Should you do group rides?
By: Tony Zamora (USA Triathlon & USA Cycling Certified Coach)
I get asked this question at least a few times a week.
There’s typicaly 2 ways this question is asked.
1) Should I add group rides into my weekly training? This question typically comes from triathletes.
2) I ride all the time with the group, but never get any stronger? This is typically asked by club riders or cycling racers.
So whats the right answer?
I always recommend people should include group rides in their schedule, but should always focus on the long term. It really all depends on what the athletes’ goal are, and that will ultimately determine how many times you should include group rides and how to ride with those groups.
Here are 2 workouts that I did in September, both rides lasting about 2:30 hours. At first glance the rides appear to be similar, but it’s the makeup of the rides that changes. The rides were on different routes, but I wanted to compare recent rides so the comparison would take into account my fitness level at the time.
|Solo Ride||Group Ride|
|Peak 10 Seconds||468||544|
|Peak 60 Seconds||302||387|
|Time spent not-pedaling||19 min||29 min|
Solo Ride <click to open in TrainingPeaks viewer
Group Ride <click to open in TrainingPeaks viewer
If you click on the link to take you to the TrainingPeaks viewer it gives you a lot more info then Strava, and the ability to highlight certain sections and analyze them. One of the reasons I enjoy using Trainingpeaks so much with my athletes!
Now looking at the above table, you can see both rides are pretty similar as far as time, distance, and even average power. Now where you can tell things change a bit, is looking at normalize power (how smooth was the ride), and then looking at the power breakdown at different time intervals. I kept it short here, just looking at peak power and peak power for 10 & 60 seconds.
You can see that those efforts change quite a bit when riding solo versus riding with a group. Group rides tend to be sporadic, and predictable at the same time. That’s the reason why I’ll usually go riding with the group when I have no plans of doing any structured workout. It’s too hard to do any structure with the group, unless everyone in the group is aware and willing to do the same structured workout. The last thing you want to be is try and be the “hero” of the group and “be that guy”.
So to answer the question if you should ride with a group. YES, you should. I think it’s great to build camaraderie, get to talk to other riders about training, racing, life, etc. And its especially useful to ride with other riders that are stronger then you to challenge you!
I would strongly recommend that you don’t make every ride a group ride, and that you maybe only do 1 or 2 group rides a week. If you look at the last line in the above table, I spent almost 30 minutes, of a 2.5 hour ride NOT-PEDALING! It’s one of the interesting things of riding in a group and drafting, you get to not have to do a lot of work.
If you goal is to get stronger, whether you are a cyclist or triathlete, you need to be comfortable pushing yourself and not getting the advantage of drafting, and you need to be able to structure your rides where you can get in some quality training (re: structured workouts & intervals) without having the group there. This is especially important for triathletes since you aren’t allowed to draft during races!
So go out, find a group or two that challenges you, and enjoy riding with them. You’ll get to practice riding close to other riders, which will help if you plan on any cycling races. It will also push you at times, but will let you sit in and recovery while drafting if needed. But plan on most of your rides to be solo miles, unless you find a group that will all be willing to do the same interval sessions.
Read Tony's full bio HERE. He also humored me with some interview questions:
1. Tell us a little about yourself and what got you into coaching,
I've been coaching for about 6 years now. I started doing triathlons as a teenager, and really enjoyed getting others into the sport. I knew that this is what I wanted to do so got my coaching license and continue to help people out. Whether it's their first race or experienced athletes looking to improve, I just really enjoy being in their corner!
2. You hold a training camp for your athletes once a year.. what kind of experiences do people have that attend camps that can't be replicated.
The feedback we get from people who attend the camp, is "focused and fun training". It gives the athlete the opportunity to focus on their training, while having fun. There's a strong sense of camaraderie of being able to train with other athletes during the day, talk race stories and discuss with the coach.
3. When/what is your next race?
My racing season is done for this year, and my first big race of the year is always the Sea Otter Classic cycling races out in California. This then kick starts the training camp out in California!
4. Must have triathlon piece of gear?
Tough question. Having the basics of course is first; workout cloths, bike, helmet and running shoes are a must. After that, a must have piece of equipment is a training log! Everyone thinks about the technology makes you better, but it comes down to the consistency and accountability in training.
To learn more about Tony and TZ Coaching