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Should I Join A Cycling Team?

Should I Join A Cycling Team?
Should I Join A Cycling Team?

Team-KBS-with-Rabobank-LivYou attended your first USA Cycling race and noticed something. You saw a bunch of riders in the same kits and working together. You didn’t expect to see teamwork at the entry level. “Teams? Wow, nobody told me.”

Author John Will Tenney’s personal experience: “I started going to some Time Trials and noticed a lot of guys wearing the same kits, riding similar bikes and helping each other out with strategy and course tips. Also, they were fast. Like really fast. Went by me like I was standing still. I asked them how they got so fast. The usual response was a question in return, asking me if I was on a team. Got me to thinking.”

Should you join a team? And if so, which one? Let’s look at the decision process:

What is a Team?

First let’s find out exactly what a team is. USA Cycling – Creating a club/team calls them “clubs”, and says there may be “teams” within the club, such as Masters, Women, Juniors, etc. A Club/Team is licensed by USA Cycling by paying the annual fee and filling out any appropriate reports. They have the ability to permit events, such as fun rides, training rides, bike clinics, charity events, as well as races (of course.) A member of the club may be designated as the Race Director, who is responsible and able to get a permit for these events.

Teams have no limit or restrictions on number of members. It can start with one and there are teams that have over 600.

What are the Advantages of Joining a Team?

The following list is by no means complete. There are probably many more advantages that we just can’t think of right now:

  • Someone to ride with. Right away you have a bunch of riders to join on training rides, fun rides and of course races.
  • Accountability and training partners. Most teams have some way of communication with each other, such as a private Facebook group.
  • Camaraderie. It’s great to be part of a group working towards common goals.
  • Sponsors. Many teams have acquired sponsors which may offer perks and discounts to the members.
  • High level training at an affordable price. Hiring a personal trainer or coach is expensive. Many teams provide limited coaching at no or low charge.
  • Education. In addition to soaking up knowledge and experience from your teammates, many teams have educational programs.
  • Limited insurance. USA Cycling offers limited insurance to riders during permitted events.

What are the Disadvantages?

We really can’t think of any. Instead we’ll list the disadvantages of joining the wrong team.

  • Mismatched ability level. No fun to ride with people you can’t keep up with, or who are always holding you back.
  • Different philosophies and goals.
  • Personality conflicts. What? With cyclists? Roadies? NAHHH …
  • Incompatible participation requirements
  • Too far away from team headquarters. There are some “national” teams but local teams are more accessible.

So all of this leads really well in to …

Picking the Right Team

Here’s what we would recommend:

  • 1: Pick a team that has enough riders of similar ability to you. You want to ride with them, not by yourself.
  • 2: Make sure the team goals match yours. Example: if you want to do a lot of cyclocross racing you may want to go with a team that emphasizes that.
  • 3: Can you get along? There’s always a couple in every crowd, but can you get along with them?
  • 4: Can you make the required commitment? Don’t join a team and end up being just a placeholder on the roster.
  • 5: Is the team focused in your area? It doesn’t make sense for someone from Florida to join a predominately California team.

Some things to consider

Joining a team is a fairly important decision but you can undo it next year, keep that in mind. Some people try several different teams before finding a home.

Also keep in mind that the relationship needs to be balanced. Sure teams can do things for you but what do you bring to the team? Someone who is all take and no give is not going to be a happy team member in any case.

Not all teams are looking for more members. Some have a qualification process. Keep this in mind when selecting.

Summary

Finding the right team for you is a rewarding experience. Your skills will increase along with your enjoyment and satisfaction of riding and competing. Also, if one of the items discussed in this narrative doesn’t agree with your personal experience, we’d like to hear it. Use the contact form below to let us know. Your author is only on his third team after all.