Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is Team Alameda?
A: We're a group of enthusiastic bike riders. We're a club, not a racing team, although some members dabble in competition now and then. We are an all-ages, all-genders organization, and most of us like coffee.
Q: So, what goes on in Team Alameda?
A: We gather in downtown Alameda for weekend / holiday rides, and most Tuesday and Thursday mornings as well, most of which are off-island and into the east bay hills. (see the homepage calendar). We also create excursion rides that may require other modes of transport to get us and our bikes to the start point, such as BART or carpooling. The coastal areas or Mt. Diablo are good examples of this kind of "Away Ride."
Q: I normally ride by myself around Alameda and have not ridden off the island. Am I ready for Team Alameda group rides?
A: Group riding is a different animal than solo riding, but the skills and etiquette of group riding can be quickly acquired. Participating in our "Second Sunday Casual Ride" is one way you can begin to learn group riding. Otherwise simply show up for our regular weekend club ride, find the ride leader and introduce yourself, and we will keep a third eye peeled just for you. Before you jump in to a club ride, be sure to visit and read thoroughly the Team Alameda Policies page. There you'll find our general rules for safety, equipment needed and techniques to be familiar with that will help you smoothly transition from solo rider to group rider. You can also request to be mentored, and one of our seasoned team members will ride with you, offering suggestions. Ask questions and soon you, too, will be a seasoned group rider!
Q: I'm afraid I'll be so far behind that I will be abandoned and then get lost in the wilderness of Oakland! That's too scary!
A: We do everything in our power to not lose people. We have a general "No Drop" policy. (To "drop" means leaving someone in your dust, like in a race). We usually have a ride leader in the front and one in the back to "sweep" (keep track of stragglers) so that nobody gets lost. Hopefully, you will have signed the sign-up sheet before the ride, so that we will have your cell number to track you in the unlikely event you become separated from the group. Note, however, that occasionally a ride leader will explicitly post a “drop,” ride, suggesting that the ride will be more difficult, faster-paced, and/or have fewer re-groups. On those occasions, riders must be prepared to complete the route or navigate back to Alameda on their own.
Q: What is the easiest ride to start with?
A: The second Sunday of each month we offer an official "casual ride," usually around Alameda, for beginners or those who are speed-phobic. This is a 5- to 15-mile ride. Almost everybody could do this ride without problems, on just about any kind of bicycle and it's a great introduction to riding in a group.
Q: I've seen large groups of riders in their colorful Spandex outfits gathering on Saturday mornings. They all look so fit and serious, like racers. Its pretty intimidating as I don't have any of those clothes and I feel like a dork.
A: Each of us has started out feeling the same way. Its ok to ride in what you have. But soon you will want more functional attire, then you too will feel and look as cool as us! The lycra "kits" we wear are for comfort, to eliminate wrinkles which create crotch burn and to keep us cool by evaporating sweat. The gloves and fancy shoes are for all day comfort and cooling, as are the helmets. Helmets are REQUIRED!
Q: If I keep at it and ride consistently, when will I get good?
A: Most people can become good enough hill riders, and enjoy the experience, in under 6 months of steady riding, with adequate gear. Then its just a matter of keeping it up, pushing yourself to steadily improve by going a little further or a little longer.
Q: But I don't like hills. They make me nauseous and turn my legs to quivering jello. Riding should be fun, shouldn't it?
A: We joke about losing our lunch, which we warmly refer to as "hill horking," but actually that rarely happens. Its true, the first couple of times you ride uphill it creates a very unpleasant sensation, part cheap carnival spin ride, and part high school phys-ed "10 laps around the track" body- and brain-numbing torture.
Luckily, you can stop, which makes the feeling lessen. When you make it to the top you get a completely different feeling--one much better — a glorious surge of accomplishment that makes it all worthwhile. And we will cheer you at the top!
These new feelings become quite addictive and provide motivation to do it again, and very soon you no longer feel bad climbing the hill. You'll unexpectedly realize that riding up hills is fun(!) — the hard work makes your brain release endorphins, and make you feel good all day.
Q: So, basically, you are all just endorphin junkies?
A: A brief, but adequate description.
Q: How do the riders communicate in the group?
A: We use hand signals and call out to one another. (The more veteran riders use inscrutable facial expressions as well). For instance, we will call out "car up" (car ahead, coming at us), "car back" (car behind approaching us) "tracks!" (railroad tracks can be hazardous), "hole!" (hole in the road). Other common call-outs are "slowing," " stopping," and "rolling." Sometimes in a large group the chatter is continuous from front to rear, especially when riding through town. Additionally, we use hand signals such as pointing to road hazards such as holes, sticks, sewer grates, small animals, pedestrians, car doors, etc., as sometimes the wind noise can make it difficult to be heard. It's a simple system and easy to learn. View a list of the commonly-used signals and call outs on the Team Alameda Policies page.
Gear and Stuff:
Q: I've only got a mountain bike, is that ok to bring to a group ride?
A: Mountain bikes are great fun, but they are heavier and slower than "road" type bikes with their skinny tires. Some TA members have started out on MTBs and then purchased road bikes later. If you bring your MTB, you will get a real workout trying to keep up with the "roadies" and will probably be the last person in the group, but that's generally OK — especially for the introductory group rides. A good interim solution is to put narrower slick tires on your mountain bike and this will give you a nice boost in speed and reduced pedaling effort too. An advantage of this setup is it gives you much lower gears than a typical road bike, useful for first time hill climbers.
Q: I've only got a flat bar road bike I use for commuting, will this work?
A: Yes, a good choice.
Q: I've got a 1963 Gianni Motta Corsa del Capuccino Italian race bike with tubular tires in my garage. Should I bring that out?
A: No. This would be far too distracting to certain hard core TA regulars. Besides, you would not get far up the hill with the "Golden Age" gearing of back in the day. And, if your vintage tubular punctures, you are on your own my retro friend.
Q: Can I show up on a fixed gear one speed with playing cards in the spokes?
A: It has been done, but you better be very skilled at riding one. Otherwise, no. We find that bike parts called "brakes" are very useful for stopping suddenly and keeping you on the road on big downhill descents.
Q: Do I need to get my bike tuned up before I ride?
A: Its important that your bike function properly, primarily for your comfort and safety, and secondarily to prevent breakdowns which will bring the group ride to a halt while we attempt to fix the malfunction. Make sure that your brakes are working properly and effectively, that your tires are not too worn and are properly inflated, that your drivetrain (chain & gears) are working (smoothly is a plus), and that things like your saddle, handlebars, and other bolt-on parts are nice and tight. If you are mechanically inclined you can check these things yourself in but a few minutes. If not, then by all means have the bike shop tune it up for the sweetest ride possible.
Q: Ok...so what if I get a flat tire?
A: Some of our ride leaders are also skilled bike technicians, and we will help fix it for you. In fact, one of our member's ride nickname is MacGyver — he can probably fix a flat using nothing more than an old GU wrapper found by the side of the road. Preferably, however, you should learn to fix a flat and make minor adjustments on the go. We can help teach you these basic skills.
Q: I get all confused by the gear thingies and what gear I should be in--what if I am in the wrong gear?
A: The ride leader, with a glance, can assess your pedaling and suggest a better gear. Or just ask for advice.
Q: What things do I need to bring with me on a ride?
A: Ok, get a pencil and paper and make this list:
- A HELMET (required)
- 1 or 2 water bottles with water in them
- Energy bars and/or some food to eat
- Clothing items to keep you warm if the weather is cool
- Glasses to protect your eyes
- A spare inner tube
- Tire levers
- A tire pump or Co2 cartridges
- Personal ID
- Health Insurance Card
- Cash and/or credit card
- Cell phone
This is the minimum you should carry; you can always bring more stuff if you have ways to carry it. You’ll eventually learn what you need to carry for various weather conditions.
Now that you've read our FAQ:
Choose a day on which to join us for a great time out on the road! We feel that the members in Team Alameda are some of the best people with which you can ride while sharing your passion for cycling. Your strength and skills will improve, and you will ride to places you never thought possible — and you will do it surrounded by many new friends! In short time you will be inducted into a special place I like to call Bike World... just wait, it will happen.
Flash & the Team Alameda Board of Directors