The Mountain Bike Life

For the last few years, I have been progressing through the sport rapidly. From the struggles of figuring out when to shift, to rebuilding suspension systems,to maneuvering rock gardens, I have had to push through many obstacles, yet none of them have been as difficult this, the ultimate: finding a group to ride with. Unfortunately for me, this is not a story of success but instead a forum for suggestions and an analytic’s guide for what not to do when trying to find a group to ride with.


The group ride is something to be cherished. A time to show off your hard work, your improvement, time to take that tough line that has been calling your name, a group ride is a time when you can hang out with your buddies and enjoy riding your bike. I have been on a few of these and I am not as weird as that first paragraph makes me out to be. I would consider myself a relatively normal guy, I have a lot in common with my fellow man, but I analyze EVERYTHING. So as you can imagine, finding people to meet up with and ride is no exception, yet still, I am a lone wolf on the trail.

Here is a situation I caught myself in, and I am sure it could have been solved by simply asking “Do you want to schedule a group ride?” Sadly this type of risk, well, it scares me. Here’s the situation and here is how I handled it (poorly).

A lonely trip up South Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona
Group Ride Fail:
On an early morning ride through the brisk 60 degree Arizona winter air, I found myself closing in behind a small group of riders. I could see them ahead on the trail, they looked like normal mountain bikers, several thousands of dollars under their clipped-in feet, a plethora of accessories, and a water backpack- my kind of people. My competitive nature beckoned me to catch them and sure enough, another half mile up the trail, I did. We were only a few miles in. I said hi, we exchanged pleasantries and let them know I was headed the same way and we sort of assumed ourselves into a group. We didn’t commit to ride together since the group of four wasn’t sure who I was, and I wasn’t sure if I could keep up with them, or if they could keep up with me (this is always better for the ego). We rode at a similar pace. They were a solid group of riders, similarly aged with similar riding styles, they seemed like cool guys. Perfect, all I needed to do now was get their numbers so we could meet up for another ride. Hmmm, get their phone numbers? I thought.  How can I bring that up with these strangers? Do I just ask one? Do I announce it to the group? Is there something else I can ask for other than a number? Email? Twitter? Fax? Memories of dating start pushing their way through my noggin like an egg from a hen. I was bad then, and will certainly be bad now. 
We had laughed at several points and seemed to be getting along. More small talk was exchanged during the occasional break until we finally reached the turnaround point. My tires had climbed through some of the most technical sections of the mountain without notice, my brain, still locked on the uncomfortable questions bouncing around in my head. The “cool” side of my brain told me to just play it cool, not to bring it up, if it comes up great, if not, no biggie. Unfortunately the “cool” side doesn’t get the respect it deserves, I pushed to make the connection.
The group dropped their bikes and had a seat. We shared a few laughs and munched on our mid ride-snacks. This was it, now or never, get your game face on and get some digits. I felt weird, the whole thing just seemed awkward. I looked around and gave them a good introductory sentence to smoothly get ourselves on the topic of riding together again. “So, you guys get out here a lot?” I asked reluctantly towards the group, my already sweating brow amped up the level of sweat. The responses, not great, Yeah, every once in a while. Here and there, all close ended. My “cool” side took over, shutting the rest of my attempts down before they exited my mouth.  I killed the opportunity to obtain riding buds, instead of pushing the conversation we finished the ride, we had a great time, but like the denied phone number to the teenager. I was scared.

 

So what went wrong? Here is what I have figured:
1. I was awkward. I didn’t need to lead up to the question. I should have just asked.
2. I jumped the gun. I should have waited until we were a little further into the ride. 
3. I thought about it. Just enjoy the ride, if the conversation points that way then ask. 
4. JUST ASK. Seems easy enough, yet still I “lone wolf” it 3-4 times per week.
Since then, I have had a few similar encounters yet neglected to try to obtain “digits”. I mostly ride by myself which is great, but it is always nice to do a group ride here and there. So I suppose my big question is, how do you find people to ride with and more importantly, how do you do it without seeming incredibly creepy? Please share your stories, your advice, and your social wisdom. I know I am not the only person out there trying to find a group to ride with.
Chilcotins: Hike a Biking for the Rewards
2014 Winter Project 2

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