Beginners FAQ

People naturally have quite a few questions they want to ask us before coming out on a Taster Ride with the club.

Below is some basic information. You are welcome to just turn up on the morning of a Taster or Taster+ ride, but if you do have any questions then please email Dominic at with your queries.

(A big thank you to Addiscombe CC for the idea of a beginner’s FAQ and some of the text).

car-park-581Glad to see so many of you here today . . . must be the sunshine!

I want to ride with you. How fit do I have to be?

If you can ride for 2 hours on the road at an average of 13-14 mph, then you are fit enough to join the club.

We recommend that you start with at least one or two Taster Rides before joining the normal Club Rides. This will allow you to learn the ride protocols that keep everyone safe and together, and an opportunity acquire and practice the group riding skills you need before progressing to faster rides.

If you are unsure then print off one of our routes and try it on your own, remembering that it is much easier to cycle in a group (that’s why your solo 13mph is enough to do 15mph in a group).

That is too fast for me but I would still like to ride with the club

If that seems a struggle, then why not come out on one of our Taster Rides that have a 10-12mph average?

You can learn the skills that you will need whilst also building your fitness.  Feel free to e-mail our club rides secretary on who will be pleased to advise you further on the suitability of our rides.

Is everyone else fast? What if I can’t keep up?

We want to encourage people to ride a bike, not leave them behind and put them off cycling for life!

We normally make sure that an experienced rider is assigned to keep an eye on new members. They will control the pace to make sure all riders (including you) are together – they will also have no problem shouting at the group to slow down on your behalf.

If you do find the pace hard then shout, whistle or fall off (joking) to attract our attention and we will ease up.

Remember that even hardened club riders have trouble keeping up with their ride group at some point. It’s all part of club cycling and you will find your companions helpful and supportive. One day they may need your help!

I’ve never ridden in a group before, is that a problem?

No, it’s not a problem. You just need to concentrate and get used to riding in a bunch – it’s a skill which will come to you in time.

If you are nervous about being ‘dropped’ or riding in a large group, then tell us at the start and we will assign someone to ride with you and teach you how to ride in a group. We have lots of experienced riders who will gladly help you.

How far do you go?

We have a choice of road rides every Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday at 9:00am, starting from Bicester North train station.

Rides can range from 35 to 100+ miles. Social rides are generally 35-50 miles, Mid-pace rides are 50-65 miles and Fast rides 65+ miles. All rides have a tea stop at about 11:00am (the half-way point) and aim to be back in Bicester before 1:00pm.

We also have two introductory “Taster Rides” every month of around 30-40 miles, with a tea stop that allows you to meet the other members of the club (we hope that doesn’t put you off, though).

Hey I am fitter than that. Will I leave you slowcoaches behind?

Maybe, if you have a Cat1 or Elite racing license! Our rides are run at different paces – but we like to save our fast stuff for racing.

What’s the point of wasting it on a club run where there are no trophies? Therefore our ride protocol does not allow people to race off the front and we always have a ride leader to maintain discipline.

Cars scare me. Do you go anywhere quiet?

Yes, cars scare us as well. We try to avoid major towns and roads as much as possible and hit the quiet country lanes that criss-cross Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire.

If you really hate cars then mountain bike rides are almost exclusively off road. During the long summer evenings we have the Thursday night 50/50 rides, a mix of off-road and on-road riding around the bridleways and country lanes, suitable for MTB’s and Cyclo-cross bikes.

Do I have to have all the gear?

A reliable bike is your starting point and obviously for the roads a drop-bar racing style bike would be preferable. You can use a flat-bar mountain bike or hybrid but we suggest that you fit some narrow slick tyres. We also recommend that you wear a crash helmet, and a pair of cycling shorts will make the experience a lot more comfortable. Additionally, a pair of cycling specific shoes and set of pedals that you ‘click’ into will also make the experience much more pleasurable.

You will need to bring along a spare inner tube, a pump, a puncture repair kit, a drink and a small snack bar. Other useful items include a small multi-tool, a pack away rain jacket and some cash for tea and cake at the café stop.

We don’t abandon people if they puncture or have mechanical problems; in fact we all stop and help. Occasionally we do have to call upon the International Rescue (otherwise known as husband/wife/partner/etc…)! However, it is your duty to ensure that you come prepared for things like punctures and that your bike is well maintained, safe and fit for riding.

Adam Testing his summer bikeA rider proves he will ride anything, but a lack of mudguards mean that this bike is not suitable for winter club runs.

Do I have to race?

Not at all. You do as much or as little as you like. You may find that our club time trials that are done entirely at your own speed and on a car free circuit at RAF Weston-on-the-Green become addictive. In a time trial you cannot come last as you are racing against your previous personal best times. We have plenty of people doing 10 mile TT’s in 30+ minutes, even 40+ minutes, on everything from the latest TT aero-weapons to single-speeds, tandems, hybrids and full suspension mountain bikes with knobbly tyres!

What is the difference between Time Trials and Road Racing?

Road Racing is you against 60 or more other people riding in a big bunch (just like the Tour de France). The groups can be made up of riders of the same level as you so you won’t always be riding against experts.

Time Trials involve a field of riders who go off individually at 1-minute intervals over a set distance. The one who covers the course in the quickest time is the winner. There are all sorts of abilities in time trials but the only person you are racing against is yourself.

For this reason we encourage beginners to try Time Trials first if they want to see how fast they can go. They are often pleasantly surprised!

I want to Road Race. What do I have to do?

To keep it simple you need to ride club runs every week in winter to get the fitness that will see you through the rest of the year. Join the BMCC (we are a British Cycling affiliated club), obtain your BC race licence and then race!

We normally have entries in most local road race events, so you will have people to car share with, train with and race with – and winning is easier as part of a team. For more information about racing see the Road Racing and Time Trials tabs on the FAQ page. Our racing secretary would also be happy to respond to queries by e-mail.

So what else do you do?

Regular Road rides, Off-road rides, Time Trials and Road Racing not enough? We also have easy/social rides, especially if there is an event close to home, like the Tour of Britain. We also like to stretch our legs with a Tour of the Cotswolds, the Hard and Hilly (and it’s counterpart, the Soft & Silly), the Classics Season, organised 100 and 150 mile rides, or if you are feeling brave the annual 205 mile “Tommy Godwin” ride.

The BMCC signature event is our 9-up Team Time Trial held on the Silverstone F1 motor racing circuit. 80 teams take part, each team having 9 riders! The event is run solely by volunteers from the club and last year raised OVER £ 10,000 for charity. We  also arrange training camps in some very hot and dry foreign climes, perfect for building early season form. Then there are velodrome trips, if you want to try the boards for yourself at Newport or London. Did I mention Cyclo-cross and Hill Climbing yet? The Marmotte or the Etape?

There’s a monthly club night on a Thursday with Q&A sessions, Bring’n’Buy table, Club Kit for you to try, a guest speaker / company / presentation, plus tea, coffee, alcohol and music ! Oh, and the infamous Xmas Dinner with tinsel, twinkling lights, mince pies & mulled wine, quiz & silly awards … and on special occasions, we just visit the pub.

OK, I would like to join. What do I do next?

You are invited to turn up and try one of our Taster Rides.

Don’t be put off by the large group of people chatting! We are a friendly bunch (if a little socially awkward) so ask the nearest person in club kit to introduce you to the Taster Ride Leader. They will welcome you to the club and ask for the relevant person to make themselves known. The pace may be a little slow but even experienced riders will appreciate the need to understand and practice our ride protocol and group riding skills before going faster.

Enough, you’ve convinced me. Where do I pay?

Wow, you are keen! You will go far in this club. Click on Membership , fill out the online form, then send us your membership fee using one of the ways listed.

Why are you doing all this stuff for me?

We all had to start somewhere. We remember how daunting it seemed all those years ago. Cycling is great fun, especially in the company of other like minded people. We want to help you realise that. Oh, and also we want more people to go down the pub with, more people to crack poor jokes with, more people to race with, more people to share lifts to events with, etc. It works both ways!

More Beginners documents

There is a lot more information for beginners on the Road Cycling UK website below are some particular links, along with some other document links.
Bike Radar
Get into cycling with British Cycling