In my explorations one day I ran across a group of riders congregated in the parking lot of a large park. I stopped and chatted and learned of the Group Ride.
I'd done T-Shirt rallies, organized rides with support and rest stops where you could get cookies and sport drink, but I'd not considered the idea that riders might ride in larger groups elsewhere. Yes, I was naive.
So I joined what was the Tuesday/Thursday Benbrook pick-up ride. It was a salty bunch, with guys who wouldn't hesitate to tell you what you're doing wrong. They wouldn't hesitate to tell you when they were impressed, either, but it's always the critiques we remember.
I learned a lot. And I got much faster.
After a year, I started to earn a nickname - Red Chris, because I rode a red bike, wore kit that was largely red, red helmet and red sunglasses. I might have been a bit of a Fred, complete with hairy legs, but I was color coordinated.
Over time I earned the respect of the group - I was a consistent and safe rider, cautious and respectful of everyone. I also started to earn a reputation as one of the big dogs. I wasn't the fastest, but I wasn't afraid to challenge the faster guys - while putting hurt on the slower ones.
Life changes moved me away from the ride. Where I used to be an easy 15 minute ride from the start, I was now, and still am, a 45 minute traffic-mangled drive away. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't the anchor, but I was a center of gravity. I left about the same time as a couple others and within two seasons the ride had largely disappeared.
Quite sad. It had a great route with a really good group of riders. Even more, little took its place, the vacuum only partly filled with trail-based rides and lots of solo riders doing their own thing.
My racing team, MBBC Racing, participates in a ride that starts on the Trinity Trail here in Fort Worth. The ride was originally a moderate-pace recreational ride, but our team has largely converted it into a training and sometimes race-pace ride.
The Trinity Trails are a wonderful thing, but a training ground they are not. I rarely ride them as they are simply unsuitable for the level of riding I'm capable of, a pace that is disrespectful of the vast majority of trail users. Our team shouldn't be, either.
Part of being a member of a community is giving back to it. I am very fortunate that I had access to some very talented riders early in my return to riding, and I'd like to give others the same. At the same time, it helps protect the valuable resource we have - the Trinity Trails - for those who use it as it was intended.
I'm resurrecting the ride, and planning to lead it through the woods of the first season. I want to create a place where people can learn from others, where they can push themselves; I want to re-install the lower rungs on the bicycle performance growth ladder. There is no better place to be than on the wheel of someone faster than you, digging to hold on.
If you're in the Fort Worth area, look us up. If not, look around your area. Find a good group, or help create one. If you're fast, give the rest of us a chance to get stronger with your help. If you're trying to get stronger, join a group that pushes your limits and work to keep up. You'll get there.
It's all about the group ride. Get out there and enjoy it.