Group Rides - Which group to ride with, how hard to push?
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  1. #1
    RoadBikeReview Member
    Reputation: green giant's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005

    Group Rides - Which group to ride with, how hard to push?

    Just really getting back into group rides after a LONG while.

    I've primarily been riding the mountain bike for years now and I'm a mid to top 1/3 sport class rider (but not a top 5 type guy), or I usually finish top 4 in clydesdale sport (I'm 5'10 and now 205 lbs down from 220+). So, on the MTB I'm relatively strong but also make no bones about the fact that 20 year plus of handling skills help me quite a bit in my finishes.

    So, over the last couple seasons I've done some road riding again and could pull 18-19 mph solo over 20-30 miles.

    So this week I started group riding again.

    Monday Night I rode with a group that would have been a C group if we were going A-F (five groups).

    I ended up pulling the group for most of that ride.

    So Wednesday night I bumped up what would have been considered the "B-" group. There was an A group, B+ group and then a B- group and a C group that night. Clearly a night for stronger riders. 30 mile ride for the group I was in.

    Suffice it to say I got my ass kicked at about the 12 mile mark the group went into a pace line, I was able to make 2 pulls, 20 riders - we hit a hill and dudes took off sprinting and I had two choices.

    1. Hang for that hill and blow my ass up.

    2. Drop off the back and finish.

    I could care less if I get dropped, but I do want to get stronger. So, I'm wondering if I'm better off for a while riding with the group I can ride at the front of and just pulling more and pushing but not blowing up.

    Or - should I keep joining that stronger group, knowing at some point I'm going to get dropped.

    I know they say to ride with groups stronger than you but what will happen for me is this.

    Keep a good strong ride with the group I can be in and pull 19-21mph with the group for the entire ride.

    OR ride with the stronger group which pulls 21+ for the ride, but in my case do about 1/2 that ride at 22mph+ and then pull 17-18mph solo, or with a few guys who get dropped for the back half of the ride?

    Either way I likely average the same speed - but get there 2 different ways.

    I didn't blow up the other night, but knew that if I pushed redline much longer I would bonk. For reference sake I've got about 700 miles in this season, but 450 of it is MTB, maybe even 500 is MTB.

    Thanks. I'll still ride more mountain but do want to hit he road bike and these group rides 1-3 times a week.

  2. #2
    I say do a little of both. Not getting dropped is probably a little more fun and you don't want to do the same thing all the time, jumping in with the stronger group once a week will help you get faster and you'll get to ride with both sets of people.

  3. #3
    RoadBikeReview Member
    Reputation: tommyrhodes's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    I do a large group ride each sunday. I leave with the hammer heads and inevitably get dropped about 10 or so miles in. Which is fine, I just go at my own pace until the the B group comes by, then ride with them.

    On another note. where have you been kytyree? lol. Or have I just been missing your posts? Your usually the voice of reason around here.....

  4. #4
    RoadBikeReview Member
    Reputation: csh8428's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    IMO: It depends on what your goal is.

    If your goal is to train hard for racing: You should definitely stick with the group that gives you the most difficulty. Your body will naturally get stronger and you will eventually be able to stick it. Normally I'd say you have to build a base and ride with the easier group, but you seem to already have that.

    If your goal is just to have fun: Do whichever you enjoy the most. If you dread having to work your ass off just to stick with the B group, you won't want to ride that much. If you do whichever you enjoy, your body will naturally get stronger anyway and you'll work your way up to harder groups.

    For example: I can pretty much win the B group rides around here. I could probably barely hang with the A group and it would be torture the entire ride. I'm just riding to have fun and stay in shape, so I just lead more of the B group and practice doing attacks on hills. Some days I just feel like hanging in the pack. But because I really enjoy it I rarely eve feel like "not riding" because I know if I feel like it I can take it easy.
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  5. #5
    Squirrel Hunter
    Join Date
    Feb 2003

    Making the grade

    Do both groups but approach them with different goals for yourself. There is a lot more than legs to hanging with a group of strong riders in a pack. As someone here noted, it is not the strongest rider that wins a race, rather it is the first rider across the finish line. Ask some of the other riders, not necesarily the fastest rider, find the smoothest rider who probably possesses the knowledge you need to learn, just be thick skinned because that will also probably be the grumpy old guy.

    Quote Originally Posted by green giant
    Monday Night I rode with a group that would have been a C group... I ended up pulling the group for most of that ride...
    Use the Monday night group to work on your pack skills. You gain absolutely no knowledge of group riding skills by parking yourself at the front of the group and demonstrating to them what a stud you are by pulling for most of the ride. Learn the subtle things in this group such as which side of a double paceline to be on or timing your pulls so that you are at the front for your pull when the road is protected from the wind by a line of trees. If you want to get some harder riding in by putting your nose in the wind then drop off the back 10 meters so you are not getting any draft and watch the dynamics of the group - what do they do well, what stupid mistakes do they make. Think of Monday night as a skills ride.

    Quote Originally Posted by green giant
    So Wednesday night I bumped up what would have been considered the "B-" group... Clearly a night for stronger riders... Suffice it to say I got my ass kicked at about the 12 mile mark the group went into a pace line...
    Rides like this are sometimes certain riders World Championships and you need to keep your ego in check and focus on improving your riding (endurance and skills) rather than worrying about other riders goals for the evening. Sounds like your lack of pack skills was what caught you off guard when they went into a paceline. Be sure you are on the protected side of the paceline so you have less wind. Keep any pulls you do very short, for instance count a 100 pedal strokes at most which will be about a minute, don't worry about how long everyone else pulls, just focus on conserving your energy and hanging with the group. Learn the route and try to be near the front when you hit the hill, that way you can slip slide your way back as the mountain goats scream up the climb but hopefully can tag on to the back before it gets away. If you are getting gassed then sit on the back of the pack and don't get in the rotation of guys taking pulls. If you can ride smart on Wednesday and hang with the pack then the pace of the group will take care of you getting a hard workout.
    Luck is the intersection of preparation and opportunity.

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