Are you new to bicycling or just new to the club? Here are answers to some of the most common questions of those getting ready to ride with COGS.
Know your current abilities and then choose a ride by looking at the pace, distance, and terrain that the ride leader has classified. If you want a stress-free, easily handled outing, then stick with a ride that matches your ability. If you want to improve your fitness and skills, you should choose a ride that is a bit beyond what you have done before. Consider extending your range by 10 to 20 percent at a time. For instance, if your last ride was a moderate 30-miler, you might consider a moderate 35-miler next week. If you always find yourself at the front of the group or first to the top of the hill, then consider a brisk ride on your next outing.
COGS uses the same pace classification system as the Cascade Bike Club. The following paces assume a flat road and no wind:
Steady/Social: 12-14 mph
Moderate: 14-16 mph
Brisk: 16-18 mph
Strenuous: 18-21 mph
Super Strenuous: 22+ mph
To accurately gauge your abilities, you may need to time yourself or get a bike computer with a speedometer. Pace varies by terrain, of course. A Moderate ride may go up the hills at 6 mph and down them at 20 mph. For rides described as "hilly," consider choosing a pace one step down from your usual comfort level.
On rides without cue sheets or on complex routes, the group may get spread out. To keep people from getting lost, the leader may post a rider at each corner to show others the way. When the last person (the sweep) goes by, the corner person rejoins the ride.
The only mandatory requirement is that you must wear an ANSI-approved bike helmet. If you are just getting into biking, then wear whatever you are comfortable in. It is better to avoid loose and baggy clothing because it tends to inhibit your movement. On longer rides (over 20 miles or a couple of hours), you will probably want to get bike-specific clothes. In the Northwest, on any ride from September through May, there is a possibility of rain and cold, so always bring long-finger gloves and a water-resistant windbreaker.
Always be self-sufficient. In brief that means your bike must be in good working order, and you must bring food, drink, and tools. Know how to fix a flat and bring a spare tube and pump. On longer rides (30 miles or more), bring a couple of tubes. For a 20-miler, bring a water bottle. For longer rides, bring two water bottles and extra food, such as a nutrition bar, banana, or other convenient source of protein and carbs. In winter always have a red taillight. If there is any chance of being out after dusk, add a headlight too. Lastly, remember to pump up your tires and fill your water bottles before leaving home. Most important, COGS members always bring a smile and willingness to get to know new riders. Enjoying cycling is what it is all about!
Many of our rides will have a cue sheet provided by the leader. If you are finding your way with a cue sheet, you must have an accurately calibrated bike computer that is set to zero when you start. Here are some common cue sheet abbreviations you will see:
L - Turn Left
R - Turn Right
BL - Bear Left
BR - Bear right
CS - Continue Straight
NC - Name Change of road (or BC - Becomes)
X - Cross
Imd L - Immediate Left
On almost all COGS rides of a Brisk or slower pace, the ride leader will try to keep the group together. Regroup points at the tops of hills and major intersections help everyone keep up. Ride leaders often exchange cell phone numbers and do their best to stay in touch with everyone on the ride, but it is not always possible to do so. On a moderate ride, the leader may wait up to ten minutes at regroup points, but if you are farther behind than that, you may get dropped. Consider that at a 15 mph pace, ten minutes behind means 2.5 miles back. We encourage you to pick rides that match your pace.
While there is no end to the amount of information you can get on cycling training, here is a very simple way to improve: Just keep riding and gradually add to your mileage. First, try to ride at least 3 weekends a month. Next, keep challenging yourself by adding distance and climbing bigger hills. If you start doing 20 miles and increase by 10% a week, you will be doing a century in less than five months! Lastly, ride at least once during the week. A midweek ride is the best way to keep from losing the conditioning you gain on the longer weekend outings.