The spring and summer brought the opportunity to take part in Skyride, the British Cycling and Sky sponsored programme for free local cycle rides. I had ridden a couple of these rides in previous years, on pre-defined routes led by experienced cyclists. The nice thing is Skyride offer a range of rides, from short beginner rides, normally off-the-road on traffic free paths, to longer road rides for those more comfortable and confident on their bike. So not only can it be a great introduction to cycling but can also be used for riding out with a group for those who don’t want to commit to club rides or do anything too competitive. Friendly social rides is what the Skyrides are all about and they happen throughout the country.
I was able to get more involved by doing the ride leader training this year. A one day course focused on leading a group, and the essential safety arrangements. We were taught to do the M (or W) check for checking cycles over. Group riding is different, and the practical training out on roads and paths made sure we could be responsible for the group. Traffic gaps that as a single rider you would think that’s OK, are not the same gaps suitable for a group, “imagine you’re one long vehicle” our female instructor reminded me! There are normally at least a couple of ride leaders with the group, and one of these will be the ride leader on the day, who will be first aid trained. Being first aid qualified from my other sporting activity I was able to apply for rides as either the ride leader or the assistant ride leader, the ride leader having to be first aid trained and doing the paperwork, otherwise exactly the same roles.
Once ride leader trained you have access to the back-office skyride website to find rides and apply for rides. You do this online and get notification when you have been selected. As ride leader you at least need to know the route so for my rides I went out there and rode them the week before, to check the route and the road and traffic conditions. As mentioned the rides vary and so it is easy to find the kind of ride you enjoy, everything from short slow sessions with families to more rides suitable for chain-gang roadies. The latter actually doesn’t really exist, they’re just a bit longer, and as we go at the pace of the slowest person then it depends upon the group on the day! I wanted to experience them all so applied for a mixture of rides and routes, from traffic free cycle paths through parks to a forty mile road ride. With the latter we all stopped mid-way at café for coffee and cake refuel!
The rides are great way to meet other cyclists and learn new routes. You can even use them when away on holiday or visiting. The skyride website has all the details, so next spring when its time to get on your bike, come and join us.