A reliability ride is a relic of British cycling. Along with the classic weekend club run and midweek 10, a tradition of many of the country’s cycling clubs would be to organise a Reliability Ride or Trial to test the reliability of man/woman and bike over a challenging course. No signposts, feed-stops, finishing medals or prize money, they are a pure endeavour of navigation, leg-strength and grit.
Usually held in early Spring, they give the rider a gauge of their fitness levels after the winter. For some they may be a be an unwelcome reminder of how much zip they’ve lost since autumn’s hill-climb season. Whilst for others, a rewarding morale boost after putting in the winter miles.
Whilst many racing cyclists use them as hard training rides to sharpen their form for road races, every Reliability Ride will emphasise that they are not races themselves. This is partly due to the fact that they date back to a time when all road racing was banned in the UK. By naming them Reliability Rides, organisers could emphasise both to riders and police that there was no official racing taking place, despite what the appearance of a mass group of riders might imply.
However, whilst not officially races, the ego and bragging rights on the line at some rides is an explosive cocktail. I have done many a reliabilty ride harder than races! As they are not restricted by race circuits, the historic routes of some Reliability rides are savage. Some days you can feel the test of just completing the circuit. But to think that past generations of cyclists have completed said test on heavier & less-efficient bikes, wearing shoddy woolen jerseys in weather even worse than today is impressive. Never mind the fact that you’re following the route from a glowing gps screen on your handlebars, whilst they squinted at biro markings on a sodden Ordnance Survey map.
In Yorkshire I have the aptly named Hateful-Eight series (which has grown from Ron’s Reliable Five) every Sunday starting in late January to get stuck in to. But rides will be taking place all down the country, so have a look at what’s on near you. They often slip under the radar of many cyclists, especially those not part of a traditional club, but are welcome to all riders of any age or ability.
For me the beauty of a reliability ride is the motivation of the participants. They are not here to chase points for their second-cat licence upgrade, or for the strava segment KOM. They are here just to ride. No bullshit, just you, your bike and the road. Couldn’t be simpler than that. And couldn’t be better.
On my first reliability ride this year, it was minus three and snowed along the majority of the route. However a startling number of Yorkshire’s hardmen and women had turned out to give it a bash. Local lad Scott Thwaites was one such nut and told me he was blown away with the turnout. “I’m here because this is my job” he said, “but the rest of you are just out for the love of it…“. It seemed like his way of saying Chapeau. Long live the reliability ride. Long live the soul in Cycling.
For more info on Reliability rides see: https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/road/article/20100105-Get-Into-Cycling—Road—Reliability-Trials-0