Anatomy of a GREAT Group Ride, Part 1
Group Rides come in all shapes and sizes. Some slow, some fast. Some organized, and some just all over the place. Whatever the ride, there are few aspects of cycling that are more enjoyable than a really great Group Ride (If you’ve never done a Group Ride and you’re wondering why it’s so enjoyable, I’ve written about it HERE). But actually defining what makes a Group Ride great is difficult. Over the next few weeks, I’ll spell out the Anatomy of a GREAT Group Ride.
The character of any Group Ride is defined over a long period of time by a well-known psychological concept called Group Think. This can be a either a really good or really annoying truth. No single rider defines the character of the ride, but rather it’s the collective consciousness of the group itself. That being said, any ride tends to take on the tones dictated by the strongest riders because the fittest most often impose the pace and quality. And the rest of the group responds. How the group responds to aspects like pace, momentum, and etiquette give the ride it’s character. Is it a hammerfest? A recovery ride? An even-tempo spin? Do attacks happen consistently in the same places? Character, quality, and tone.
It’s a good thing for the majority of us extremely amateur cyclists that the strongest impose the pace and quality because it means the ride will always be a challenge. If you’re like me, you don’t get up before the sun for a Group Ride to become a worse, less fit rider. We want to become stronger so we seek out challenging opportunities to ride with those stronger than ourselves. But we have to be willing to give in to the power, pace, and movement of the group in order to reap the benefits of good training. Oh yes, good training. The main reason why most of us do Group Rides according to the poll in the sidebar of this blog (according to 42.86% of you who have voted to date).
Maybe you’ve shown up and ridden a certain Group Ride and found it not to your liking. Why? What was it about that particular ride that you didn’t like? If you have a favorite Group Ride, what makes it so appealing?
I’ve recognized some common attributes in both great and sloppy Group Rides over the years, as I’m sure you have. As I spell out these attributes over the next week or so, I encourage you to take them with you out on the road. See where they show up and where they don’t. Maybe even give one of your Group Rides a rating based on these attributes.
So here we go – I’ll tackle this subject in a series of 5 posts. You’re reading Post #1. Post #2 will discuss the first few phases of a good Group Ride. Two follow-up posts will elaborate on the middle and end of the ride. The final post will attempt to spell out intangibles like Vibe and Aesthetics.
As this series takes shape, you may find that your Group Ride is lacking in a certain area(s). If so, please leave a comment. It’s my hope that fellow readers will offer suggestions as to how we might go about influencing positive change in our regular Group Rides. Who knows? Your good pre-work, mid-week spin might become a great Group Ride!