(Picture by placid casual)
The week-end before last was my first ride in Belgium for a long time. I want to do the Tour of Flanders Cyclo again this year and have to get in shape. To be honest, I am not quite there yet. Especially as my knees tend to hurt after only 60-70 km, even without cobble stones.
Anyway, until now, I had been mostly riding alone or with a friend, be it during “training” (big word, should perhaps rather say ”self-planned”) rides or during cyclosportives. Not always easy to start around 9:00 when your partner has to stay at home with the small ones. So going alone allows for a much earlier start. But the week-end before last I finally got to ride with a club.
The first taste of club riding I got last autumn, when I did the really nice Brevet organized by the Aurore Cyclo of Anderlecht.
Since I was hesitating on the distance to choose, they just suggested I hook up with some of their members who were about to take off. It was quite nice to be able to chat and just ride along. You also get to hide behind a diesel locomotive for part of the ride. As they say, depending on the size of the cyclist in front and the distance you are able to keep with that cyclist in front, you can save from 10 to 40% energy. Not sure about how they get to those numbers, but it is pretty clear you don’t work as hard when you are drafting (i.e. riding in the slipstream close behind someone’s rear wheel).
Also, you do not have to worry about getting lost. Because when you ride alone, even with a GPS, you tend to get lost. I am not even talking when your ride with the fietsnet system, which is fantastic, but sometimes quite tricky… Those Flemish villages and roads all look the same.
And finally, last but least, you get to meet people who share your passion, which is really nice.
So after that experience, I decided I would try to ride with a club at the earliest opportunity. Now Anderlecht, the home base of the Aurore Cyclo club, is pretty far away from where I live. But there are clubs all over Brussels, and I chose to just try riding with the Brussels Big Bracket, who start their Sunday rides a few streets down from where I live, in the Bois de La Cambre. Plus they are somewhat international and have the coolest jersey of the Brussels cycle scene. Check out their website, they have plenty of resources on there, including interesting routes and a calendar. Plus vivid accounts of rides, which make one want to pick up the bike and go ride (the account of the ride I attended is here).
What to say about the experience? Well, there was a great atmosphere and club spirit. The group was of 16 guys, of all ages and all walks of life, some of them members of the club, others not. We rode along, stopping at the top of hills or when one of us flatted. The rhythm was really optimal, about 27 km/h on average: not too hard, but not too easy either. Some of them were going harder or taking longer pulls in front. Others rode at a relaxed pace. But the idea is very much: out together, back together and having a good time.
I am not sure whether I will have other opportunities soon to ride with them, but it was a great experience!
The cyclo clubs in Brussels are listed on the website of the Fédération Belge du Cyclotourisme et du VTT.