By Suzanne Slack
Michigan State University PhD student, member and secretary of MSU Cycling Club
I have been cycling my whole life, but the thought of group rides scared me.
I have enjoyed various types of riding, including mountain biking, commuting, and riding to the nearest hill, which is far in Lansing. As I started to develop my interest, I wanted to grow and build friendships through cycling, which led me to joining the MSU cycling club. However, trepidation built in me when I saw a large group riding. What if I crash, or worse, cause someone else to crash?
To get over my fear, I started riding with a couple people at a time on slower pace rides over the summer. In these first group rides, I typically stayed towards the back of the line, thinking if I crashed at least no one would run over me. However, my fellow riders noticed and pushed me to be the leader, or to even stay in the middle of pack, even for just a little while. Though it was an experience that filled me with anxiety, the practice of riding in the middle of riders or at the front was needed to get over my fear. As summer progressed, I became more confident that I wouldn’t crash out the person behind me through practice.
In the fall, I began seriously riding with the MSU cycling club. This experience was more nerve-wracking, as there were more riders in the group than I was used to. I still had the habit of staying towards the back of the pack and watching the more experienced riders.
Once it got too cold outside, the MSU cycling club practiced ‘skills and drills’, which involve pacing, balance, riding with others, and avoiding obstacles in an indoor arena. These exercises really helped me to get a handle on my bike and learn how to maneuver more effortlessly.
I finally felt comfortable enough to participate in a large organized ride. I could comfortably ride in the pack and was not worried about crashing the riders around me. To get to the point where I was comfortable in group rides involved many small groups, watching other riders to see how they handled sudden situations, and practicing more control over my bicycle.
To further my goals this year I am participating in the MSU Gran Fondo to ride 80 miles. It has taken time and mentoring from other riders to overcome my reluctance to participate in large group rides, but riding for a charity and for my own goals is worth it and I would ask you to do the same.
I look forward to seeing others like me on the course and riding whenever you can!