Events are back in a big way, post-pandemic, and after a few years of finding our own way around the world on our bicycles, it’s worth asking, “Why exactly are we paying to ride our bikes?” Given the quality of mapping software and the public access most events depend on, there really is no reason we couldn’t just gather our troops, set our time and ride the same route whenever we want.
But events are important, crucial even, to the energy of cycling.
I think there are a few simple answers to this question, “Why pay?” The first is: We won’t do these rides on our own. Most of us struggle to meet our day-to-day schedules and responsibilities. Putting on mini-events for our riding friends is beyond most of us. So, we pay for a ride event, because it exists, because it’s all done for us, and because we won’t make an event on our own.
Second, there’s infrastructure. Rest stops with calories and liquid and mechanical support. A post ride beer and meal. SWAG. People love SWAG. If Strava credit has value for many people, a ride t-shirt does too. I know you’re shaking your head. “I don’t need a t-shirt,” you’re thinking. But some people do. They very much do.
Third, there’s route expertise. An event I rode last month was an hour from my house, but I had never ridden there. I don’t know what’s good and what’s not in that neck of the woods. The best events, in my opinion, are those where the organizer is motivated to share the very best of their local riding with us.
Fourth, and I think this is hard to quantify but, for me really valuable, there are big ride vibes. All day we merge, overtake and get passed by riders, some in groups, some on their own. All day we offer wheels, take pulls, sit on, etc. You get to meet new people, like-minded people, good people. I think that sort of thing, even if it’s brief and superficial, still has value for me. I like to say that bike shops are the heart of local cycling communities, but events serve a crucial role too. They bring people together who wouldn’t meet otherwise.
One of the charms of bike riding is that, once you have a bike, it’s free. Go when you want. Go where you want. Go with whomever you want. Having said that, I think events are worthwhile investments. The pandemic got us out of the rhythm of signing up, training, etc., but I was really happy to be back among a big group like that for once, and I’d recommend it, if only to shake the dust off and remember how the bike can bring us together.
I haven’t done a lot of big events. It used to be because of lack of resources, time and energy and money. Post Covid I’m feeling the desire.
One of the best ideas in this space is exciting but on the wrong side of the country for this boy in North Carolina: https://youtu.be/s2imQ4ULpfY
The vegan cyclist nailed all your key points.
I think “big ride vibes” is the most valuable piece. I can cobble together a half century using the roads near my home but the chemistry of doing a ride with hundreds of others has a vibe of its own that one cannot duplicate just by getting on the bike and riding the same old thing. The whole is bigger than the sum of its parts. Even if the peanut butter sandwiches suck on an absolute scale, they taste pretty good after forty miles. And the roads look different when you are in an organized Beeg Ride.
I skipped the Santa Fe Century this year due to personal scheduling snafus, but went over the day before and helped out with the City’s bike advocacy table and dropped the price of admission buying some swag leftovers, e.g., last year’s Century jersey and a cap. Then went out and did a quiet ride Sunday morning on some roads north of Santa Fe, which is the mental health break I needed. But I still really get into the chemistry of getting a thousand or so folks together to do a big ride. Nice that the rides are back, post pandemic lockdowns.
Last Sunday I did 80 miles solo on my home roads on a beautiful spring day; in 5 hours I didn’t see another cyclist. Not a single goddamn one. I used to see pelotons of cyclists from all over the area. I hope the events bring people back to the roads.
Also, you forgot all the wonderful volunteers who stand under little tents in blazing heat to cheerfully serve gross cyclists, many of whom don’t say thank you.