Social riding and training

Social riding and training

How can you get training benefit from your social rides?

You have set yourself a goal or an A race this year and you’re beginning to look at a training plan, Does this mean you need to kiss goodbye to the social rides that you love so much to ensure your training doesn’t suffer?

Immediately you may start to think that social riding will be detrimental to your training unless you have a ride buddy that rides at the same pace etc as you. So how do you prevent those “empty miles” and is there a way to incorporate some training benefits into your social riding. After all this is what we all love to do and hours upon hours on your own in the saddle can be a lonely and a demotivating place to be.

So the good news is there are benefits to group riding, and it can have superb aerobic benefits; now to be clear when I’m talking about social riding or group riding I’m not talking about you riding in a group that is massively different to your abilities such that you hardly turning a pedal with 3-4 café stops, I’m talking about you riding within a group that may be slightly slower/faster than you but they are still riding consistently for a number of hours. 

There are many positives to group riding such as the aerobic benefits of low intensity Z2 riding, enjoying good company and the encouragement of riding within a group. Riding within a group is like anything a skill to be developed and I would say an invaluable skill learning to draft and take that wheel in-front, it develops your bike handling skills which are invaluable for all cyclists. One of the big benefits if you are riding within a group of similar ability is the variability of intensity you require to keep within the group. You must respond to surges in tempo/effort, and these may not always come in the prescriptive manner your used to from indoor training such as 3mins on and 1 min recovery. These surges one after the other can be fantastic for your cycling fitness. 

So how do I incorporate some training efforts into a social ride?  The ride does not need to be wasted even if the social ride were at a lower intensity that you would normally ride; it still can have a training benefit and here’s how… Try taking the front in a head wind and push a slightly higher gear, this can test your leg strength rather than just spinning at a low intensity. On the climbs I love to over gear this way you can stay with your group on climbs and really work the legs (ensure you don’t drop below 50rpm to avoid straining the knee joints), play little games with yourself and maybe try to complete the climb standing or seated if its particularly steep. Another great option is to attack on all the hills then turn back down the hill to recover and re join the group coming up the hill.

Whilst quality prescriptive focused training is key to your cycling development, I think a social ride is something not to be avoided in fact I think the benefits for getting out on the bike with others can be great motivation for you with many benefits both mentally and physically. If you can ride with a group that maybe slightly faster than you this will most definitely bring on your riding, if you don’t have such a group and you are the fastest rider of your group you can still ride a smart ride and gain some training benefits for the ride rather than just spinning the legs with little gain by following the pointers above.

Last but not least you can also put back into the group and pay it forward, who knows you might just inspire someone else to join you on the A race or sportive and the cycling event is always more fun with others.