We often receive queries as to what standard of fitness is required, what we get up to and what kit or bike to select. Our FAQ page continues to evolve and you should find some good pointers here. Feel free to drop us a query via our contact form if you want additional information.
- How fit do I need to be?
- How old do I need to be?
- Where and when do you meet and how far do you ride?
- What is the etiquette for club runs?
- What bike do I need and what should I bring on a ride?
- Where can I get advice on kit and bikes?
- Do I need insurance?
- Do I need a helmet?
- I use a GPS, can I access the routes in advance of a ride?
- I am new to cycling and not sure a club is for me – what are the benefits of being in the Nomads?
- What are the age and gender profiles of members?
- I want to compete, where should I begin?
- Is the Club affiliated to any governing bodies or other organisations?
- What should I do when I see a horse?
Generally you need to be fit enough to ride for 1-2 hours at an average speed of 15mph to attend one of our club runs. The club runs are the best place to start your career with the club as there will generally be someone who can ride with you in case you need that extra bit of impetus or encouragement. Whether you are fast or not, there will generally be someone you can ride along with and either get the miles in, or get the cakes in at the cafe stops. [Back to Top]
For club runs we ask that anyone under 16 is accompanied by an parent or guardian. We have Go Ride coaching sessions which run throughout the year and the minimum age is 6 years old for these sessions. There is no upper age on membership – several of our riders have been riding longer than some of our members have been alive. [Back to Top]
Club runs commence from Hitchin Market Square at 0900h. For the first six weeks of the year they tend to begin at 0930h (to give any ice a chance to melt). Distance depends on the ride group. There are often two or more club runs of varying distances. Check the calendar or Facebook group posts for information. Typically a short club run is 35-45 miles while longer ones are anywhere between 60-80 miles. We endeavor to have a cafe stop halfway but they can sometimes be later in the ride. The Fast group doesn’t always include a cafe stop. [Back to Top]
The main activity and bedrock of our Club are our Sunday Group rides. All are listed on our website, Facebook page and via our Nomads monthly newsletter. We endeavour to ensure each ride has a leader and that the route has been published and available to download in advance. We usually have at least 3 Groups to cater for different abilities and desires, sometimes more if numbers allow for this.
Occasionally, when the weather forecast is very bad, rides may be cancelled; if you choose to go out, however, you may find that others have also decided to go to the meeting point in the Market Square for an ad hoc ride. The main danger, in the winter, is ice, which can be difficult to see. Our Ride Leaders will often know which local roads are likely to be safer in such conditions and thus amend the route in the interests of safety.
The Leader of the ride is a volunteer from the membership who tries to ensure that rides are run as safely and smoothly as possible whilst ensuring everyone has a really enjoyable experience. He, or she, tries to ensure that the ride proceeds with consideration for other road users, and is generally the point of reference in the event of emergencies such as punctures, accidents, mechanical breakdowns, etc. The Ride Lead, and other experienced riders will also offer advice on riding technique, especially Group riding, in an encouraging manner. Try to understand the Ride Leader is doing their best for the collective good, but note that you are responsible for your own safety; the Leader is not.
The general formation for a Group ride is a reasonably compact line of two-abreast. This is in line with the Highway Code and DfT guidance. Importantly the compactness of the Group makes it easier for traffic to pass. It also encourages properly considered passing manoeuvres by Vehicles. This is why your Ride Lead will be encouraging you to keep this formation. It is not helpful if some ride in the middle of the road, or several metres off the front or back of the group as that can make it more difficult for passing traffic. As a new rider your level of skill should enable you, before too long, to ride closer to others.
On narrow or busy roads you may be asked to ride single file for the same reason and you Ride lead will use their experience to judge if the change in formation is required. The leader may also appoint a backmarker to be his or her ‘eyes’ at the back of the group, who will also help in keeping the group together.
You, the individual rider, should try to comply with the leader’s requests and try to follow the “Guidelines for group rides”, below. Please also carry a form of identification with you, and emergency contact details (which may be ‘ICE’ on your phone).
Check your bike before the ride, including your tyres for embedded flints and thorns. Carry a spare tube (or two), a pump, and tyre levers. Our more experienced riders will always help you out if you have a mechanical or a puncture and it is one of the best things about being part of a Club, but it is important to develop self-sufficiency too.
Guidelines for group rides
Why should I read this? Because we share the roads with others – motorists, runners, horse riders and pedestrians – some of whom are bigger and tougher than us. So we need to ensure that our rides are safe and well-conducted to minimise the risks to ourselves and others. You may also be riding in Hitchin Nomads kit and therefore an ambassador for our club; making setting a good example even more important.
Many members of Hitchin Nomads are new to cycling with a club and don’t know what is required of them on club rides. Why should they? No-one has told them. Thus your Club has drawn up these Guidelines to help sustain the standard of riding on Club rides; there is no wish to spoil the pleasure which we derive from these sociable events, rather, it is the reverse.
We will feel happier if we are safer, but it needs a bit of discipline and teamwork.
A few DO’s
- DO ride alongside someone (“two abreast”). The Highway Code allows it. And it’s sociable.
- DO “single out” when requested to do so by your leader or the back marker. This is required in certain circumstances that your Ride lead will judge, generally when the road becomes particularly narrow or is very busy (although we always look to keep our rides away from busy A roads).
- DO maintain an even, appropriate, pace. Avoid surging or late braking. Sudden changes are what cause more accidents than anything else. Concentrate but stay relaxed.
- DO help you leader. She / he may not always be at the front of the group and will not want to leave riders behind. If they ask the pace is eased while they get a rider back into the Group please help with that.
- DO consider filling a gap if there is one in the group. Gaps cause the group to become disorderly and less compact making it less safe when traffic has to pass. You may think leaving a bigger gap is safer but often it is not and generates a bigger risk for the Group when vehicles are trying to pass. Leaving bigger gaps also mean you may be riding more into the wind and will get tired quicker. It may affect others ride enjoyment if you get tired and cannot keep the ride pace. We do understand riding closer to others is a skill that takes time to master, but important all understand it’s also for Group safety and enjoyment that we encourage this. After a bit of practice you will delight in it, believe us!
- DO go at your own speed up steep hills. The Club’s policy is to regroup at the top. But try to stay in the group up shallow gradients.
- DO call out about, and point to, hazards such as potholes, oncoming cars in narrow lanes (“car down”) and cars behind (“car up”) – Also when you are about to slow or stop unexpectedly (“stopping”). When you are on the front of a Group you are responsible for highlighting hazards with as much time as possible but you also do not need to point out every little crack in the road. That can cause more problems than it solves. Make sure the key obstacles are highlighted as clearly as you can.
- DO look to get the whole Group safely across together when crossing a junction. If you are on the front at a junction this is your responsibility as you have the best line of sight.
- DO PLEASE acknowledge other riders and say hello or wave at them. We are a friendly club and we pride ourselves in this, so it’s important.
A few DON’T’s
- DO NOT ride more than two abreast
- DO NOT ride in the middle of the road, except in extenuating circumstances. Ride as close to the left as safety allows.
- DO NOT go off ahead on your own. Unless you’ve “gone for good”, and you have told the leader!
- DO NOT “half wheel” your companion. What are you trying to prove by persistently being a wheel or bike length in front? Have a conversation instead. More information on this in our Advice to riders.
- DO NOT overlap the rear wheel in front of you unless there is an escape route. Successive pairs of riders may need to be slightly offset, depending on road conditions, in which case alternate pairs would be offset outside and then inside.
- DO NOT “wave past” motorists who are behind you. It is their responsibility to overtake safely; you may wish to be helpful (and we are nice people, aren’t we?) but it is a mistake to do so.
- DO NOT stop in the road where you will obstruct traffic. Try to stop at the side of the road (to regroup, mend a puncture, or so on) perhaps in a driveway, field entrance, or similar.
- DO NOT panic when you hear calls such as ‘car up’. More accidents are created by a rider suddenly doing something such as hitting the brakes unnecessarily. Let your Ride leader decide if any change in formation is required. Most often no change will be required.
- DO NOT panic if a car beeps their horn. Your Ride lead will still judge if the Group formation needs to change and often drivers do not appreciate that 2 abreast riding is allowed and actually safer. Furthermore if a driver beeps their horn you know they have seen you!
- DO NOT gesticulate at drivers and create antagonism whatever they might do. You are representing the Club if riding with us.
We provide an indication of the average speed for each Group ride, but speed will vary during the ride depending on the conditions and terrain. The Ride Leader will ensure all who wish get a chance to ride at the front of the Group. Riding at the front is a little harder as you are ‘taking the wind’ so you will be making a bigger effort. However the beauty of Group riding is you then get a chance to ride out of the wind too whilst another Nomad takes their turn on the front.
Your Ride Lead may advise you to stay off the front of the Group if he or she thinks you may need to pace yourself more over the ride. You may even be advised to ride on the inside or outside of the two abreast line if there are strong crosswinds and the Ride Leader is trying to ensure you get more protection from the wind. Conversely you may be asked to do a little more if you are one of the strongest in your Group. It is important then though to still ride at a pace that allows the Group to stay together.
We also know though that riders like a chance to test themselves, so it is ok to go hard on the hills and then wait and re-group at the top. Just be careful you do not surge up a hill in the middle of the road, as that would be poor riding and could cause an accident. Also sometimes Groups will ride the last 5-10 miles back to Hitchin a little harder and take enjoyment from that. However Ride leaders will ensure everyone knows where they are and how to get back to Hitchin before this happens.
It is important to choose a group which is appropriate for your usual speed; if you go with a slower group don’t expect them to speed up for you. Conversely we sometimes encourage riders to move up a Group if we feel they are now too fast for another Group. It is not obligatory and you are free to choose to ride with whichever Group you get the most enjoyment with, but you must then try to follow the ride guidance in whichever Group you ride.
It’s about enjoyment, so if you think we can do more to make our rides enjoyable please let us know. It can occasionally be difficult to meet everyone’s desires but we do our best and we know many life-long friendships develop from our Group rides. [Back to Top]
You will need a road bike which is in good working order for club runs and races. Obviously for off-road riding you will need a mountain bike, or a Cyclo-Cross machine. It is your responsibility to make sure your bike is in good working condition and capable of being ridden on the road at 15-20mph average. Bring a spare inner tube, multi-tool with Allen Keys, tyre levers and enough drink and food to keep you fuelled for a couple of hours in the saddle. Do not assume that someone else will have the things that you will need. [Back to Top]
There isn’t a lot our members do not know about bikes. The best first step is to simply ask someone while out on a ride. We are blessed to have very strong links to the local bike stores in the area too. Several of them offer discount to members. You may want to check out the British Cycling website too. [Back to Top]
The Club strongly recommends that all its members should also join British Cycling or Cycling UK (previously the Cycle Touring Club). These organisations offer good insurance and 3rd party liability cover for cyclists, irrespective of which club they are members of. BC membership will be a prerequisite for racing (other than time trials which is governed by Cycling Time Trials). So this makes a lot of sense and offers good additional benefits. [Back to Top]
We strongly recommend that all members of the club wear a cycling helmet. The law doesn’t oblige any cyclist to wear a helmet for general riding but given the inherent risk in riding on the roads and off-road a helmet makes a lot of sense. Helmets today are inexpensive and very light and there is a lot of choice for riders. Where an event stipulated that helmet use is mandatory, e.g. sportives, BC races or coaching and so on, all club members must abide by these regulations. [Back to Top]
The routes are published in the news section of this blog and are also circulated by email to club members. You can view and download GPS friendly GPX files from our download page. The pace varies depending on who is riding and the route to be tackled, so do come along and give it a go. [Back to Top]
The club has over 150 members who can and will share their insight and knowledge with you. We host mire than 30 events and races per year all of which are discounted to members. We have really great, high quality kit which is sold to members “at cost” and we have arranged discount for members at local stores, such as Paul’s Bikes, Kinetic Cycles and TriSports. Your fitness and cycling skills will improve massively by riding within a club structure. Many of our members become good friends and these relationships endure. We pride ourselves in being a friendly and open group and we welcome newcomers. You can always come along and see if the club is for you before signing on the dotted line. [Back to Top]
We have a diverse range of members from all walks of life. Following the success of cyclists and cycling in 2012 we have seen an uplift in numbers which includes male and female members. We offer family memberships too. [Back to Top]
The best place to begin is to ask one of our members as to how to get started, whatever the discipline. Our focus in Club competitions is time trialling but we also have members who race on road, in cyclo-cross, mtb and on the track. [Back to Top]
At the time of writing, we are affiliated to the following organiastions: British Cycling, Cycling Time Trials, Cycling UK (formerly the Cycle Touring Club) and the Eastern Counties Cycling Association (ECCA). [Back to Top]
The British Horse Society (BHS) has produced the Code of Conduct for Horse Riders and Cyclists in England and Wales to enable each user to better appreciate the others needs and requirements. This extract is from the section “Useful Information For Cyclists”. It is worth noting that this is a well-balanced code that is endorsed by British Cycling and there is also a section “Useful Information For Horse Riders and Carriage Drivers” to remind them of cyclists’ needs. The full code can be found at www.bhs.org.uk .
Let other users know you’re there
A horse is unlikely to see or hear you, especially if you are approaching quietly from behind. Calling out ‘hello’ for walkers or equestrians is welcome and important in alerting horses and riders that you are there. Try not to get too close before you call out or you will startle both horse and rider. If possible, ask the horse rider if it is safe to pass before attempting to go by and call again if they haven’t heard you. If you decide to stand to the side of the path to allow equestrians to pass you, it is a good idea to make sure that the horse can still see you as it approaches, that way it will not be frightened when it suddenly spots you at the side of the track or road. If the horse you meet has been frightened by your presence, give the rider a chance to calm the horse and move out of your way before you move off again. Please don’t be annoyed if a horse rider doesn’t appear to acknowledge your kindness and consideration. They do appreciate your help but may be concentrating on controlling and calming their horse to avoid falling off.
If you are taking part in a cycling event, your concern will be to get by as quickly as possible, but please pass slowly with consideration and let riders know you are coming through. A speeding cyclist coming out of the blue may startle some horses and a group of speeding cyclists is even more likely to do so – take great care and if it is obvious you need to stop, then please do so; it may save a serious incident. Please heed a rider or carriage driver’s request to slow down or stop for the safety of all involved. Equestrians may be attempting to get out of your way into a safe place in order to let you pass – help them to do so by adjusting your speed and keeping a safe distance from them.
Pass wide and on the right
Most horses are used to traffic passing them on the right so pass them as you would anyone else; don’t cut inside, and allow plenty of room in case the horse is surprised or startled. Riders may need to ride two abreast for safety, particularly when escorting a young or inexperienced horse or rider – please give them a chance to sort themselves out before you go by.
Pass in small groups
Large groups of cyclists are very scary for horses. Passing in small groups of no more than four or five will really help. If you are in a large group, make your presence known so that equestrians can try and find somewhere safe to stop, allowing you all to pass at the same time. Do give them time to get to a safe spot.
Be visible when riding on tracks or roads
Wearing fluorescent and reflective clothing helps other users see you earlier and gives them more time to plan where best to position themselves. Use effective lights when riding at night or in poor daylight conditions. Keep your eyes and ears open. Hoof marks or fresh dung are good signs that there could be horses about.
Please don’t forget to say ‘thank you’ when courtesy and consideration are shown to you – a smile, nod or brief wave is sufficient and means a great deal. Next time it may save a difficult situation when it could be you who needs consideration. [Back to Top]