New Riders – FAQ

Hounslow and District Wheelers – Frequently asked Questions.

So you go out cycling on your own quite a lot, you’re getting a bit fitter and you really enjoy it but you’re fed up with being on your own on the same old route, you’d like to further, on new routes and with new people.

You see a group of cyclists cruising along looking happy and relaxed and you wonder if you have what it takes to ride with a club. Are you fit enough? Have you got the right gear? Could you ride in a group? How far do they go? And many more questions. This page is an attempt to answer all those questions and more.

Where  do Hounslow & District Wheelers ride?

We are based to the West of London around the Staines area and we cycle within a radius of 30-35 miles from Staines in an arc between Dorking in the south and Amersham in the North. Our members mainly live in West London, Middlesex, Surrey and Berkshire

When  do you ride?

We have Club Runs from Staines Bridge at 9.15am on most Sundays all year round. These rides are about 40-60 miles with a café stop, getting back to Staines at about 2pm. Details of these rides are on the website including a destination and Strava Route

Do I need to be a member to ride?

No, not initially, but we require you to join after a few rides with us if you wish to continue riding and also to join British Cycling or CTC for public liability insurance purposes.

I am under 18, do you have junior members?

Yes we do and juniors are most welcome. We do not have a special group for juniors, however, so you will need to be able to ride the mileages and at the sort of speed mentioned elsewhere in this FAQ If you are well under 18 and are just starting we can recommend clubs that specialises in introducing children to cycling on closed circuits.

I have never ridden in a group before, does that matter?

We ride fairly closely in pairs on Club runs; this can be a bit daunting if you have never done it before. If you are new to group riding, start off at the back so that you can see how it is done and gain confidence. The Club issues a guide to group riding which all riders are expected to read and follow.

What about traffic, I find riding in traffic scary?

Our club runs all use quiet roads in the country as much as possible and the countryside starts a few miles from Staines. You will find riding in a group gives an additional sense of security and you will soon find your confidence growing as you see how others cope with traffic.

How fit do I need to be to ride with you?

If you can ride around 40 miles at a reasonable average speed (say 14-15mph ) you should be fit enough for a Club Run. If you are not sure about your fitness we would be pleased to arrange for a member to ride with you and advise you before trying a Club Run.

What happens if I can’t keep up?

If you only struggle on significant hills this won’t be a problem as we always regroup at the top of hills. If you can’t keep up on small hills or the flat then you need to ride more by yourself to improve your fitness. However, if you decide to try a Club Run we wouldn’t leave you behind; we don’t want to put people off club cycling by leaving them behind on a club run. It may be that you do find it all too hard, but all is not lost as there are more gentle alternatives such as the Cycling UK or London Cycling Campaign that we can advise you on.

What should I eat before riding?

It is essential that you eat a proper breakfast before riding – porridge or similar is best and, of course, take water on the ride.

What happens if I puncture on a ride?

Put your hand up and shout “puncture” and coast to a suitable place to stop well off the road. The group will wait while you replace the tube, so make sure you have spare tubes, tyre levers and a pump. Help and/or advice will be willingly given if you need it but it’s best if you can carry this out yourself by practising at home as changing tubes can be a dirty business in the wet.

What type of bike do I need?

Everyone in the club rides lightweight, dropped handlebar bikes. Most have gears, some ride fixed wheel. A mountain bike with slick tyres is OK but the extra weight will make it a lot harder as will suspension. It is most important to have pedals with toeclips or clipless pedals with appropriate shoes. These make it much easier to pedal and much safer but can take a bit of getting used to.  In winter we prefer you to have mudguards as riding without can make life very unpleasant for others if it is very wet. Many members have “winter bikes” for this purpose.

What about clothing?

The Club have a racing strip (white with red white and black bands) that should only be worn while racing and a Club strip for riding out in. We naturally like members to wear club kit on Club runs; non-members can wear what they like but we recommend proper cycle clothing particularly cycling shorts with proper padding (worn without anything underneath) and closely fitting cycling jerseys. We also recommend cycling shoes with cleats for clip-in pedals. If it looks like rain bring a waterproof that packs up really small and in winter wrap up really well with cycling tights over your shorts and a windproof top and overshoes and gloves.

Is there anything I should know about cycling etiquette?

When you are riding wearing the Club jersey and riding with the Club or on your own remember that you are representing the Club so do not get involved in any abusive arguments with motorists. The Club does not wish to be contacted with complaints of abusive behaviour.

Do not ride off the front when riding in a group this will really annoy the ride leader and the whole group and they may well turn off without telling you!

Remember that when riding in a group you should help those who are struggling not make life difficult for them, this is the point of group riding. If the group is too slow for you find a faster group or lead a group yourself, or start racing!

On a general point when out riding it is customary to acknowledge other cyclists on the road with a nod or a wave or, especially if you are overtaking them, with a verbal greeting.

Do I have to race?

No, we are quite happy for you to just ride Club Runs as many members do. But what we do not want is for you to keep upping the pace of Club Runs because you find them too slow. If you are doing that then you should be racing, in a faster group or on the training ride in winter. If you do not race or are not racing when we are organising an event we expect you to help out by marshalling a few times a season. Marshalling involves signalling to riders where to turn, warning traffic and other activities at the start and finish. You will be doing it with experienced people initially who will tell you what to do.

Having members help with marshalling is essential if we are to continue to organise races.

How  do I start racing?

The easy way to start is to try our summer Thursday evening 10 mile time trials, starting near Chertsey, that you can enter on the line. These will give you a good idea of your competitiveness and how much training you need to do. You do not need a racing licence for any time trials run by Hounslow Wheelers or Cycling Time Trials. If you wish to try Road Racing you will need a BC licence and start as a fourth category or a youth rider and you can then enter any race catering for this category. There is only one category for women.  Hillingdon closed Circuit Series  promote Road Races locally on Hillingdon Road Circuit.

What is the difference between time trials and road racing?

Time trials are individual efforts against the clock over a set distance usually on public roads with riders starting at one minute intervals. In road racing up to 80 or so riders start together and battle it out over a number of laps of a circuit that may or may not be on public roads. Road racing is split up into ability categories and some are handicaps but in time trialling it is the rider against himself, for this reason we recommend that as the first step.

What are the different types of cycling you do?

We are a road club and we promote time trials and road races details of which are on the website under open and club events. We also run a 100k Audax ride called  “The London Sightseer” that goes through London to the O2 Dome and back. Audax rides have to be completed within a minimum and maximum time, usually between 10 and 18 mph average.

Do you do Track cycling?

We are not directly involved but our members have raced at Newport, Palmer Park Reading, Herne Hill, and of course the London Olympic Velodrome. All these do sessions for inexperienced riders. We are watching with interest the plans for a velodrome at Hillingdon that would be much nearer for us.

Do you do off-road?

Not officially, but off-road rides are organised by members mainly in the winter.

What about the social scene?

We meet every Tuesday evening at 8.30pm at Staines Sailing Club for a Club social evening. We also have had barbeques, quiz evenings, family rides, a two week club camp in Wiltshire and trips to the Tour de France and other continental races and Mallorca (with bikes) and an excellent annual Club Dinner and prize giving.

I want to join, what do I do?

Come along and ride with us for a few Sundays and if you like it download and complete a membership form from the web and send it with a cheque or bank transfer for £25 (juniors £12) for your annual subscription to the Secretary. Members are elected at Committee Meetings that take place every month. You can also join as a social member or OAP for £12 a year.

What about insurance?

 Insurance is extremely important, for example, if you cause an accident or injure someone while riding your bike they can sue you. If it is a bad accident and you are not insured you will have to find the money yourself and in the worst case this could mean you may have to dispose of your assets such as your house to pay compensation. This applies whether you are a member of a club or not. If you join Hounslow Wheelers we require you to join BC or Cycling UK both of which provide third party indemnity (but for BC only provided you have the right level of membership). The Club is insured against third party claims against the Club but individual members are not.