I got to the meeting place with five minutes to spare. Two other riders were already there, all geared up and ready to go. As we chatted, a stream of people arrived, most by bike and some by car; all greeted warmly. It felt like a family. Not the regular sort of mildy dysfunctional family complete with a black sheep or two, but a sort of family of kindred spirits, drawn together by shared interests and shared experiences.
Just before we set off, the ride leader gathered the group together. It was six years to the day since four club members were tragically lost in an accident. We held a minute silence, and although I had not known any of the four who had died that day, and still barely knew anyone present (me being the new guy), it was a special moment and a privilege to witness.
With the echo of remembrance in our minds, we set off up Rhuallt Hill, following the pre-determined route. The weather forecast proved hopelessly inadequate, as promised sunny spells gave way to that persistent fine drizzly rain that gets you soaked. No big deal in itself, though it cut visibility down dramatically, spoiling what would have been some fantastic views.
This was my first real experience of riding in a group, if you discount the Etape Cymru last year. Although that could be described as a very large group, I had gone alone and proceeded at my own pace, so there was no sense of staying within a particular crowd. The pace on this Sunday ride was very easy going, possibly due to the proximity to Christmas over indulgence, and also to accommodate the wide age range in the group, from 13 up to about, well I wouldn’t try to guess.
I was impressed with the almost subconscious level of collective sense of responsibility. All for one and one for all, and all that. The group almost exists as a self conscious entity; each rider a small part of the whole organism. It naturally stretches out, worm-like, in its forward advance, only for the head to pause and let the tail catch up at junctions. All the while, calls go back and forth alerting others to approaching vehicles. Hand gestures from riders in front point out potholes to those behind, and it all runs like the well lubricated machines we ride.
All that stuff just happens. Nobody thinks about it. Which leaves the conscious mind free to engage socially with the members of the group, and what a joy this was.
There’s something about cyclists – they seem to be a really easy going, intelligent bunch with a great sense of humour and generosity of spirit. I’m looking forward to a 2012 filled with many enjoyable Sunday club runs. And equally, I’m looking forward to getting to know my new family.