several variations (not least because the riders on the club run will come from all over the place), but if the shout comes from the front of the group it's almost certainly a car ahead and if the shout comes from the back of the group it will be a car behind.
Will I be eaten by bears?
Bears have been extinct in Britain for more than a thousand years, so this is very unlikely to happen.
What if I don't use Facebook?
Unfortunately, a lot of the communication about club runs between members currently takes place via Facebook. Hopefully when we have revamped our website the forum will get more use. This thread on the forum is sometimes updated with the route - you could try posting a question there: https://leavalleycc.microco.sm/conversations/289309/