On a recent ride I was thinking about my riding experiences of the last 12 years and reminiscing on what I have enjoyed the most about riding my bike and what has been the most beneficial in my development as a cyclist. Don’t look to hard science here or hard-core coaching wisdom just thinking through it in an article.
There are benefits to riding solo and riding with a group but I must admit that at times I just want to ride alone.
Riding solo gives me time to think and work out specific issues in my head while I plod away down the road. This may sound a bit antisocial to some of my readers and friends but I think the ‘me’ riding time is very valuable.
I love riding with friends, teammates and the occasional club ride but I get some of my best training done when I ride alone. I can focus on the intervals, cuss at my self with out offending anyone and best of all I am not a slave to another cyclists training program and vice versa.
A while back I read an article about a cyclist who was complaining about the proliferation of coached cyclists who just didn’t go out and ride their bikes but instead slowed down entire group rides because they wouldn’t just ride. I am paraphrasing and this is an extreme example. I would never intentionally try and slow down a group ride so I could recover between intervals! I must admit however that I have practiced pedaling techniques, attacks and recovery strategies on group rides and the only complaint I heard was either “keep up” or “quit taking us up all the hills”.
Getting out riding with friends and teammates gives me a chance to catch up and see how everyone else is doing. On these rides we swap stories about racing, family, training and work. These rides are very important for building camaraderie between teammates and should be done as often as possible. The only thing that keeps me from riding with teammates and friends is schedule conflicts and distance. Many of my teammates do not live near me so it can be tough.
Riding with “Foreigners” or cyclists I don’t know or know well puts me outside of my comfort zone socially and even physically. Getting out of your comfort zone will lead to greater focus, effort and helps to develop a sense of how others ride, train and compete. I must admit that out of all of the solo rides, buddy rides, team rides and races I probably have learned more and worked harder when I am out riding with other cyclists I don’t know. Don’t get me wrong the best way to become a better reader of races is to race more but there is something about putting yourself in a socially uncomfortable position and coming out the other side with new knowledge and maybe some new friends that makes me feel stronger at the end of a ride with strangers.
As I come out of a long off season of training I do look forward to faster rides with friends, teammates and other cyclists but I also look forward to my contemplative rides where my day to day troubles work themselves out over the miles of a solo training ride.
Until next time have a great ride,