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L'arri

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Clubs, club etiquette, group riding
« on: July 31, 2012, 19:57 »
Two reasons for starting this thread:

1) I'm thinking of joining a club and need some advice from those who might know something of the Belgian and Dutch scene

2) VR is a comparatively global community, so I'd like to hear stories, info, opinions, appraisals, rants about your local clubs

Let me begin with ...

1) Joining a club in your area

My interest here is obviously related to Belgium, but your joining stories and favourite / recommended clubs anywhere in the world would be cool. If I came to your town, which team should I join?

I was out on the bike with Mrs L'arri on Saturday on the south end of Werchter and as I was riding along a baan, I saw to my left a set of traffic lights with a really big bunch of cyclists sat waiting for green. Mrs L'arri and I turned into a quiet side road per the Edge navigation and we were quickly engulfed by this mass of guys (no ladies - the ladies have their own groups, I think).

They were all wearing matching blue club kits. Apparently from Sint-Katelijne-Waver, their club name was not visible but their sponsors were Verelst Verzekeringen and Garage Luc, both of S-K-W. They were doing a pretty decent pace and we drafted on the back for a few moments but Mrs L'arri didn't want to be there. I looked behind and, the joy of Belgian bunches even at amateur level, there was a big van complete with the obligatory "Opgelet Fietsers!" reflective triangle on the roof. We had to let that pass us too.

Where I come from in the UK, people didn't mind you drafting a group on a Sunday morning, but then they're not all usually riding in the same kit with vehicle support either! So here in Belgium or the Netherlands, would I have gotten some dirty looks if I'd continued? Perhaps elsewhere in the world - what's the policy there?

Next, I would very much be interested in joining some of these rides. Fitness sure, but also to make new friends - I have lived in Belgium four years and have yet to meet a real cycling fan - and maybe to practise a bit of language too.

- Is it "members only",
- is there usually a café stop,
- how hard and long are the rides (I have seen split listings on some Flemish club websites) given that you know my recent cycling history,
- how welcome would I be as a dirty foreigner?

2) Club anecdotes

These are just a few anecdotes about clubs I rode for and against...

I brought down a couple of big bunch rides when I was just starting out. I still feel terrible about that. A lot of damage was done, worst casualty being my own credibility and of course, we like our credibility.

I raced and I was successful as a teenager but I got neither recognition nor support from my clubs. Just a tiny discount on the exorbitantly-priced club jersey from Impsport or Alexa and a few people to drop off home if we had driven to a weekly club meeting.

We did sometimes do circuit training in an old parish church building in the winter though. They even had a fitness lady come do aerobics and we all laughed at the softness of this in comparison with our tough, rain-hammered, cycling hardman constitutions. We folded our arms and we adopted the Stance of Unbelief. And we stared at her ample chest.

Then she started the music and effortlessly took us through a 90-minute aerobics routine that would make riding Paris-Roubaix seem like a spring picnic. This was truly A Wednesday in Hell.

I refused to join the first club I knew about simply because I hated the jersey. If described today, it could be said that it resembled 'woolly Astana'.

Judging from the races I did back then, which is where I saw the widest array of clubs in action, club jerseys were specifically designed to cause maximum embarassment to their wearers. There is something cacophonous about watching a field set off on a criterium in a flash of dayglo (for it was that time, folks) and mismatched bike colours.

There was a clique in our club of older, self-supporting lads who had jobs and everything. They rode Colnago Masters with Dura Ace and beautiful Ambrosio wheelsets of which us poor college / schoolkids were very envious. Meanwhile, they hated us because we were younger and fitter than them, though in reality we probably had no more time available for training than they did.

"Waste of a gorgeous bike, the fat bastard doesn't need that," we might have said churlishly. Now, as a thirtysomething with a "job and everything" and not enough time available for training, I understand perfectly why they bought themselves Colnago Masters with Dura Ace and beautiful Ambrosio wheelsets.  ;D
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    Anthony Moan

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    Re: Clubs, club etiquette, group riding
    « Reply #1 on: August 02, 2012, 08:15 »
    Joining the club has some good and bad news, as every social group there are people who would you like, and people you dont like, and vice versa. My club has some 35 members and I hang out with only 4-5 guys who are training and racing, all others I just see maybe one time per year and there is whole bunch of profiles, from dentist, bankars to regular guys.

    Without club/fed licence there is no racing, and it cost about 70 e per year. So just ask them to join, but find club which suit you, there is clubs who are more oriented to relaxed way and others who are taking cycling more seriously, I mean some semi pro or crazy masters.

    Club rides here I join every sunday and it is visited by all sort of people, and I join other club rides as well, just ask them about tempo and distance and you would find your group to ride for sure.
    Our group club rides are organized (but always some issues as with any group of people) by 2-3 groups, and short briefing before (distance, route, speed, coffee/beer stop) they all riding together until first hill, after that strongest guys continuing to ride about over 110km, B group about 80km, and all others if wants just turned back home or trying to find some people to ride further.

    Also we meet each other on rides if someone calls any time if possible, I like to ride with slow/old riders when must have easy ride, and it is much more fun then riding alone.

    As for drafting behind some serious guys, also just ask them to join, I am sure they will not refuse, if so they are bad people. I have seeing many, many strangers who lived here and ride with us, no problemo at all, if needed we just tell them where are we going coz language barriers, and everybody is happy.
    Nah you will find right club mate.
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  • Reverend Fred Saves!!

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    Re: Clubs, club etiquette, group riding
    « Reply #2 on: August 02, 2012, 20:29 »
    I have never been a member of a cycling club myself, nor do I have any intention of joining one. I do have a few friends who are members of a club. However, that club is mainly focused on ice skating, and uses cycling only as summer training. Some of them are more serious about the cycling than about the ice skating though. Still, I don't know how such a club compares to an actual cycling focused club as the ones you're talking about.

    To answer your questions, with the caveats of the above and that your experience in Belgium may differ from mine in the Netherlands:
    - In my experience drafting on a group of cyclists is never a problem, as long as you either don't get in their way or cooperate and take turns. Especially if you ask a group, you should be fine. However, some people don't seem to like it. If you notice people looking over their shoulders uncomfortably, perhaps it's better to go your own way before you get yelled at ;)
    - Whether rides are members only, there are cafe stops and how long the rides are, that all depends on the club. As Anthony says, most clubs have different groups, some of which ride further than others. You should normally be able to find some people that suit your tempo, and you can just tag along with them. It depends on what you're looking for: some clubs will be more casual, just go for a ride and have fun, while others will have training schedules, competitions and swim training :P Just find a club that you think will suit your preferences and you'll be fine.
    - Dirty foreigners are always more than welcome. I think most Belgians would even find your foreign experiences of cycling to be very interesting.

    If you want to know more specific answers to this kind of questions, just mail some of the clubs you might be interested in. You should probably be able to ride along once or twice with the clubs before deciding if you are interested in joining the club. Just try a few, see which one works best and go with that.
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  • jimmythecuckoo

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    Re: Clubs, club etiquette, group riding
    « Reply #3 on: November 28, 2012, 11:07 »
    Interesting thread that I missed before.

    I think there are benefits in joining a club. There is a lot of knowledge about the sport within them. I have ridden for 20 years and still learn plenty from the senior and up and coming riders in our club.

    There is a sense of belonging and being part of something that a team kit and regular meets can foster.

    The downsides are that you have to miss events to take your turn marshalling and time keeping, but even that can feel like a positive contribution if your mind is right.

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  • L'arri

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    Re: Clubs, club etiquette, group riding
    « Reply #4 on: February 20, 2013, 09:31 »
    I've been looking for a club to ride with in the last week. Tone inspired me with his recent post about how club rides were the thing that made him really fit.



    So there are two statuses (sic) in Belgium, from what I can see. There's the racing type membership (presumably predicated on a racing licence) and a kind of cyclotouriste thing too. The former is represented by the KBWB-RLVB (Belgian Cycling) and the latter is VBR-FFBC.

    This represents an unhelpful situation for me, because I am looking for sportive riding but I don't want to compete. Perhaps Michiel can shed some light on that. :)

    So I wasn't sure about whether I could join a "racing" club if I didn't plan to race, so my first step was to look at the cyclotouriste clubs.

    Brussels is a black hole for cycling clubs anyway but looking at the (horrible, usually outdated) websites seems to underline the problem I have above.

    Photos are a good reflection of what club rides are like and every single one of the cyclotouriste clubs is populated almost exclusively by folks over 50. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it's not exactly what I'd call a peer group.



    So it looks like I'm going to have to navigate the city and do maybe 30km just to find the starting point for rides with a decent club.
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  • Anthony Moan

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    Re: Clubs, club etiquette, group riding
    « Reply #5 on: February 20, 2013, 10:41 »
    I've been looking for a club to ride with in the last week. Tone inspired me with his recent post about how club rides were the thing that made him really fit.



    So there are two statuses (sic) in Belgium, from what I can see. There's the racing type membership (presumably predicated on a racing licence) and a kind of cyclotouriste thing too. The former is represented by the KBWB-RLVB (Belgian Cycling) and the latter is VBR-FFBC.

    This represents an unhelpful situation for me, because I am looking for sportive riding but I don't want to compete. Perhaps Michiel can shed some light on that. :)

    So I wasn't sure about whether I could join a "racing" club if I didn't plan to race, so my first step was to look at the cyclotouriste clubs.

    Brussels is a black hole for cycling clubs anyway but looking at the (horrible, usually outdated) websites seems to underline the problem I have above.

    Photos are a good reflection of what club rides are like and every single one of the cyclotouriste clubs is populated almost exclusively by folks over 50. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it's not exactly what I'd call a peer group.



    So it looks like I'm going to have to navigate the city and do maybe 30km just to find the starting point for rides with a decent club.
    Here you can join any club of course not semi-pro or something if you are slow :D
    If you want to race it will cost you about 45 euros for insurance, medical etc, but if you don t want to race you do not need to pay anything just club fee about 15 euro, cyclotouriste you can be but if this event is in calendar and organizers want license you must have it, some cyclotourist events do not need license at all some do.
    I think it is pretty similar like in Belgium.
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  • krabkakes

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    Re: Clubs, club etiquette, group riding
    « Reply #6 on: February 20, 2013, 14:04 »
    I belonged to a triathlon club :embarrassed and it was a great benefit. I'm sure a cycling club would be the same
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    L'arri

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    Re: Clubs, club etiquette, group riding
    « Reply #7 on: June 09, 2015, 08:58 »
    Another thread resurrection, just to update those who are interested.

    As you may recall, I later got frustrated with the insular club situation here in Belgium and started my own, informal Internet-only club.

    It has since brought all sorts of people together (Spain, Slovenia, US, France, UK, Belgium, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Japan, Australia, ...) but the problem I have found is the wildly different fitness level of members and their general inability to function as a collective unit. Neither of these has been particularly conducive to the group experience I had sought.

    Added to that, planning rides that suit everyone, communication, post-ride data, etc can actually mean a lot of effort for which I have received very little thanks, I must say. However, some rides have been a lot of fun and the day out in March to Omloop Het Nieuwsblad went really well.

    So over Spring I took a break that stretched out to three months or so. I just rode solo and did stuff in my personal life like going out every Saturday night, which I never dared do when there was a club ride early the next morning.

    I found that I didn't want the group rides as much as I used to. It was much less hassle just to put on my shoes and helmet and ride off on my own. Then I got an email a couple of weeks ago asking me what I was doing with the club, so I thought I had better put another group ride together. This happened last Sunday and it was fun, so I'll do a few more and see how it goes.
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