QUESTION: I’ve been told that fitness progresses most effectively if you ride fast in a paceline. Is this psychological? It seems to me that 95% intensity for a given period would produce the same level of fitness regardless of whether it was attained in a paceline or solo. What’s your opinion? — Jane P.
RBR REPLIES: You’re right, Jane. Part of the reason that group rides and pacelines provide a better workout is psychological. For most people, it’s mentally easier to go hard when they’re in a competitive situation.
However, there’s a physical reason, too. The effort while riding solo is usually steady. In a group, it’s all over the place. You jam hills, draft, sprint to close gaps, ease up again — alternating hard pedaling with easy spinning. Like interval training, this drives your heart rate to near-maximum levels numerous times.
Theoretically, you’re right. If you can ride at 95% intensity by yourself for as many minutes as in a group, the fitness will be the same. But that sort of effort is hard to make by yourself. A group can force it out of you — and you’ll probably even enjoy it!
Orlando Goveia says
If you lack motivation and discipline then riding in a group will compel most to push themselves harder than if they were riding solo, IF you ride with the right group. But the other side of that coin is that on your recovery rides, which are as important, if not even more so, you will probably ride too hard in a group. Without proper recovery you will not improve. On your recovery rides you want to just “feel the pedals”, as I was told by an old Italian racer. This is best done when by yourself. Also, at least for me, I found that training solo allowed me to do exactly what I wanted to do on the day and enabled me to better control my training regimen. But, of course, this all assumes you are doing ‘real’ racing every week.
Kerry Irons says
I ride a relatively easy group ride on Thursday as part of my “2 easy days” section of the week and then a faster group ride on Friday which provides most of the high intensity effort of my week. Pick your group for the intensity you want. And yes, for the vast majority of people group rides will push them harder than they would otherwise push themselves.
Alternative is to do a group indoor session on stationary bikes – that way you are not hindered by a slow bunch & can do it safely & in all weather conditions.
Eric Irwin says
I think that one of the benefits of group riding is that you aren’t riding at 95% all the time. It’s a little bit like intervals where you push hard for a few minutes while riding in front and then get to take it a little easier until you cycle to the front again. Now, my group rides are usually only 2-5 riders, so maybe that is where this is coming from. I do think that I make gains more quickly when riding in a group like that though and this is the only explanation I have for it.
Greg Titus says
Ditto the comments above about the intensity you get from group riding vs solo…it takes extraordinary self-discipline riding solo to duplicate the intensity of group riding (especially if a number of cyclists in the group are better than you).. And it’s not just the intensity. It’s also the unpredictable intensity, which challenges you even more. That is, if the pace in a group suddenly starts to hammer and you’re not really up for it, you have to hammer to stay on regardless. If you were solo, you most likely would ‘postpone’ an intense interval until you felt more ready for it.
Also, of course, group riding demands mastering group riding skills, which are always useful to have. And if you’re with a group of people who are fun and easy to get along with, group riding adds a dimension to your cycling that’s unbeatable.
Rick Oberle says
IMHO, there is no comparison between riding in a group and riding by yourself. You can NEVER match the intensity of the group unless it is a lazy group…. You can only get so good by yourself. You can only go 30 for a short while alone but you can go 30 for a long time in a group. The ultimate “group ride” is a race and I guarantee you that if you come out of the group, you will never get back in/catch up. A club ride (for the most part) are toned-down races so there are somewhere in the middle of solo and the ultimate: the race.