Being part of the (cycling) club, is it worth it...?
Spoiler alert: We definitely think it is worth it!
Join a club, then realise everyone is faster than you. Especially if it’s the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Cycling Association!
Pascal here. Thankfully, cycling isn’t all about speed. It’s about a sense of achievement, enjoying nature and taking your rear mudguard off just before a winter ride in order to spray Dan in the face for hours with muddy water. Well, it is for me anyway....
For times when Dan and his face are not available, it’s great being part of a cycling club. As serving military personnel, we are both members of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Cycling Association (RNRMCA), a really good bunch of humans – some of whom are absurdly strong cyclists. The beauty of the military is that, across a whole host of athletic disciplines, our top end athletes are competing at the elite level. We regularly have men and women bringing back medals from Olympics, it’s fantastic. This results in a huge wealth of cycling expertise being on hand within the club, to help steer you on your way towards achieving your own two wheel-based goals.
Whether you want to compete on the track, become a time trial ninja or undertake some absurd ultra-endurance challenge, there will almost certainly be someone at the club who has done something similar. All of which comes with the enduring satisfaction of being better than the RAF at all forms of cycling, friendly (ish!) inter-Service rivalry at its best.
With tech now firmly established in the world of cycling, the club can feel as one even when personnel are deployed all over the world, which is almost always the case with the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. The RNRMCA is well established on Strava, allowing geographically separated members to post their rides online.
This allows for endless hours of performance comparison, and endless hours of associated banter between members – something that the military is famed for! The downside to having this ability to compare, coupled with the high quality of cyclists amongst the membership, is that invariably Dan and I are never in the ‘Top 10’ for anything Strava based. Whether that be weekly miles completed, average speed cycled at, or really any other metric….Whilst this may deter some, it provides us with an endless source of inspiration to get better. As an example, Dan and I recently completed a 150 mile training ride together, a non-too shabby achievement for your average club rider. During our post ride coffee and cake (refuelling at its best), we excitedly logged into the club Strava account with the expectation of perhaps having achieved the longest ride that week so far. No. Not even close. Some joker (no names, they need no further accolade), had banged out a 320 mile ride – over double our effort. We weren’t even in the top 3 for that week!
Throughout our training, this inspires and grounds us in equal measure. What makes it even better is having the ability to directly contact those within the club who are better on the bike than we are - to tap them up for their knowledge, learn from mistakes they may have made along the way. For us, it’s more about being part of a community, rather than just a bunch of cyclists posting stats to Strava. It’s an extension of what being in the military is all about, working together as a team to become better as a collective, with a stack of light-hearted mutual abuse thrown in along the way.
Plus, you get free kit, and every cyclist loves a bit of free kit!
Ah well, there is always next week to make it into the Top 10….and that’s the beauty of being part of a club. Just don’t join the RNRMCA if you like to be top of Strava leader boards!