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Social Cycling

09 January 2024

Jan and Peter are the group co-ordinators of Burton on Trent u3a's Social Cycling group and talk about why their particular approach has been such a success.

A group of people posing with their bikes

Burton on Trent u3a Social Cycling Group is proud to announce that we have now completed our fifth year of social cycling. So what is ‘social cycling?’

We see it as non-competitive road cycling in a group with the aim of including members who have the ability to enjoy the benefits of exercise through cycling and social companionship. Every ride has a café stop as our destination. Conventional and electric bikes are welcome.

How it all started; as seasoned cyclists ourselves with a local cycling group, we hit on the idea of starting our own Burton on Trent u3a cycling group following a conversation in late 2018 during a café stop. We duly emailed our intentions to the membership via the Beacon portal. Fifteen enthusiastic members responded and attended our inaugural meeting where we pitched our ideas, then listened to their responses.

What we discussed included;

  • the total distance of each ride.
  • What pace (speed).
  • Best starting places.
  • Were members bikes fit to ride and street-legal.
  • Café stops.
  • Benefits of social cycling.

We advised all riders to carry spare inner tubes, tyre pump and basic tools, wear clothing suited to the weather and to wear a safety helmet.

At the beginning of each ride, we provide basic group-cycling rules.

Since our inaugural ride in March 2019 we have organised twice-per-month rides on the 1st & 3rd Wednesday mornings, throughout the year, plus a more challenging ride in the months that have a 5th Wednesday, all subject to safe weather conditions. Over the five years we have completed rides of between 12miles and 25miles distance.

We continued through the years of the pandemic lockdown when we were permitted to venture outdoors, practising safe-distance riding within the group, and taking our own refreshments to enjoy in the open spaces of our local parks. During the past five years we have cycled some 1190 miles (1915k) with thankfully, just three incidences of punctures! Very few rides have been postponed due to weather conditions.

We advise our members on the forthcoming ride via our Beacon system, but latterly have also formed a ‘WhatsApp’ group to advise on late-notice postponement of rides where weather conditions had unforeseeably deteriorated. Since its inception the group rides have seen as few as six members (on two occasions) and between twelve to eighteen members on most rides. Our loyal membership has remained static throughout the five years with a total of 30 members.

We feel we have achieved our aim of getting people back onto their bikes, engaging in some healthy outdoors exercise and enjoying the benefits of social interaction.

Peter manages the communication of the ride details to the membership, then presents an anecdotal summary of the ride a few days later. But credit really goes to Jan who has planned every ride since the group began. Without her input we wouldn’t go anywhere!

In celebration of our five years of social cycling we have invited our members to plan rides during this year with the number ‘5’ in the plan. For example; a 15 mile ride, or a series of five themed rides, or a group of five members involved in planning a series of rides, each having 5 in its association. The members involved will also take charge of managing the ride on the day (not sure we have told them of that bit yet!).

Here’s to another five years of social cycling.

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