ASK COACH FRED

Should I Ride Solo, or With a Group?

Question:

I'd like to go on local group rides, but the pace is usually wrong for me. It's either too fast, especially on hills, or it's slow and ambling. I like to ride steadily and fairly hard. Also, these rides tend to waste some of my precious cycling time. They always start late and then we wait for puncture victims. Will I miss anything important if I just ride solo? -- Max S.

Coach Fred Matheny Replies:

First, ask yourself why you want to ride with a group.

Is it for social reasons? If so, you'll have to put up with late starts. But some groups always leave at the announced time and if you're late, you chase. You might float that idea to group members.

As for the pace, it's normal for groups to get frisky on hills, then amble along and chat on the flats. That's when socializing takes place.

Do you want to race? If so, group rides are important. The varying pace accustoms you to the slow-then-hard tempo of road racing. You can gauge your readiness to compete by how you do on these rides.

And, of course, group rides are the only way to learn pack-riding skills. There’s just no substitute for getting the feeling of close-quarters riding. It takes a pack to give you that.

On the other hand, if you aren't interested in socializing or racing, it certainly isn't necessary to ride with a group.

Solo rides offer the big advantage of conserving time and letting you choose a pace, a timetable, and distance you like. A steady, brisk pace is good for general fitness. If you up the intensity, it'll prepare you for club time trials.

Here's how to get the best of both worlds: Train by yourself during the week when time is short, then do a weekend group ride.

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