Group Rides 101

Eric Christenson, photos by Andrea Paulseth

Tired of pedaling solo? New to the game and want to get some good experience? Want to dive in to the local biking community? Try a group ride! It’s a bunch of like-minded bike-heads working together and riding together. Say goodbye to the loneliness of an empty trail, and say hello to new faces, new routes, and lots of fun.

There’s tons of advantages to riding with a group vs. on your own. If you’re a seasoned cyclist, it’s a good chance to keep your skills up; often in a group setting, bikers will ride harder and longer than they thought they could. If you’re just getting started, group rides let you ease into it. Groups can introduce you to new routes, new trails, and secret sweet spots you might not have know about. And, of course, it’s easily one of the best ways to get to know the local biking community, make friends, and it’s that much more fun than going it alone.

GROUP RIDE ETIQUETTE:

  • Wear a helmet. Easy one. Just do it. OK.
  • Keep everyone safe. Use hand signals, alert others of obstacles, maintain your speed, and watch out for traffic. If you’re in front, be a good leader.
  • Be predictable. Don’t brake abruptly or change direction, speed, or position if you don’t have to. And if you do, alert everyone in the group to avoid a crash. Keep your speed consistent.
  • Don’t overlap your wheel in front of you. Any adjustments by the rider in front of you could lead to an accident, so keep a safe distance and always ride directly behind.
  • Help others. If a mechanical problem goes down with anybody in the group, do what you can to help. Don’t just leave them in the dust.
  • Have a good attitude. Everybody’s there to have fun, and everybody likes biking. Be encouraging, be friendly, and be good to the group. That’s what group rides are all about.

Group rides take on lots of different looks and make-ups, even on the local level. And as the Bike Boom grows and evolves, more and more of these things pop up all the time. There’s rides for newbies and experts alike, and the key is finding one that piques your interest, challenges you without surpassing your skill level, and doing the ones that sound the most fun to you personally. So find your tribe and hit the road.

Whatever your style or skill level, the Valley’s got a group ride for you. So give it a go sometime! Here a just a few interesting group rides that happen in the Valley:

1. Rolling Dance Party

Aside from their weekly group rides and general biking wizardry, SHIFT Cyclery & Coffee Bar hosts what they call a Rolling Dance Party a few times annually. This after-dark bike cruise is complete with periodic stops around town, flashing lights, and speakers pumping dance tunes. Park the bike, hop off, shake your booty, and make your way to the next stop. That’s a whole lot of cardio and a ton of fun.

2. Bikes, Bridges, and Brews

This group ride happens a couple of times throughout the year: During Wisconsin Bike Week in June and in September during Chippewa Valley Restaurant Week. You and the crew take your two-wheelers across just about every bridge in Eau Claire (and there’s, y’know, a few of them). It’s a perfect ride for a river town like this, the views are fantastic, and the occasional stop for beer at local breweries like Lazy Monk? That’s a nice touch.

3. Biking Into History

Once in a while every year, the Chippewa Valley Museum hosts a group ride that lets you travel back in time. From the comfort of your bike, visit historical landmarks around the Valley with actual historians who ride along and fill you in on the Valley’s past. It’s fun, energetic, and educational? You bet it is.

4. Valleycat

So, this one isn’t necessarily a group ride. To put it generously, it tiptoes the line between ride and race, depending on how seriously you take it. The Valleycat is an alleycat-style race – which originated from bike messengers decades ago. Mimicking the routine a bike messenger might face in a typical delivery day, alleycats send riders around a city to a series of checkpoint stops. Same goes for the Valleycat, which tasks bikers with mapping their own speedy routes to checkpoints across the whole Chippewa Valley every spring. And – winners and losers aside – there’s a big party at the end.