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Your First Ride

Riding a bike is easy - of course it is. Riding a bike for long distances through unknown countryside as part of a group you don't know is also easy, but there is a natural hesitation at doing something unknown, where you are unsure of what lies ahead. This article seeks to put you at ease, and to be confident to take that first step. Or pedal.

The first thing to understand is that the Test Valley Cycling Club is a social club. We don't run races, we don't have a 'training' program, and we include a café stop into every ride. We are all for chatting as we ride along. This is not the place to hone your race skills or push for a new personal best time.

We specialise in seeking out the nicest, quietest roads around. We do not ride on A-roads. We almost always avoid B-roads too. If the road has paint down the middle, it's probably too busy for us. We love views and secret ways you'd never see or use in a car.

The Number One Rule of TVCC rides (in fact, about the only rule) is that no-one gets left behind. Our average speed is about 12MPH. For those unable to attain 12MPH as an average, we hold monthly slower rides. It's not really fair on all concerned to attend a normal club ride if you cannot keep up with a 12MPH average pace, so we ask that you use the introduction rides and your own efforts to build fitness and confidence, before joining a normal ride.

Our rides start at the Town Hall. You will see a bunch of people milling about, chatting and waiting for others. Feel free to introduce yourself - if you are new it's guaranteed that old hands will introduce themselves and everyone else first. We love meeting new folks we do.

Some people will look like they just stepped off the Tour de France. Others will look like they were dragged backwards through a hedge. Some bikes will have cost thousands, others a few hundred quid off eBay. It doesn't matter. If you consider the quality and price of kit to be the defining factor in cycling prowess you are in for a shock come the first hill, when Min The Luggage on his £300 Evans Special outstrips the peloton in another bid for late-middle-age glory.

No-one on a TVCC ride is there to go fast. That's not to say that if there's a particularly appealing hill that some folks won't scoot down it as fast as their personal-injury insurance will allow, but they will *always* be waiting at the bottom for everyone else. After all you can't have a chat with yourself, and sitting alone in a café is sad.

Likewise going up hills - everyone has their own pace, and their own reasons for being there. Occasionally someone might fancy pushing themselves and will be up on the pedals dancing away up the hill while everyone else chooses their lowest gear and grinds away in a bunch. Again, the group reforms at the top, and after a check to make sure everyone's there, off we go again.

So we ride along, over hills, through valleys, chatting away. What you will notice is the people at the front using hand signals to point out hazards in the road like potholes or branches. Also if a car is behind or in front there will be calls of 'car up' (behind) or 'car down' (coming towards) which alert people and give them time to react. 

Following closely on someone's rear wheel is not recommended until you know them and your own abilities. If they swerve or brake suddenly they could catch your own front wheel and you will crash (this has never happened on a TVCC ride, FYI). So slipstreaming at speed - while aerodynamically more efficient - is only for more experienced riders. 

If you suffer a flat tyre, everyone will stop and help you. And no doubt offer sage advice on what sort of tyre/tube/pump to buy - all part of the ongoing banter. You are expected to carry a spare tube of the right size for your tyre, there will always be someone else with a pump should you not have brought one along.

If you start to feel ill, people will take care of you. If you suffer a catastrophic mechanical breakdown that is irreparable on the roadside, likewise you will be taken care of.

On Sunday mornings we always stop for Cake and coffee, on Thursday evenings we always stop for a pint. Where we are stopping is always advertised a few days beforehand.

Once you have completed your first ride you'll wonder what you were worried about and why you didn't join in earlier.

We hope to see you soon.