By Nicola Rutzou

There are hundreds of cycling clubs around Australia, which offer the opportunity to train and race, with the added benefit that you will meet other cyclists, both men and women, with similar aims.

When you join a cycling club in Australia you are actually signing up as a member of Cycling Australia, and its state subsidiaries - which gives you a number of benefits including public liability and personal accident insurance.

There are several different kinds of membership available including race membership, ride membership, and even non-riding membership for officials and supporters. Race membership is just what it appears, you are covered to race in any event around Australia. Ride membership is designed for riders who want to join a club, but not race.

According to Cycling NSW CEO, Phil Ayres: “Clubs provide a great place to meet people with a shared interest, and a desire to share that passion together. Our clubs are a great place to enjoy bunch riding, regular ride routes, and meet likeminded people in a safe environment.

“You don’t need to be a racer to belong to a cycling club. Over 40 per cent of our members have Ride membership,” he added.

In fact, the mix of riders who join Cycling NSW has changed in the past few years. In 2010 only 18 per cent of Cycling NSW members were Ride members, but by 2016 that had increased to nearly 40 per cent of members. Over that time period, Cycling NSW has experienced a 20 per cent increase in membership overall - and that is predominantly attributed to those taking out Ride membership.

At St Kilda Cycling Club in Melbourne’s east, they’ve been successful in attracting plenty of females, particularly on Ride memberships. Gaelene Snelling of St Kilda CC believes much of that success is from putting more focus on recreational riding, which has also helped boost male membership as well. “Since we’ve put a focus on providing more club rides our male recreational membership has increased significantly,” said Snelling. “We have 31 per cent of members on Ride membership and there’s a fifty-fifty split of men and women.”

The popularity of challenging rides like Gran Fondos and Sportifs has also fuelled the increase in Ride memberships within cycling clubs across the country. Many cycling clubs participate as a group in organised rides like the Blayney to Bathurst Sportif, Three Peaks Challenge or Amy’s Gran Fondo. They’ll often have specific training sessions leading up to these big events, and even organise group travel for their members and then ride as a group.

So how do you find a suitable club to join? The ‘Membership’ section of the Cycling Australia website gives you the chance to search for cycling clubs in your area within a 5km, 10km, 25km or 100km radius - giving you a good shortlist depending on how far afield you are willing to go.

Once the shortlist has been put together, which could have as few as one or two clubs, or as many as six or seven, you need to determine the best fit for you. A good way to compare clubs is to establish some criteria. This could include location, what training rides are available, whether skills training is offered, racing opportunities, and of course what social activities are included.