Advice for Beginners

How long does it take to learn to drive a car? Three months, six months? More for some people. How long from when you pass your test to when you feel confident to go out on long journeys or travel at high speed? Up to a year? Sometimes longer. How long does it take for a novice cyclist to feel confident on long journeys or to feel safe zooming downhill at top speed? More often than not the same time as it takes to master driving a car.

It is often easy for experienced cyclists to forget the learning curve that they had to ride up to get to where they are, just as most people probably forget just how confused they were when they first sat in the drivers seat. Not the Witham Wheelers though!

We cater for a range of cyclists from the same old regulars racing up and down dual carriageways to the 14 year old with his first racing bike. We have been fortunate that we have always had a steady stream of beginners through our doors who we have enjoyed showing the ropes to at any opportunity. Within a year they are up there with the best of them on club runs down to the cafe, on time trials and even on mountain bikes — although I personally can’t see the attraction of getting covered in mud!. So whatever you ability, age, fitness or weight there is a place for you with the Wheelers.

Since this website has been up we have had loads of enquiries from people who are interesting in cycling and they all seem to have a different question. In order to provide as much information as possible we now have a list of Frequently Asked Questions to help you begin your two wheeled journey… If you can’t find an answer to your particulat question, then drop us an email and we will try to answer whatever query you may have.

I want to ride with you. How fit do I have to be?
Not particularly. If you can ride 30 miles or so you are fit enough to come out with the “slow group” on a Sunday morning which leaves the market cross at 9.30. If you can ride about 50 miles or so at say 15–16 mph then you are fit enough to try the Saturday road ride. If you ride to work on a tricycle every day then you won’t have any problems at all, well perhaps that’s a bit of a sweeping statement but you know what I mean.

Is everyone else fast? What if I can’t keep up?
OK some of our club members can get a bit carried away but we won’t leave you behind unless you want to drop out of the group. We want to encourage people to ride a bike, not leave them behind and put them off cycling for life. Try riding as far as you can on a flat road at 15 mph. That is what we do and it is always easier when you are in a group. If you really don’t think you can keep up email us and we can arrange a “family” run at a more gentle pace.

Do I have to race?
Not at all. You do as much or as little as you like. You may find that racing is infectious, especially time trials, which are done entirely at your own speed. In a time trial you cannot come last as you are racing against your previous personal best times always trying to better them. Last year we had several “first timers”, using standard road bikes and even mountain bikes just out to enjoy the experience and get a little fitter and when we finish theres always the bar in the Cricket Club available for some gentle refreshment.

I have just seen Bradley Wiggins on TV. I want to race. What do I have to do?
You’re keen aren’t you! We can help you. To keep it simple you need to ride club runs every week in winter to get fitness that will see you through the rest of the year, join Witham Wheelers, subscribe to a racing organisation (for road racing) and race. Next year you can try the Tour de France!!!

Can I really ride the Tour de France?
If you are good enough. However, will your little brother who kicks a football around in the park ever play for Manchester United? Hmmm — kind of puts it into perspective doesn’t it! Theres always the “Etape du Tour”, or “A stage of the Tour” for the non French speakers. Trouble with this is that there are just so many people wanting to have a go you need to get your name in early.

Hey I am fitter than that. Will I leave you slowcoaches behind?

Maybe, but the idea of the club run is to enjoy a ride out with friends, talk cycling, avoid the gardening and keep fit into the bargain. What’s the point of wasting it on a club run where there are no trophies? A lot of our people also meet up midweek for training rides. If you are fast then try one of these!

What are Club Runs all about then?
This year we hope to break all previous records and get some big groups out on Sundays. Riding in bunches is very exhilarating and a good introduction to road racing without the fast pace. If you want to stay out of the wind and have a chat and a laugh with a few people then we are the folks to do it with.

One of the particularly pleasing aspects of going on such a large friendly ride is the broad range of people you get to meet. As well as encompassing all age groups we have a very cosmopolitan crowd and are blessed with many very experienced riders.

Remember, we meet every Sunday, and if you would like to join us then please email us or just pitch up on Sunday at the Market Cross in town. We don’t insist you join the club to start with but I’m sure after a few weeks you will be keen to get involved. We even split our groups so that the slower riders go off together to ensure they don’t overstretch themselves by trying to keep up with the faster riders.

What is the difference between time trials and road racing?
Road racing is you against 60 or more other people riding in a big bunch (just like the Tour). The groups are made up of riders the same level as you so you won’t be riding against the experts! Time trials involve a field of riders who go off individually at 1 minute intervals over a set distance-our Tuesday evening TTs are 10 miles and we meet at the Cricket Club on Gorse Lane. Start times vary with a 6:30 START for the early and late rides and then we slip back to 7pm during the Summer. The idea is to cover the 10 miles as quick as possible and the one who covers it in the quickest time is the winner. There are all sort of abilities in time trials but the person you are racing against is yourself. For this reason we encourage beginners to try time trials first if they want to see how fast they can go. They are often pleasantly surprised!

I only have a mountain bike and I want to go out on the road rides. Is this OK?
Yes, probably, but for your own sake stick some slicks on and a set of pedals that you ‘click’ in to. I have enough trouble keeping up with the “fast group” on my road bike but give it a try or go with the slow group. You should be able to keep up. People even race MTBs in the 10 mile time trials.