Our Pretoria East MTB Facebook Group has over the past year or so steadily grown to around 500 members. It had become a forum for people to share ride plans and make new friends. It has worked quite well although the rides were mostly of slightly longer distance around the 50-80km mark. At best we had about 10 riders, sometimes 2. The intention had always been to create a platform where rides could be shared for all categories of riders and all needs.
Then recently a lady posted that she was looking for others willing to ride with her as she was just getting back on the bike and wanted to ride 20km. Faster than you could say “flash” there were many responses and within a week we did our first 20km ride with a group of 28 riders! The group loved the ride and on request we have scheduled more. For our next 2 rides we have 25 confirmed riders each. We now have experienced riders joining the group for their 20km ride to help with sweeping and backup duties and then going off to ride longer distance.
The 20km ride has for some odd reason always been a kind of break through distance. It’s longer than the teens and far enough to feel like a proper goal. Riders starting out for the first time and also those restarting after a lay-off, wanting to do only 20km, often struggle to find groups willing to go “short”. Groups form for longer rides, they go fast, they are for the hard core, or so we think. The Facebook group has grown by over 50 members in the past week because of interest in the 20km rides. The 20km ride seems to be a great way to attract riders back onto their bikes and therein lies the power, ie creating riding opportunities for everyone at all distances. Now the challenge is going to be to make these rides fun and interesting enough to keep the interest going. We have plans to do skills clinics during the rides, show how to cross a rut and how to pick up a bike. Maybe some technical bike knowledge demo’s afterwards, etc.
I have often felt that there is a bit of the good old mountain biking spirit missing from group rides, ie we ride at the pace of the slowest, the distance and time of the ride doesn’t matter, how much fun we had matters, looking out for entry level riders and bringing them into the sport with the value system that created the sport in the first place.
I am excited about what I am seeing even thought its still early days, let’s hope this continues and keeps going. Long live the 20km ride!