This meeting brought together a number of Portovelo regulars with others who have either taken part occasionally or support the club’s aims, to discuss its future direction.

Fitness rides

There was general agreement that these rides work well – most regular participants find the distance and pace about right, and enjoy the variety of routes and the cafe stops. There was some discussion about the challenges of accommodating in a single ride a range of abilities and fitness levels. Most accepted that a group of riders will naturally split up on a hill, or at the end of the ride, but should generally stick together at other times.

The main discussion was about how to provide rides suitable for newcomers and others for whom a 60-mile ride at around 16 mph average would be either too far or too fast. Some of these would be looking to “bridge” across to the full fitness ride over time, while others would be content to continue indefinitely with shorter or slower rides.

We agreed that the best option would be to provide mixed leisure/fitness rides around once a month. These would have two ride leaders, one to lead the longer, faster ride, the other to lead a shorter (30-40 mile), slower alternative (subject to demand). Everyone would start together at a steady pace, and (depending on the route) might meet again at the cafe. This would ensure that everyone felt part of the same club, and would allow intermediate riders to choose between the two options on the day.

Leading rides

There was general acceptance that the club had so far relied too heavily on a small number of ride-leaders. From now on, we would share out this role more evenly, on the basis of a rota. Dates would be allocated well in advance, and if someone found they could not do the date allocated to them, it would be their responsibility to find someone else able to do it instead.

Family rides

We agreed these are an important element of the club, and can probably only be organised on an occasional (rather than regular) basis, partly to take advantage of good weather. They need to be varied and flexible to accommodate younger children who need easy cycling completely off-road and older children looking for more of a challenge and capable of riding safely on quiet roads. There was a suggestion of promoting them more through Towerbank primary school.

Social evenings 

There was widespread agreement that we should maintain the frequency of these events, and keep them on the last Thursday of the month, but that we should vary the venue and start at the earlier time of 8.30.

Other issues

There was some discussion about how to attract more women to the club. There were no easy answers to this, and it was recognised that it could be quite intimidating to turn up at the bandstand and find yourself the only woman in a group of lycra-clad males. Our one regular female attender had offered to help promote the club to other women, and it was also suggested we might explore collaboration with existing all-women cycling groups locally. The new mixed fitness/leisure rides might also prove an effective way of making our rides more accessible to women riders.

We discussed the need to actively promote the club, at least on an occasional basis, by means of flyers or posters in the Portobello area, or in bike-shops across the city.

We discussed the use of Facebook to supplement the website and to provide a forum for discussion. It was pointed out that only a couple of people had administrator rights, while posts by others were relegated to the sidelines. We agreed to investigate ways of giving more people the option of posting on the central part of the page, and to encourage people to use the page for advertising (within reason) any type of cycling activity they are prepared to organise (such as ad hoc mid-week training rides).

Everyone supported the existing club clothing, but we agreed to move to a single order per year, to be sure of meeting the minimum order number required. There was some interest in Portovelo caps, and possibly leisure wear (e.g. t-shirts).

Written feedback

Everyone attending was given a sheet of paper with space to write down at least one thing they liked about Portovelo or would not want to change, plus at least one thing they would like to change, or do differently. The comments received were as follows.

Like / don’t change:
– Sunday morning rides – routes, distance, pace, company
– informal / friendly / cafe stops
– challenging routes, hills etc.
– friendly chat – good cafe stops
– the “no-one gets dropped” policy; waiting at the top of hills
– the people/ethos
– the regularity of rides (it’s OK if you’re not there for a few weeks)
– the local focus is important
– fitness rides: good pace, like the cafe stops, distance etc.
– don’t change anything!

Dislikes / suggested changes / new ideas:
– the way the group can get strung out
– supporting people who might be interested in a programme of activity
– establish regular slower rides to bring in new riders, starting at same time/place as fitness rides
– mudguards should be compulsory in the winter!
– should Portovelo be entirely road-based? urban/off-road rides possibly useful for involving kids/families
– more intermediate rides to encourage wider participation (gender/age)
– better recruitment/advertising
– B-group: lower speed, shorter distances
– a more user-generated Facebook group?
– winter spinning sessions
– build capacity of Sunday rides – roster of leaders
– consider feeder/secondary Sunday group to build critical mass
– bike maintenance classes
– narrow demographic – we need more younger people and more women

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