Question: I’m new to road riding and enjoy going with our local Sunday group. But I don’t understand why the pace is so variable. We’re cruising along talking, then suddenly the pace increases drastically or several riders go sprinting up the road. What’s going on? — Harry I.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Welcome to pack dynamics! You may not be in a road race, but sometimes it’s hard to tell.
There are several reasons why the pace can heat up:
- Human nature. As the old saw says, any time you have two or more riders, you have a bike race.
- Hills. Ever since bikes were invented, the pace has accelerated when the road tilts up. It’s a natural reaction by those who can climb (or think they can). They simply enjoy dealing out the hurt to non-climbers.
- Traditional sprints. Does your group ride include customary sprint markers such as mailboxes or city limit signs? Or does the terrain favor sprints at certain points? When you’re new to a ride, ask one of the experienced guys if sprints are on the agenda. Once you know a sprint is coming, it’s easier to survive the acceleration even if you don’t contest it.
- Friskiness. No matter how mellow the pace, someone may be feeling good and wanting to go faster. He’ll put the hammer down at some point during the ride. It’s a law of nature.