Fitting Group Rides into a Structured cycling Training Plan
of us ride with our mates, either formally in a club or informally.
Here in Birmingham, Sette Dodici is the name of the informal local
weekend ride. For some of us, training to get around the local group
ride is a goal in itself. Others use these rides sparingly as a race
simulation or when a relaxed social ride fits into a structured cycling training plan.
However, not all group rides are equal. This is my take on some of
the different types I’ve seen and ridden in and how different types
of group ride fit in to a structured cycling training plan.
one is yours? Anything I’ve missed?
club run. Where
it all began for many of us. While some people coming into cycling
later in life might miss this completely, it’s still a great way to
gain group riding skills and accumulate an endurance base in good
company (hopefully!). You’ll normally ride in pairs for a short
period, maybe 5-10 minutes before swapping over, either with one of
the pair moving forward to allow a new partner to join them on the
front or in what I call the ‘danger changer’ move where both the
front riders move out the way, one left and one right, to allow the
next pair through. I don’t like this as it means you’re 4 abreast
for a while and don’t get to swap partners to chat – one to save
for wide, smooth and quiet roads with patient drivers rather than the
narrow potholed lanes of the UK! There’s always that bloke that
been on every club run since 1987 and will tell you if you’re doing
anything wrong. And he will tell you...
riders get to learn from more experienced riders in a relaxed
environment and gain vital group riding skills for Sportives and
shares the pace and you get to chat to everyone.
are often ‘no drop’ rides so someone will always look out for
the weaker riders.
might end up on the front with someone much stronger or weaker than
you, meaning that neither of you get an optimal workout.
very large groups you can end up with loads of very easy riding or
freewheeling, again not great training!
does this group ride fit in to a structured cycling training plan? A great
way to get a long endurance ride in a sociable setting. Choose your
group wisely though, 6-8 is a great number, and aim to spend the
majority of time in zone 2.
perfect replica of a breakaway working together in a pro race. That’s
the theory anyway… Again, two lines; one moving forward with the
rider on the front doing a short, hard turn before moving over,
into the wind*,
and easing off the pedals to allow the next rider through for their
turn. The aim is to keep the group moving together as fast as
possible and get a hard workout. However, this isn’t always the
case. Round here the local chaingangs are known as ‘The Bash’
presumably as it’s a good opportunity to ‘bash’ your mates into
oblivion by riding so hard everyone is on their knees by the end (or
always into the wind? To ride in the fastest and easiest way
possible. The line that is moving forward should be sheltered from
the wind as they’re moving faster. It's easy to fall into the trap
of always changing in one direction, but you will go much faster if
you can judge which way is the most efficient like a pro!
A chaingang is a great way to learn technique of riding fast for racing or
well-oiled chaingang should always be much faster than an
individual rider would be able to do alone, if you want that KOM
you'd better go for it on the chaingang!
develop the skill of riding close on the wheels while on the limit.
Zwift races and rides tick the box for many riders looking for a
hard ride with a social aspect, but it's easy to neglect the group riding skills needed when riding outdoors again in a race or a Sportive.
someone rides through too hard or the group is too mixed in ability
a smooth chaingang can rapidly deteriorate and end up slower than
you could do solo!
You could be more
likely to have an accident as everyone is riding on their limit.
sociable – if you’ve got the breath to chat you’re not trying
does this group ride fit in to a structured cycling training plan? The
chaingang is great to sharpen up for racing in the Spring and Summer
months. Use them sparingly though; I would recommend a maximum of
twice a week, to allow for sufficient rest, structured interval
training and an endurance ride. Make sure you choose a group that is
suitable for your ability. Riding with slightly stronger riders is
great, but if you can't do a turn on the front without being dropped then find an easier group and contribute!
free for all! A
bit of a mixture of a club ride and chaingang, or a race for
non-racers! This is your opportunity to go out and batter your mates and show
who’s the strongest. Sit on the front turning the screw until you
can no longer maintain it and hope someone else takes over – but
doesn’t ride too hard and then drop you. That's not how you earn
bragging rights in the cafe! This is often the same route every week,
with riders saving their energy for a big attack on their favoured
terrain or that signature hill that everyone wants to be first to the
top of. Of
a sprint for the finish!
can be great fun and a kind of race simulation as you never know
who’s going to attack next. Do you dare follow them or save your
legs for later? A race is never hard and easy in predictable
intervals, so this can add an extra dimension to your training.
these are hard, there’s no need to actually do a turn on the
front as there’s always someone willing to take it up. If you’re
less fit you can keep up, as long as you ride cleverly and stay out
the wind – great skills to learn for racing!
are great to chart your progression, move from being dropped, to
hanging on, to doing a turn, to being one of the strong riders. It
might take months, or even years, but the local guys will know to
watch out for you!
the Wild West (Midlands) out there! You might be lucky and have
someone stop to help if you puncture or get dropped, but expect to
be on your own and self-sufficient!
people will be on their limit, making it a bit more dangerous.
might get a chat if you’re lucky, but it’s more likely you’ll
be suffering either through your own or someone else’s making!
does this group ride fit in to a structured cycling training plan? If you're
not racing or training for a specific event this might be the
highlight of your week. Be careful though, it's hard to maintain top
form year round and all too often the 'winter heroes' kicking heads
in during the Winter months struggle on the same ride in the Summer
when others are at their peak. If you love the weekly Saturday
smashfest make sure you're incorporating sufficient rest and those
steady endurance rides as well, and try not to go so deep you're
unable to do any meaningful training the rest of the week.
what’s your favourite? If you love a group ride or two but want to
learn how to fit it in to a structured cycling training plan to improve check out our
coaching plans or get in touch!