Some days, I'll go by myself, and that's my reflection time and I really look forward to carving out some time just to be by myself on the bike. But it is the training rides I participate in with others that I really look forward to each week.
There are many benefits of cycling with a partner, group or club. Here are some that come to mind that may motivate you to get in the miles, share your bike time with others and combat that most powerful of forces that keeps you from consistent training: inertia.
Motivation is probably one of the key reasons to ride with others. When you know someone else is going to meet you at a specific time, you feel a responsibility to be there. The other person or group is counting on you.
When you ride by yourself, you often fail to make it a priority, and then the opportunity to ride can slip away or you may find it easier to cut the ride short.
As an individual I can draw upon the energy of the group. There is a form of energy-sharing that becomes apparent when riding with a group a passing back and forth of group energy when a specific member needs it. In cycling, the stronger riders can take longer pulls at the front.
Riding a wheel into the wind when tired can allow you to conserve energy to get you through the tough spots. Anyone who has regularly ridden with a regular training group or club begins to pick up on this exchange of energy. The total energy of the group is greater than the total sum of the energy of the individuals.
While riding with a group, there is a tendency to interact socially, to hold extended conversations while on the ride, instead of concentrating on the miles that lie ahead. I find the miles passing by with seeming ease (except for those hill sprints) and the hours pass more quickly and usually with better quality of training. This is especially helpful when one is trying to increase their mileage or intensity.
There is a special form of bonding that occurs in a group of individuals who put in many hours riding together. Many cyclists have developed a very special place in their lives for their training group. In a world where we are becoming more detached along social, gender, religious and age lines; the typical training group is usually above such differences.
The cyclists I ride with several times per week coax and encourage each other to make a commitment to get on the bike and get in the miles. Even if it involves laying down a little guilt about missing a ride and ribbing each other about one's ability to pull at the front during the ride.
The challenge of the group during a ride often pushes one harder than if they are out on the roads by myself. By riding with others that are a little stronger than you and willing to push you once in awhile you will achieve higher levels of fitness that would have been hard to accomplish on your own.
Finally, there is safety in working out with a group of cyclists. While riding with the a group or during the weekend club ride I feel much more comfortable riding on the streets of Colorado Springs or the county roads surrounding the city. This safety factor is encouraging and tends to add a feeling of concentration to my training while also contributing to a sense of relaxation during a ride.
Edmund R. Burke, Ph.D. is professor and director of the Exercise Science Program at the University of Colorado. He served as coordinator of sports sciences for the U.S. Cycling Team leading up to the Olympic Games in 1996 and was a staff member for the 1980 and 1984 Olympic Cycling Teams.