Group rides and cycling go hand in hand. They are the local “epicenter” for cycling in cities, towns, and villages all around the world. Find me a cyclist who doesn’t want to perform well on a coveted Saturday group ride, and I’ll find you a person with hanging “bike art” in their garage, collecting dust.
The thing with group rides, is that most cyclists come un-prepared for the types of “higher end fitness” that is needed to do well, especially if the group is strong. AKA, the Hammerfests!
Love’em or hate’em–we want to do better at them–don’t we? Ironically enough to do group rides better, we are well served to train more specifically, without the group!
WHAT?! Read on…
1. Don’t Ride with the Group Every Week–GET NINJA!
I know it sounds counter intuitive, but by NOT showing up at every single group ride each week, you put yourself in a position to ride stronger and faster when you DO show up to ride. I call this the “group scarcity” tactic. The more scarce you make yourself, hiding from the group and working on what YOU NEED to get stronger and more efficient on the bike, the more those new skills and strengths will come OUT on Group Ride day.
Think of it this way if you struggle to NOT ride with the group every ride, as I know many of you do. Try to think of yourself as going on a “covert training operation”, deep undercover so no one knows what you’re up to, like a Cycling Ninja in training.
Each ride and workout you do, solo, will be like sharpening your “blades” of climbing, power, descending, and high level output. This “covert cycling ninja training” is essential for you to acknowledge as it will FUEL YOUR FOCUS and cause an EAGERNESS to demonstrate your new skills and Ninja like abilities come GROUP RIDE DAY. Yah, in group rides–ATTITUDE and SELF CONFIDENCE are more important than what bike you’re riding or how many miles you’ve done.
2. Focus Your Training and Sharpen Your “Cycling Weapons”
Look, if you want to ride strong with a group you’re gonna have to get UNCOMFORTABLE in your training while on your own. Something that is not easy to do for many of us.
I know, I know–You’re probably saying, “I get uncomfortable when I’m WITH the group.”
Yes, this may be true–but you have to remember, that the group will never help YOU deal with YOUR PAIN or SUFFERING or more importantly–what YOU NEED to focus on to improve yourself. You, my friend, have to train yourself to suffer and overcome discomfort on your own, through specific, focused, higher intensity training–just like the Ninja.
This means planned and specific HIGH INTENSITY TRAINING (H.I.T) sessions each week, primarily focused on the 3 most essential basics of higher level cycling:
- More MUSCULAR ENDURANCE (ME) so you can put the hammer down and tension the bike for LONGER during your rides. If you do not have lots of ME, then prepare to get dropped on strong group rides. PERIOD.
- More ANAEROBIC ENDURANCE & ACCELERATIONS (Zone 5 AE) Capacity to handle the short burst outut of a strong Group. Yah, this is REALLY IMPORTANT and your long slow base miles is NOT gonna get it done. A major staple in the new CYCLO90 IN-SEASON TRAINING for both Roadies and Mountain Bikers.
- Faster RECOVERY BETWEEN HARD EFFORTS, so after the initial acceleration you can “hang in” and be ready for the next one. It’s one thing to do one acceleration, but you need to have REPEATABILITY, otherwise it’s off the back again for you.
3. Know Your Weaknesses (Test), then OVERCOME!
Every single cyclist has a “weakness”. Yes, even the guy or girl pounding off the front of the group has one–probably more than one. What’s your weakness(es)? When you KNOW your weaknesses, much like a Ninja, you can train and overcome them and turn them into STRENGTHS!
The first step is to determine what your weaknesses are and in general I encounter 3 WEAKNESSES most everyday cyclists have in relation to higher intensity rides, like group rides…
- Riding at FUNCTIONAL THRESHOLD–Your “ZONE 4″
- Accelerating Above Threshold ( ZONE 5+) and then RECOVERING
- Maximizing Gearing, Tension, and Leg Speed based on TERRAIN.
All of these “weaknesses” can first be tested with ZONE 4, 5, and 6 Testing done with various gearing and conditions. This will allow you to not only find out what your threshold is, or how well you can accelerate past it–but more importantly, you’ll be able to TEST what gearing combo’s, leg speed ranges, and tension works best FOR YOU.
Much like a real Ninja, you need to master MANY WEAPONS, not just one. The more fundamentals of cycling fitness you combine with “specific weapons of cycling”, the more likely you are to defeat your opponents. Many times, that opponent is YOU.
In regards to ‘TRAINING’ the weaknesses out of you…
The great news is that all of these common weaknesses can be overcome through more focused training and in particular H.I.T or High Intensity Trainer Sessions, focused on all of the above fitness assets. You can work on your BASE strength and fitness with something like CYCLO90 Base or you can get more specific for higher intensity cycling for in-season with the CYCLO90ROAD and/or CYCLO90MTB Training, all utilizing my famous Cyclo-H.I.T 30 Minute workouts.
You can ride all you want. Do endless miles. Perform intervals until your watch breaks. BUT, if you do not have the ability to perform all three of the group ride fitness assets above, you won’t do well in hard group rides or races.
I WANT YOU to do group rides, but only because they offer you some sort of benefit to YOUR RIDING NEEDS. Watch out for relying on the group to be your sole motivation for riding–I have seen this blow up in many riders faces.
Ride for you for my friend! Enjoy getting stronger for YOUR NEEDS–then get Ninja and arrive at those great weekend hammerfests, ready to kick some tail and SMILE ALL THE WAY HOME.
Under your cloaked mask of Ninja, of course.
SIDE NOTE: I was seriously into martial arts as a kid and reached my Black Belt when I was 15. I use to go to three classes a week, many times begrudgingly and going through the motions. Kinda like a lot of cyclists I encounter, showing up at all group rides, afraid of looking weak–going through the motions.
I had an opportunity to go to Ninja Camp right before my black belt and everything changed for me. I was so amazed to watch how others could spend MORE TIME ALONE then with the group and excel so much. They had to make a connection with “their needs,” first–before they could master anything.
We were sent out into the woods, all on our own to begin our own Ninja Training–no instructor. I could not believe it. I didn’t get it. THEN, I FOUND MYSELF. Then, I was no longer “going through the motions.”
I have never forgotten those lessons and hold them true in everything I do and how I work with others. Find YOU and YOUR WEAKNESSES, alone–then you have the ability to begin mastery.