Group rides and power

Discussion in 'Power Training' started by Wingless, Jan 3, 2011.

  1. Wingless

    Wingless New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0
    Hello. First post here, but I've been reading for about a year and I've learnt an awful lot, so thanks to everyone. I have just completed my first season of road racing after a switch from Ironman, and this was also my first season with power. What I'm beginning to think is this: after a year getting used to my power data, it has struck me that the classic club run, which has always been the meat-and-potatoes ride of the week for me, is not the best use of limited training time. If you're on the front putting in a shift, then you can spend some time in useful zones, but most other riders will want a go too, so your work time is limited, and sitting in almost invariably puts me in low Z2. My training time, like most folks', is worked around family, so I'm seriously considering dropping the club run and heading out solo with just the power meter for company! Very interested to hear people's thoughts on this one.
     
    Tags:


  2. CalicoCat

    CalicoCat Member

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2010
    Messages:
    405
    Likes Received:
    11
    Yup! That's why I, my coaches, and lots of people here, don't advocate using club rides for training. If training with limited time, do your intervals, and get home to the family, etc. But club rides are FUN, so I try to do one at least one a week. A long club ride is great for getting in some endurance miles.
     
  3. daveryanwyoming

    daveryanwyoming Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2006
    Messages:
    3,857
    Likes Received:
    97
    From a pure fitness training standpoint I agree that typical group rides aren't the best use of training time and it's why I've done perhaps 80 to 90% of my training solo or with one or two team mates who're training on similar plans. Smaller groups, especially if everyone shares similar goals can be great training but the typical large group ride ends up being either way too much sitting in at recovery intensity or the more typical hammerfest type with easy riding punctuated by L6/L7 efforts which might be great if that's what you're targeting but not so great for working on core metabolic fitness and raising your FTP.

    But especially for someone newer to mass start racing group rides can be essential for developing pack riding skills and subtle tactics like finding the best draft in a crosswind, moving smoothly and safely through the middle of the field, learning to respond to sudden pace changes, etc. It's hard to develop those skills riding alone and they're pretty important for road racers.

    I wouldn't totally write off group rides as they can be real useful for certain things like tuning up your top end as races approach or skills development but I wouldn't recommend that you do all of your training with others either as you can do far more quality work at your own best intensity when you ride solo.

    So like a lot of things I think it comes down to balancing different types of training against your specific needs, if you're very confident riding in the field and don't struggle with the technical aspects of crits or feisty road races then you might spend more time riding solo focusing on fitness. If you're among the strongest riders in your group but don't feel as comfortable in tight group riding situations then perhaps more time with others is a better bet but either way I'd definitely do at least a few days a week of solo training where you focus on sustained efforts at intensities of your choosing, not the group's pace dictated by others.

    Good luck,
    -Dave
     
  4. Wingless

    Wingless New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thanks- great replies.

    Good point about the fun aspect of club runs. I guess that's one of the things I (we?) sometimes forget when immersed in heavy training blocks.

    The point about learning technique is also a very good one. I guess the triathlon admission sent up a warning flag about my handling skills!

    I've actually not struggled with that aspect of road racing so far. What did really kill me early on was the ability to respond to surges in the pack, prinicpally because in long-distance triathlon I'd spent years steadfastedly avoiding any efforts which went anywhere near anaerobic zones.

    ...which was demonstrated very nicely by my power profile, where my 5sec and 1min power didn't even get onto the chart.

    I've recently moved these into 'untrained, non-racer' territory though, so onwards and upwards!

    Cheers!
     
  5. smaryka

    smaryka Member

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2009
    Messages:
    186
    Likes Received:
    8
    A few things to think about in group rides:

    -- if you find a group with members that are stronger than you, you can get a lot out of a group ride. The "classic club run" doesn't tend to be good for this, but if your club is like mine, you'll have stronger guys who use the club run as a hard training ride and going out with them will be a great workout. This is good use of training time and all the more important if you are a road racer. These kinds of group training rides nearly always descend into a war of attrition with he who has the biggest balls breaking everyone else's. Very good training imo, maybe not every single week but certainly a few times a month.

    -- in a weaker group, you can get some really good Vo2max or anaerobic training done on the hills if you have any. We have lots of ~5 min climbs around here and you can leave the group and hammer up them as hard as possible, knowing that you'll get plenty of recovery afterwards, before the next hill. On a solo ride, you'd be hard pressed to ride at true recovery pace between hills as you just won't want to let yourself, but in a group you're kind of forced to. Maybe not a particularly efficient use of time but if you're out for the social and/or endurance side of it anyway, some harder stuff like holding a faster climber's wheel til you blow will be more beneficial than just pootling up hills at a steady pace.
     
  6. Nate Pearson

    Nate Pearson New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2010
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    0
    Listen to Dave. He knows his power.

    If you are trying to improve your general cycling fitness/ftp, train alone or at least stick to your own power numbers during intervals.

    If you're going to do some crit/road racing jump into the group to learn skills and get some of that top end work done.

    Group rides are fun too!
     
  7. JibberJim

    JibberJim Member

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2009
    Messages:
    146
    Likes Received:
    5
    There seems to be an assumption that a rigid interval is better than an unstructured one. As if exactly X minutes at a particular average power followed by exactly Y minutes rest followed by another X minutes at a particular power is unquestionally better than the same amount of work done in different intervals. And also an assumption that having numbers chosen based on some formula as targets is superior to numbers that are a result of other motivations.

    For example, VO2max intervals are included in most peoples programmes. They're often 3x3 minutes with 3 minutes rest or 8-10minute block of hard on/off tabata or similar say 30x30 or 40secx20sec for. Those will likely generate you maybe 4-5 minutes at VO2max of quality training. Perhaps you'll do two sets of them and get 9minutes of VO2max training if you have a good long rest in between the sets. With warm up, rest and cool down you're probably looking at 80minutes of time for 9 minutes of VO2max training benefit.

    A relaxed mixed ability group ride where you chat to your riding companions between hills which last between 5-10 minutes and you hammer up all of them, resting in between as the group regroups and you carry on your journey. Here a typical 3 to 4 hour ride will have 5 such efforts on it. That's 5 efforts and on each you'll get 3-8 minutes of time at VO2max so you'll maybe get 25 minutes or more at VO2max. Yes it will take you 4 hours, but you get 3 times more time in your target effort, for less than 3 times the riding.

    You also have to remember that spending time at VO2max is really seriously painful and you'll often abandon the interval early... If you're chasing someone up a hill or being chased then that decision to stop will likely be changed and you'll possibly find the workout easier. I certainly do!

    That works best where there are ~5-10 minute hills. But if you live in an area where your hills are ~20-40 minutes, then you get threshold intervals, although group rides may mean something different then as you'll need to be closer in ability to your ride companions where you can be many W/kg different if the hills are short.

    On flatter rides or where you're not with weaker people then you just need to find a work interval that works for your group. Sure a rotating paceline is lousy training if you're stronger than average in the group - so just sit on the front for 10-20minutes at threshold, or whatever to make it work. Such efforts are also more specific to road racing than an isopower done 20 minutes. Even if I'm off the front solo in a road race I don't ride isopower because I race hilly circuits so a sane pacing strategy is variable effort, but normally you'll be with others so won't be riding isopower as you rotate the effort.

    Obviously how good training a group ride will be will depend on you and your ride. But to mistakenly call them all bad is ludicrous and does seem to be based on the idea that particular training sessions are magic rather than the work that is actually done.
     
  8. CalicoCat

    CalicoCat Member

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2010
    Messages:
    405
    Likes Received:
    11
    First of all, just to set the record straight, I do 20-30 min of work in my VO2 session, not 9 like you said! I don't think I am that different from most.

    I am not saying that every club ride is necessarily bad for training, just that there are too many variables. When I go out for my VO2 interval session, I know exactly how much work I am going to have to do, and the purpose of the ride is to get that work in. However, on a club ride, when I am usually the only woman in a group of strong men, I naturally sit-in and try to conserve energy, knowing that if these guys want to put some serious hurt on me, they can. Learning to conserve and only burn matches when necessary is good race training. However, if the group is feeling lazy, I find myself feeling fresh at the end of the ride and wishing I had attacked, instead of waiting for attacks that never came. On other days, the ride is so aggressive with constant attacks/counter attacks, that just trying to hold a wheel has me in the red zone for a ridiculously long time.

    So, a club ride is a craps shoot with respect to training, but my interval sessions are not. I don't like to leave my training to chance. If I have an important race coming up, I want to know that I did everything in my power to be prepared for it.
     
  9. JibberJim

    JibberJim Member

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2009
    Messages:
    146
    Likes Received:
    5
    I don't believe 30minutes of time at VO2max is physiologically possible in less than 2 hours training, remember a 3*3minute interval with the power in the VO2max "zone" will only give you maybe 5 minutes actually at VO2max because it takes time for you to elicit VO2max once you start working. If you're just talking power zones then my numbers of would also go up correspondingly.
    Which is exactly back to the mystification of the interval. You decide how much work you're going to have to do outside of the session and see that as important. There's no reason why it is, indeed if you're not as fresh than you thought you were you'd end up underperforming, and if you're less fatigued than you thought you'd end up doing less than you could. Of course you can still get good results with your numbers, but to call group riding bad training because you're not doing specific intervals is wrong.
    Do you not talk to your ride companions and discuss what's going to happen and even choose them based on the type of training you want? I'm not a woman, but I still can choose to ride with people who can hurt me or I can choose to ride with people I can hurt, either way you set the context of the ride before you set out. As to specific intervals making you specifically ready for a particular race, there's still no reason for why X minutes at Y intensity will be any different than an equivalent session done with others, indeed the lack of specificity (you don't ride at a particular steady power in a race often) would suggest it would be worse training. Yes you need to ride with sane people, but surely you want to do that anyway?
     
  10. daveryanwyoming

    daveryanwyoming Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2006
    Messages:
    3,857
    Likes Received:
    97
    Agreed, it all depends on the rider and the ride. But IME one of three things happens for riders on most group rides:

    - You're weaker than the folks setting the pace and hanging on for dear life until the first hill or surge where you get dropped. Instead of going out and doing a good focused workout at your own best intensity you push way too hard till you pop then limp home typically not very interested in getting back up to Tempo or beyond for some decent work that might actually help you build the fitness you're missing.

    - You're stronger than the average rider and either pull the whole ride if folks are o.k. with that or more often than not spend a lot of time accumulating junk miles. Fine if you like the social aspects of the group ride but not so great from the perspective of efficient training. No problem if you're looking to do a lot of L1, low L2 riding but not so great if you had different plans.

    - You're well matched to your companions but the ride doesn't fit your training goals. For instance the typical feisty group ride that turns into L6 repeats when you'd planned on steady Tempo or a group determined to roll a rotating paceline when you're hoping to target sprints and anaerobic efforts in preparation for an upcoming event. I've been on way too many group rides over the years that started with an agreed upon plan but one that broke down at the first city limit sign as getting a large group of competitive cyclists to stay on program is a lot like herding cats.

    It comes down to owning your training or letting others own your training. Sure there can be a ton of benefit in group rides but it's random, it may or may not work depending on your needs, your current fitness and both the fitness and the interests of the group. If it works for you or targets a need like skills building or things like repeated L6 attacks or full out sprints which are harder to train alone then great. But many folks never even consider that they're putting the makeup of their training in the hands of the group and wonder why they keep getting dropped week after week.

    Group rides can be great and can provide things that solo rides miss, but the same is true in reverse and it's not because a fixed X on Y off interval is necessarily better, it's because the rider takes control of their training and focuses on what they need at intensities and durations appropriate to them not chosen randomly by the rest of the group. I don't think anyone on these threads is suggestion that road racers shouldn't do some group rides, the question is whether there are advantages to doing some solo training as well and I'll definitely argue that there is.

    IME, the biggest step forward a cyclist can take if they hope to improve is to understand that all riding isn't equivalent and to start to understand how to identify and work on weaknesses in their training. Whether that's with a formally structured plan or a looser approach isn't as important as realizing miles alone ridden slowly won't bring speed and speed alone for short bursts typically won't bring the kind of sustainable power it takes to perform well in time trials, breakaways, hillclimbs and long hard events. Once a rider realizes that and commits to doing some training focused on their specific needs they tend to improve rapidly. But with that realization comes the corollary that it's hard to do focused work on your own specific weaknesses when groupthink dictates what you're going to do on a given ride. It might work, it might not or you might get other valuable things from the ride but you're not in the driver's seat anymore.

    Perhaps you have more sophisticated group rides in your area that allow you to pick and choose the appropriate intensity and style of riding. That would certainly help, but I've lived in raced in half a dozen towns and cities and in that's not how the typical group ride works in most places. BTW, I typically do at least one team ride per week and in every place I've lived I've sought out the local 'Tuesday Night Worlds' ride as they're fantastic places to work on high end efforts at the right point in the season. The point isn't to avoid group riding, the point is to use them where appropriate as opposed to basing your training entirely on them.

    YMMV,
    -Dave
     
  11. JibberJim

    JibberJim Member

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2009
    Messages:
    146
    Likes Received:
    5
    I think the biggest thing I'm taking from this is that other peoples group rides are pretty disfunctional. I've never been dropped on a group ride other than on a very specific training session where it only lasts 60 minutes anyway and you're pretty much trying to get dropped. Not because I'm so strong - but because my riding companions don't drop people! We stay together. I may choose to leave a group because I'm slowing it down, or it's slowing me down, but that would never have me limping home.

    Equally I've almost never been on a group ride which has turned out radically different from what was discussed before the ride. This is all done with one club - and a few individuals outside it - but if it didn't work with this club I have another half dozen within range where I could find rides. Even now in the middle of winter I've been able to choose the ride and intensity I want and find appropriate companions.

    If other people have such disorganised rides then I can perhaps understand their reasoning - but I still don't like the assertion that all group rides are bad training, they're not, and I think you'd go a lot better trying to organise the people you ride with better!
     
  12. daveryanwyoming

    daveryanwyoming Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2006
    Messages:
    3,857
    Likes Received:
    97
    And no one has made that assertion in this thread.

    Calico, Smaryka, Nate and I have all offered that there's a place for group rides to work on different things (high end, skills, endurance, VO2 Max, crit - road racing jump, etc.) just that they're not necessarily the 'best' training either which can be said about any single type of training ride.

    FWIW, I agree that the more organized the group as in club vs. general town ride or racing team vs. general club ride or coached team ride with team mates of similar category vs. general team ride the better the chances of getting just what you need out of the ride.

    -Dave
     
  13. Alex Simmons

    Alex Simmons Member

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2006
    Messages:
    2,471
    Likes Received:
    20
    This is the norm, rather than the exception in my town (of 4-5 million people). And based on what I've seen elsewhere, this is pretty common.

    I have a rule of thumb. If there's more than 10-12 riders it's more likely a social outing than good training.

    It's also why the only group rides I do are:
    - the Saturday squad I run, which has limited numbers and some drill work along the way designed to appropriately tax each of the riders
    - races
    - occasionally for 40-60-min of a weekend endurance ride I jump in with a group run on their faster sections for some fun (I am well know to most bunches here, so it's never a problem) and my rides are timed to allow for that possibility if I so choose. There are some sections of city highway here where being in a group also means safety, so I might jump in a group for that reason, but get on the front for the training benefit.
     
  14. JibberJim

    JibberJim Member

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2009
    Messages:
    146
    Likes Received:
    5
    Maybe it's that groups around here tend to almost never be above 10-12 - if they are they're rapidly split into two. The smaller roads of the UK maybe making the difference? Typically 8-10 is the number for a group ride here.
     
  15. Felt_Rider

    Felt_Rider Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2004
    Messages:
    3,257
    Likes Received:
    27
    I am a member the largest cycling club in Atlanta, but there are a number of us that have formed our own email list that can go viral on nice weather days and we can have up to 50 cyclists on that day ranging from people who do good to hold a 16 average for 60 miles up to Cat-2 level. I was one of the key organizers of this outlaw bunch spurred off from the big club. It gets crazy at times.

    It is unpredictable no matter how I arrange the email for the group or what I post for speed if the Cat-2 shows up or the guy that races at the elite level in mountain bike wants to do a road ride that day it is going to be mayhem. On other days like wind and rain I may have the enjoyment of 5 riders and that day is going to be a lot less stressful.

    My emails will often look like this
    ____________________________
    Start Location: xxxxx parking lot
    Start time: 8 am we start pedaling no exceptions
    Course: TCX | GPX | Cue Sheet (I usually provide 3 sources)
    Store Stop: Mile X
    Avg Speed: (example) 18+ for a 60 mile route (be sure you do not forward this email to friends that cannot hold this pace)

    This is not a "no drop" ride. There will be no sweep riders. If you are not sure you can hold the pace and want to attend bring a cue sheet or load the route to your gps device.
    ______________________________




    With the big groups it is more than likely going to be a full out race from about mile 10 to the finish. We all start out warming up, but when the stronger guys and gals start to get focused it can be a hang for dear life to the finish or in my case I make the judgment to drop off and do my own sane pace.

    This is an example of the smaller winter group and I can get some decent time in levels 3 and 4 with a few riders.

    I am one of those that Dave is talking about that had an awakening experience last June and see that getting more structured provides better training and I was finding the unpredictable nature of the group rides was actually had me in a declining trend. Now that I am following a structured solo training schedule my time in that group is bringing me more in range of the other riders and I am not going anaerobic as much. I am also very quick to tell other group members I am dropping out if the pace does not suit my needs and they are now accepting it better.
     
  16. Felt_Rider

    Felt_Rider Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2004
    Messages:
    3,257
    Likes Received:
    27
    I have to say I will stay involved with the groups if for just one thing. The emails going back and forth before the ride.

    I sent out a preliminary feeler email to see if anyone is interested in a Saturday morning ride. (30 degree start and maybe 32 at the finish) The "smack talk" has already started with some hilarious emails going back and forth. Now that a few have committed it looks like I am committed to a cold Saturday morning ride.

    If I trained exclusively solo I sure would hate to miss out this entertainment of the pre-ride banter. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif
     
  17. JibberJim

    JibberJim Member

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2009
    Messages:
    146
    Likes Received:
    5
    So Felt_Rider your small group of 6 or so People is what I'd call a group ride. You don't get 60 people out on a ride - we'd need motorbike escorts and lead/trailing cars for such a group to even be rideable here (ie the same as we have in a race) and I can see how the dynamics would be completely different with such a group.

    In our club people moan the group is too big if gets to 15 !
     
  18. Felt_Rider

    Felt_Rider Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2004
    Messages:
    3,257
    Likes Received:
    27
    When we have had groups that big it usually breaks apart quickly because there are so many different performance levels, but I agree with you my preference is to ride with about 5 or 6 people. Myself and another ride leader stopped organizing rides and now just send out to a core group of about 15.

    I am surprised that we are already up to 6 riders for this Saturday since it is going to be cold and windy.
     
  19. CalicoCat

    CalicoCat Member

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2010
    Messages:
    405
    Likes Received:
    11
    The group rides around here are more in the order of 20-40 people. Good practice for riding in a pack, and getting comfortable with pack dynamics, but not conducive to planning ahead. The dynamics of the groups (aggressive or mellow) are usually dictated by who shows up on a given day, although with the notoriously fast/aggressive rides, you kinda know what you are going to get. We also have a sunday ride that is traditionally pretty mellow and very well organized. Great for endurance work, with 40 people sharing the work pretty evenly over long distances (60-100mi) and nobody attacking.

    8-10 people sounds more like my team practices. With that size group, we often get together to do our intervals. This isn't really a group ride (no drafting) - just friends on the same training plan meeting up to keep each other motivated.
     
  20. Alex Simmons

    Alex Simmons Member

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2006
    Messages:
    2,471
    Likes Received:
    20
    Well I think that's probably fortunate for you. Some groups here are 100+. Seriously. 30-60 is very common. It's a herd mentality at times.

    It pisses me off actually because of the dangerous riding through traffic lights etc and annoying the crap out of motorists who can't safely navigate past such large groups.
     
Loading...
Loading...