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!