How fast do I need to be to ride a BRC Club Run?

· · 4 minutes read

Will I be fast enough to ride a BRC Club Run?

BRC does have a reputation for being Bristol’s fastest cycling club.  Joining a club can be scary, “will I be fast enough” is a common worry.

With over 200 members we do have a range of riders, but describing the range is hard.  What is slow zone 2 to one rider is into anaerobic and beyond for another.  

We want to help people choose the right club for them and to make sure that the first time they come to the club ride they are comfortable with the pace.  How to describe the strength a rider needs to join a club ride created a big debate amongst club members on discord.  I will save you the long and complex post of watts/speed/incline steepness which no-one understood.  Average speeds are not that helpful as these vary enormously with road type, hills and how much traffic you wind past in Bristol to get home.

To ride in a group there are three different terrains to consider:

Flat roads: It is easy to hold draft of riders who are a lot stronger so differing ability is not that problematic.  

Feature climbs: There will be average 1-3 decent climbs per ride.  On these the group usually enters it in formation but will break up as the incline steepens and the weaker riders drop back.  The strongest riders will want to stretch their legs and race to the summit.  Once there they will find a safe spot to wait and everyone will regroup.

Undulations: The challenge of riding comfortably in a group is on the small hills and undulations.  On these the group is expected to stay together.  Extra effort, sometimes substantial, is required.  If a rider is not strong enough, this will be disruptive to the group as that rider looses the wheel and drops back.  When there is great disparity in rider strength even the smallest incline becomes problematic.

To solve this, we aim for groups of similar strength riders to ride together.  For new to BRC riders, how can we assess strength?

My solution is to match a cyclists best time up a short hill to the different Saturday club rides.  This will give a good starting point for those new to the club.  If in doubt start in a a slower group, and if no group riding experience, start under the tutelage of Brian in The Traditional Clubrun

Belmont Hill is iconic in Bristol.  It lies just to the west of the city and is used for University of Bristol Hill Climb.  Hence the best times on this hill are set by dedicated hill climbers.  With 100m of climbing over 1.4km it is a good gradient- never too steep, but a decent effort.  Curves and variations in grade make it interesting to ride.  There is often a tail wind to help, plus there is the lovely Honey and Ginger Cafe in the village at the top.

From strava, using Belmont Hill Junction to Junction  sector this is easy to measure a time on even for those without GPS.

Traditional ClubrunThe Medium GroupThe Adventurers The Racers
Best ALL OUT effort.  Collapse in a heap at the topMaximum 6 min 30 secondsMaximum 5 min 15 secsMaximum 5 minutesMaximum 4 min 20 seconds
Comfortable Effort. Could talk most of the way up in short sentences.Maximum 7 minute 30 secondsMaximum 6 min 15 secMaximum 6 minutesMaximum 5 minute 20 seconds

If you look at these times and despair remember all is not lost.  We all started slowly and got faster.  It takes regular riding (most people in the club ride at least 3 times per week) to get stronger and practice hills to get better on hills.  Hill repeats are a really good way of improving strength.  If that all sounds like way too much effort, then BRC is probably not a good fit for you.  There are lots of clubs in Bristol, each with their own USP.  There will be one for you.