‘Should I Join A Cycling Club?’ By Lee ‘Hollywood’ Turner
It’s a question Lee Turner is often asked by cyclists new to the sport or riders looking for more…‘Should I join a cycling club?’
In Australia, there are approximately 485 AusCycling registered clubs spread right across the country. The state-by-state breakdown is ACT 10, NSW 137, NT 11, QLD 94, SA 30, TAS, 20, VIC 125 and WA 58.
Of course, I am biased as I’ve been a member of the St Kilda Cycling Club for 20 years and was a former President of the Club.
You would think I would be fully supportive and encouraging or everyone joining a cycling club—almost, but not quite.
If you want to race, there are no two ways about it: you have to join a cycling club because you’ll need a licence to race. Since Cycling Australia became AusCycling, things have improved for riders who like to mix it up and do multiple disciplines—like road riding and, say, BMX or MTB—as the one licence now covers the lot which is a win for the rider. The big thing for many is the 24/7 public liability insurance for third party damage and personal injury (excluding sanctioned race events).
There are four types of membership options: Lifestyle, Race Off-Road, Race All Discipline & Non-Riding. I know you don’t have to race to be a member, but some people can’t see the benefit of being a member if they’re not going to race. It’s worth noting clubs still have social memberships where you can go on the club rides and enjoy or their many regular events and of course meet new people.
The Insurance Factor
If I wasn’t going to race, I’d just be as happy with a basic membership from Bicycle Network because, like the clubs, they have insurance included. Bicycle Network are also wonderful advocates for rider safety, bicycle infrastructure and making Australia more bike-friendly.
If you’re participating in an event like the Bowral or Noosa Classic, Three Peaks or similar, you don’t need a licence. You just need a bike, your legs, and a smile. But if you’re tired of racing your mates to the coffee shop on a Saturday and you want to push yourself further, then racing might be perfect for you.
There is so much racing during the summer months. Take Melbourne, for example, where you can race Tuesday (Carnegie Caulfield), Wednesday (Hawthorn), Thursday (Southern Masters), Saturday Coburg and Sunday (Carnegie Caulfield). Yes, there’s plenty to keep you entertained.
Some clubs have an emphasis on female membership and are extremely supportive of women’s racing. At St Kilda, they used to run women’s only lunches, training camps, rides and of course racing.
St Kilda Cycling Club were the pioneers in leading the way for women, and today they still forge the path due to some outstanding female mentors in the club. It can be quite daunting for some women to join a cycling club - they can be testosterone-filled environments, women need to ask around and choose the right one.
In my opinion, there are too many cycling clubs, and the difference between the larger active clubs to the smaller clubs is huge. The large clubs do all the heavy lifting. They run racing, social events, junior programs, training, club rides and much more, whereas the little clubs do nothing. If you are thinking about joining a cycling club it would pay to do your research, because the closest club to you might not necessarily be the best option.
Not interested in racing? Club membership still has many benefits. Joining a cycling club puts you in contact with like-minded people who are probably just as passionate as you are about all things bikes. Your friendship circle and network will grow exponentially and your cycling times will no doubt improve because you will be riding with different people in different places more often. The friendships I have formed from my association with my club are and long-lasting and
I am very grateful for that.
...Everyone has their reasons; for me, it was to race, and I got so much more out of it, including a whole social network...
A lot of clubs have a great social scene with weekend trips, Tour de France themed nights, balls, parties and social rides—all of which can be lots of fun and where you meet new people and make new riding friends. The more you engage the more you’ll get out of it. Plus, what’s more fun than socialising with like-minded cycling-obsessed friends.
If you’ve got young kids who are into their riding a cycling club is a great place for them to learn skills. Many clubs run fantastic junior programs with squad training and age-group racing, both indoor on the track and outside with pathways to personal coaching. They’ll find like-minded kids and—let’s be honest—it’s better if they are out riding then sitting in their room on their iPad.
Joining a club gives you a sense of belonging and is a great way to elevate your hobby. Whether it’s for fun or fitness, clubs can really help.
Everyone has their reasons; for me, it was to race, and I got so much more out of it then that—I got a whole social network. My partner Alison joined so she could go the club group rides with her friends, plus get involved in the social events.
A good club offers something for everyone, so go ahead—do some research and find the right one. For a list of clubs around Australia visit www.auscycling.org.au/membership
3 Reasons To Join A Club
- To get involved in racing and develop your skills.
- For companionship, camaraderie & club rides.
- For the various social events.