What does a Sunday Portovelo ride involve?

  • A chance to develop your group-riding skills and confidence, to enjoy some fresh air and exercise, and to enjoy the local scenery (and sample the best local cafes) in the company of fellow cyclists.
  • Each ride is led by an experienced cyclist who can manage the pace to ensure everyone gets something from the ride.
  • We always wait for punctures, and no-one gets dropped. (We don’t always ride in a tight bunch, but we do wait at junctions or at the top of climbs for people to re-group.)
  • Routes are interesting and varied, mostly on smaller roads – and always with a café stop.
  • Rides leave at 8 am from March to November and at 9 am from December to February, from the bandstand at the east end of the Prom, and return to Portobello by lunchtime (longer rides may get back after 1 pm).

What’s the difference between the four groups?

  • The intermediate ride is called that because it’s faster and longer than a beginner’s or leisure ride, but less demanding than our other rides.  If you’re new to the club or to group riding, this is normally the one to start with. Everyone gets some healthy exercise but it’s sociable too and definitely not competitive.  Distances are usually around 45-55 miles, the average speed typically 13 to 15 mph.
  • The intermediate-plus ride is just a little longer and slightly faster, say 14-16 mph, so a good step up for those who want a bit of extra challenge. People joining the club with some experience of group riding may wish to start here.
  • The fitness ride is aimed at more experienced cyclists. It’s likely to be a bit longer and faster up the hills, and with fewer stops, than the intermediate-plus ride.  Still a sociable ride, but expect to push yourself a bit more. Distances are usually 55-65 miles, the average speed typically 15 to 17 mph.
  • The fitness-plus ride is for stronger cyclists keen on a good workout. These rides push on harder and more continuously, and are usually a bit longer as a result. Still  not a race, but with more of a competitive edge. Distances are around 60-75 miles, the average speed typically 17 to 19 mph.
  • All four groups meet at the same time and place, so everyone can choose the option that suits them best.

What’s different about the gravel rides?

  • You will need a suitable bike – either one designed and sold as a “gravel bike”, or a touring or addax bike that has good clearance and is equipped with knobbly tyres. Mountain bikes are unlikely to be suitable – suspension is not needed, and they will be slower on the road (around half the mileage on a Portovelo gravel ride is likely to be on tarmac).
  • Remember that on gravel paths, cyclists have to share space with pedestrians (including dog-walkers) and horse riders. You should slow down to pass, call out or ring a bell around blind corners and be prepared to stop or give way as necessary. Courtesy and consideration for others helps maintain everyone’s enjoyment and avoids creating hostility towards cyclists.
  • While gravel sections won’t be overly technical, you will need reasonable bike-handling skills in places. Take these sections as you feel comfortable; don’t let ambition outstrip your ability!

Who can come on a Portovelo ride?

  • All are welcome – you don’t have to live in Portobello.  We attract riders from across Edinburgh and beyond.  If you’re visiting the area, and want to join us, please do!
  • Under-16s must be accompanied by an adult.
  • Our aim is to organise safe and enjoyable rides, but you participate at your own risk.

Does Portovelo welcome women riders?

  • Yes – everyone is welcome on our rides, and we have a good number of regular female participants riding at all levels.
  • We recognise that cycling has tended to be quite male-dominated, both as a sport and an activity, and that this has put some women off (or prompted them to set up women-specific groups).
  • We prefer to bring people together by offering rides suitable for all, and by encouraging a friendly, non-laddish and supportive atmosphere on  all our rides.

Do I have to be a member to take part?

  • No – we want this to be an informal and approachable club.  There is no application process or membership fee.
  • You can easily keep in touch with club activities, just by checking the website or Facebook page, or by following us on twitter for regular updates
  • Buy a club jersey – better than a membership card!  (Check the Clothing page for details.)

What do I need to come on a ride?

  • You’ll need a road bike (racing, touring, cross). Hybrids and MTBs are unlikely to be suitable.  We recommend clipless pedals and cycling shoes.
  • On any group ride, it’s a good idea to come equipped as if for a solo ride – with whatever you need to get you home.
  • Check your bike beforehand – tyres should be fully inflated and in good condition, and brakes and gears should be in good working order.
  • Wear suitable clothing (check the forecast) – a helmet and mitts/gloves are recommended.
  • Bring a pump and spare tube (preferably two) plus a puncture repair kit and tyre levers – and know how to use them.
  • Carry basic tools (Allen keys, chain-breaker).
  • Always bring water or an energy drink – and some food (e.g. a banana or energy bar/gel).
  • It’s a good idea to bring money (for the café stop) and a mobile phone.

I’m not used to group riding – what do I need to know?

  • Group riding normally means riding in two columns (i.e. in pairs), with each rider fairly close behind the rider in front
  • Front riders shelter those behind, who ride in their slipstream.  This allows a group to accommodate a range of different abilities, so long as the pace is managed and everyone works together.
  • After a few minutes, everyone moves round one place in an anti-clockwise rotation.  This way, everyone takes a turn at the front (stronger riders take longer turns).  As well as being efficient, this also means you should get a chance to chat to everyone else in the group at some point on the ride.
  • If this rotation is done continuously, it’s called a “chain-gang”.  This is used only occasionally on Portovelo rides (particularly on the fitness-plus ride); it works best with a group of evenly-matched riders on a flat road trying to cover the ground quickly.

How is the pace managed?

  • If you are struggling with the pace, say so, and the group can slow down.
  • It’s the responsibility of all riders (not just the ride-leader) to make sure everyone is coping with the pace.
  • If a group gets split up on a hill, riders at the front should wait at the top, or ride down the other side and wait at the bottom, until everyone is back together.
  • A shout of “Easy” means slow down slightly; “Keep it steady” means stop increasing the pace.
  • Remember – it’s a club ride and not a race.

What about safety in the group?

  • The key to riding safely in a group is for front riders not to make any sudden or unexpected moves, or to change speed rapidly or without warning.
  • Alert riders behind you to hazards, either by pointing to them or shouting “Gravel”, “Holes”, etc.  Call “Lights” for a red traffic light, and “Nose” for a vehicle approaching on a narrow road.
  • “Tail” means there’s a vehicle behind, trying to overtake, and “Single out” means the group needs to be in single file to let it past.

What other rides do you do?

  • In 2021, we started intermediate-level rides on Wednesday mornings (from 9 am to around 1 pm). For quite a few years, we’ve also provided Thursday evening training rides (at Fitness/Fitness-plus pace) in the lighter months of the year (April/May to end-August), from 6 till about 9 pm.  
  • Also In the summer months, we occasionally organise family rides – short excursions aimed mainly at primary-age children on their own bikes (or on tag-alongs), accompanied by their parents/carers. Cycling is on cycle-tracks or on very quiet roads.  
  • We may occasionally organise beginners’ rides for adults who’ve only recently taken up (or returned to) cycling and who want a short taster of what a group ride might be like.

What else do you do?

  • We have a social evening on the second Thursday of each month.  We meet in one of Portobello’s fine pubs, from 8 pm.  Everyone is welcome. See the Calendar page for details.
  • We have an annual “weekender” in June (but in September in 2021), based somewhere outside Edinburgh, usually in a hostel (to keep the accommodation affordable for all).  We travel to the venue on Friday (by bike, train or shared car), do a big ride on the Saturday followed by a meal out, do a shorter ride on Sunday morning and travel home on Sunday afternoon.
  • Other initiatives have so far included film nights, book swaps, and bike maintenance classes.  Ideas will develop as the club does – why not make some suggestions?

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