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.
Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred’s full bio.