Monthly Archives: November 2015

Reverse Culture Shock – The Struggle to Find a Local Riding Group

I’ve been “home” for just over a month. Despite the fact that I’ve written very few posts about cycling, I have been actively searching (or should I say struggling) to find a local group (or even another cyclist) to ride with. I searched Google for local cycling clubs, inquired at a local bicycle shop, and asked friends for “leads.”

The Google Search led me to a local cycling club’s website with a posted Saturday ride time and place. Unfortunately, no riders showed up at that time or place.

The bicycle shop closest to my house didn’t have any rides but they pointed me back to the club I’d found on the internet.

Several friends, eager to help, gave me names and numbers of friends they knew who cycled. Here’s a sample phone call:

Me: Hello, _______. My name is Penny Jansen and a friend gave me your name and recommended I call you because you like cycling.
Avid Cyclist: OK…
Me: So, I’m new in town and looking for a someone or some group to cycle with.
Avid Cyclist: Well….What’s your pace?

This question caught me totally off guard. Having just cycled over 9000 miles and ridden with many different cyclists in varied terrain across several countries, I’ve never been asked about my pace. All the cyclists we’ve met have been  inclusive, friendly and eager to meet new people and share stories and information about routes and rides.

Sure, there are the usual disclaimers like, “We might not be able to keep up, we’re really slow” or “We are in time crunch because our visa is running out, but you’re welcome to join us.”

But, we’ve never been asked about our pace as a precursor to inclusion. I wasn’t sure how to respond.

Many thoughts raced through my head:

Is this cyclist a super-athlete accustomed to riding a century each day after work in preparation for the next Iron Man in Hawaii?

Is this person over-worked, over-scheduled, and over-stressed preferring to maximize his or her free time with a solo workout?

Is this cyclists a newbie, insecure about his or her abilities?

But back to the question “What is your pace?” Not only did the question catch me off-guard, it also reminded me that I’m still suffering from reverse culture shock. In other words, 4 years ago, I, too, might have posed the question to total strangers. I can be competitive (just ask Eric). I can be insecure. I can be protective of my time.

But, after enjoying the inclusiveness and camaraderie we were shown during our cycle tour, I learned that I preferred the companionship to the competition.  Of course, that feeling could be age related as well.
But the question was still hanging in the air after what seemed like a long pause. I made a guess..

Me: Maybe  fourteen to sixteen miles per hour.
Avid Cyclist: Well, I probably won’t be riding any more this year. Have you called the bike shops to see if you can find a group.
If he’s “finished” riding for the season, why did he need to know my pace? 

I wouldn’t have thought much about the rejection from the first call, but two calls later with the second question ALWAYS being “What’s your pace?”, I finally wizened up.

Me: I don’t really know my pace.  I’m just looking for some companionship and some new routes.. If I’m holding the group back, I’ll turn around and politely excuse myself. If I’m too fast, I’ll slow down to chat.
Avid Cyclist: Well, I’m finished for the season. You might call Scotts Cycle and Sports. They have a group.

Sheesh! Then, why did you ask for my pace?!

Luckily, I wasn’t totally discouraged by the “nos”, and I did finally stop by Scotts Cycles. And, they did have a Saturday ride. And, I did join. And, the riders were nice. And I did have fun.

And, not one asked me my pace.