Experience Fayetteville/The Bike Route Beginner Road Ride
We have been hearing wonderful things about the beginners road ride in Fayetteville. It began as a small group and blew up to be a rather large group. The beginners advanced and then they had to form two groups. This is exactly what our cycling community needs. Creation of new educated cyclists. We believe it is the lifeblood to any healthy growing cycling community. So we checked in with ride leader Tim Ray to find out about the heart and history behind this ride. What is the recipe for a successful beginner ride? Check it!
OCA: Tell us how you got started riding and what keeps the pedals turning.
TR: Started riding… It seems like I’ve always had a bike. In fact, the first one I remember was a red Raleigh with a banana seat that my parents bought at High Roller…It may have been the first bike sold there. I rode a bike all the way up to and through high school. I rode to get back and forth from work, it was a red Lotus Elite I bought with money saved up from a summer job. I found cars soon after that and sat out for a bit. Then a buddy brought home a first gen Giant Iguana Mountain Bike…and it was all over. I’ve been riding ever since.
What keeps the pedals turning? You’re riding a bike…it’s the closest thing to flying without leaving the ground. It’s the simplest thing, and incredibly complex. I learn something new about riding every year.
OCA: Tim when/why did you start organizing this ride?
TR: About 10 years ago, Shawn Garls and I were talking about the lack of a beginner ride. He was the original ride leader, I was just support, and we were talking about the fact that, at the time, there was not a ride available for someone who was just beginning to learn to ride. After the first year, Shawn had work obligations, and I told him I’d help out. I guess I’m still helping out.
At that time, a new rider had three choices. Ride by themselves, which was ok, but could be daunting. The hardcore race oriented ride: you showed up, got dropped, and repeated, until you didn’t get dropped or you quit. It was great for race mentality, not so great for the beginner. Cindy Creel had been leading the Tri-Sport rides, but was stepping back from leading rides. We both felt that people needed some encouragement, and just some helpful hints.
OCA: What are some of the challenges of organizing a beginners ride?
TR: Organizing the ride isn’t hard, just be at the same place at the same time every week. People will show up if they know you are going to be there. As far as the actual logistics, cyclists are a funny bunch, it’s like herding cats.
Finding a safe route for beginners. We’ve been doing this ride for the last 10 years, so the residents out on Goose Creek have come to expect to see us. One of the things we stress is good citizenship. Keeping a good relationship with the people who live out there is so important, and respecting their needs as well. We’ve done pretty good I think, in that regard, as we’ve only had a handful of incidents in 10 years..
Setting firm limits for the ride. If you ride to the highest level in the group, then you’re just setting up a fast ride. Beginner rides are for learning, asking questions and encouraging folks to step outside their box. You have to be willing to communicate that to anyone who isn’t willing to follow ride rules.
Having the right mix of beginners and non-beginners. We’re lucky to have some great people who come out year after year. They may have started with us as beginners, advanced beyond that, and are willing to teach someone else something they have learned. I couldn’t do any of this without them.
OCA: What are things you tell riders before the ride begins each week?
TR: I try to keep what we are doing relatively fun and positive. Our ride is a no drop ride, which really means, a no drop ride. Lots of folks just starting out don’t realize what they are capable of doing, so keeping it fun is paramount.
Ask questions. There are no stupid questions, just lack of knowledge. Cyclists sometimes have this air of superiority that, to the beginner, is intimidating. The last thing our sport needs to be is exclusive. Yes, it may be an obvious question, but to the unlearned beginner, it’s not obvious.
Don’t be intimated. Every cyclist started out in the same place, with the same questions and nerves. Everyone had to pull on their first set of cycling shorts…remember that day?
Trust your bicycle. Most of the bikes I see out there, at some point, have their technology derived from a bike ridden in the Tour de France, so your bike is better than you are, trust it.
Have fun…that’s what this is all about.
OCA: Is it just beginner level riders?
TR: This ride is for the beginner, and will stay that way. It’s been really fun to watch the composition of the riders change from year to year. We’ve always had beginners, sometimes it’s just one new person. I like to think of the ride as a stepping stone for riders. Learn the common rules and etiquette, and go on. That being said, we have a lot of people who show up as social riders, who started riding as beginners, and like the social aspect of our ride. I also encourage our racers and team riders to show up. It’s always great to have some experienced riders helping out, and as the rides have gotten bigger, it’s great to have someone else keeping an eye out for everyone. We’re having rides of up to 40 people, sometimes. Once we get a group that big, I’m sending out at least two groups, a “Spirited” group, and our “Fun” group, which are our true beginners. If necessary, I’ll split it down again, to just the beginners and new riders.
OCA: Do you have any tips or suggestions for someone wanting to start a similar ride?
TR: I’d say, the tips for starting a successful, continuing ride, you need to be predictable, keep the same route, announce the rules/guidelines and route each time, and encourage questions. This will definitely give you a good start. If someone wants to keep a ride going, you have to be there, every time. The rest will evolve, you just need to keep a clear vision of your ride’s goal.
OCA: What is your favorite route?
TR: My personal favorite route? All of them…any day on a bike is a good one. For our beginners, the route we follow Goose Creek to Weaver Hill and back. In fact, one of my favorite pieces of roads is the last two miles before Weaver Hill….it’s a great piece of the Ozarks.
I like the ride along the Mulberry to Oark as a social ride. The Winslow Death March if I’m in shape…it gives you a little bit of everything.
OCA: What is your favorite local event?
TR: The Joe Martin is a great spectacle and I have a love/hate relationship with the crit…I suck at it, but it’s always a blast. Last year’s NSCS Springdale crit over the bricks was my kind of race, at least until I crashed out.
OCA: Favorite thing to eat after a long ride?
TR: Green Submarine’s Jackwagon and a beer from Columbus House…
OCA: Lastly tell us about the details (start time, location, mileage, etc.) of the ride.
TR: We require a bike, preferably a road bike, or at least a hybrid, helmet, and a positive attitude. The ride starts up each year on the first Thursday after Daylight Saving. This year it will be March 15th . We meet at Owl Creek Elementary in Fayetteville, at 05:45 and wheels hot at 06:00 sharp. The route is an out and back, multiple regrouping points. It’s 18 miles, which, seems huge, for a beginner, but people are really surprised the first time they finish with the group.