6 reasons to do group ride training

Structured intervals have their place, but group ride training can be not only fun but also very effective for many reasons. Here are six.
  1. Do more work than you could solo - Whether it is total volume or a higher power output, riding to keep up with the group can be an easy way to bank some training stress.
  2. Reap organic intensity - As coaches, we prescribe intervals to make sure you are doing work in different training zones. On group rides, you often hit different zones simply by responding to the the pace of the group - which is precisely what happens in a race. Being able to respond without having a mapped out interval in front of you is vital.
  3. Practice drafting - No one wins a race for doing the most work and expending the most energy. Learning how to conserve energy in the bunch is a vital skill that you simply can't learn alone.
  4. Role play your race craft - If you are training for a race, you should practice the racing part too, not just the pedaling in different zones on your own. Observing others and trying your own attacks and counterattacks and different ways to sit in are all great ways to learn actionable skills.
  5. Improve leg speed - It's all too easy to fall into a lower cadence when doing workouts on your own. When you're flying along in a big group in your biggest gear, your leg speed and thus your pedaling efficiency will improve.
  6. Have fun, as “All structure and no play makes Jack a dull boy” - In other words, having fun keeps your mind and your body mentally fresh. If your workouts feel like work, you aren't going to be motivated. If you are excited about a group ride, you'll do more work and get better training without really even having to think about it, much less force yourself to do so.


The Three Types of Group Rides

As coaches we like to think of group rides in three basic ways, and assign our riders to do them at different times for specific reasons. Those types are:

  1. The one where you are the strongest rider
  2. The one where you are evenly matched with other riders
  3. The one where you are hanging on for dear life and are trying not to get dropped

For the first type, you can use these for many types of workouts, from easier days to intervals where you set on the front. The second type is perhaps the most effective, as you can bank a ton of Sweet Spot just by playing the game. And the third type can be great to do on occassion to really push yourself, not just in power output but in terms of learning how to eek the most aerodynamic efficiencies out of yourself and the group.

When to say when

Group rides are great, but too much of any good thing can become a bad thing. So we recommend doing no more than two group rides are week. Any more and you are likely riding too hard too often, and missing out on the benefits of riding easy in zone 2.

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About Frank Overton

Frank founded FasCat Coaching in 2002 and has been a full time cycling coach since 2004. His educational background includes a Masters degree in Physiology from North Carolina State University, pre-med from Hampden-Sydney College. Frank raced at a professional level on the road and mountain bike and currently competes as a "masters" level gravel and cyclocrosser. Professionally Frank comes from medical school spinal cord research and molecular biotechnology. However, to this day it is a dream come true for Frank to be able to help cyclists as a coach.

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