Friday Group Ride #268

Friday Group Ride #268

Yesterday we road the Western Greenway from Stonehurst to the washed out road behind the grocery store in Belmont, looping and circling as we went, climbing to the water tower and plunging down again, an extended dirt commute with shit talk, picture taking and a whole hell of a lot of fun. I went faster than I’ve gone in a long time and put my foot down twice, which implies I was in what passes, with me, for the zone.

This morning, I swung through just the final portion of that ride on my way to work, and I was a brake grabbing, stomach fluttering mess. Those berms I intended to rail, those jumps I intended to nail, they chuckled as I skittered through. “Go to work, dude,” said the wind through the trees.

I didn’t get it. What was different? I was alone.

On Thursday, I’d been following Neil, maybe even chasing him, willing myself not to use the brakes. Suddenly, self-preservation became a goal today. I rolled past a hobo camp, an old couch and chair in the middle of the woods, a fire ring. Would the hobos help me if I headbutted a tree? If I broke a leg, how long a limp would it be to the road?

Now, none of these thoughts really occurred to me, but I have to believe there is some subconscious risk analysis that goes on, right? I’m not sure whether I prefer to ride alone or with friends. I guess there’s a time for everything. Sometimes I just want the leisure of being along and going my own pace, but others I want the collective bravado to push me to ride a little harder, a little braver.

On the road, this psychology reverses itself. When I’m alone, I push myself pretty hard. In a group, I’ll keep my powder dry, maybe because I suspect everyone else is stronger than I am, and I don’t want to embarrass myself. It’s happened.

This week’s Group Ride asks, how do you ride differently when you’re alone vs. in a group? Which do you prefer? Why?

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8 comments

  1. Bryan Lewis

    I dunno if I ride much differently — well yeah, a group pushes me harder — but mainly I wanted to say…
    Awesome picture, dude!

  2. Jim P.

    Timely subject this. I just got back from riding with some friends and new friends at Annadel (Santa Rosa, CA for those unfortunate enough to not live close enough to know it). This was maybe my fourth time there, and the last was probably a couple years ago. I was effectively seeing the trails for the first time, which usually further hinders my meager descending skills. I followed someone in our group who was just a bit faster than I would have been if I were ahead. As it turned out, this was perfect for helping me progress my skill. I took lines over roots and rocks that I would have been a bit sketched out by had I not been trying to stay close to him. I could feel the boost in confidence.
    I guess that puts me in your camp of mellowing out when riding dirt alone. Where I differ is that, on the road, I can push myself a lot more in a group than by myself. Whether that is going deep to bridge a gap, flogging myself giving a lead out, or trying to make others hurt on the lower slopes of a climb then trying to hang on after I get tired. When I’m on a road ride alone, I like to keep an easier pace and just enjoy the looking at things I miss on group rides. I’ll have some tunes and just enjoy some alone time with none else to worry about.

  3. Michael

    I almost never ride in groups larger than 3-4, unless it is a big event, so can’t really comment on that part. Big events are big events – you come prepared and ride hard. When I ride with 3-4 people, on road or dirt, it tends to be fairly social. We’ll ride hard for parts and not in others. I tend to be fast on the climbs, so go slow there in a group, and probably push more on the descents than I might normally. Most of the time, though, I ride alone and simply ride however I feel – hard or not. I think I prefer riding with a few friends because I do it far less often than riding alone.

  4. Pat O'Brien

    I hardly ever ride in a group. I usually ride with my wife or a friend or two. I tried riding with a local group here a few months ago. They are not competitive, and the group normally stays together. Nice folks, but they take strange routes including left hand turns in traffic that are easily avoided with bike lanes or paths as alternates. Plus they habitually ran stop signs and some traffic lights. So, I quit going with them. I have one friend who is a strong rider, and when I go with him I up my average speed and try to keep up.

  5. MattC

    Group vs solo is a totally different animal (Mt vs road are also different animals). I’ve been after STRAVA for years to make a “group” or “Solo” category for segments…tho it’s way more important for road where if I’m in a paceline, my times are MUCH faster than I can possibly ever do solo.

    On the MTB it’s just like you said…when you’re alone, some portion of the brain backs me down some…I’m not thinking I should go slower (and safer) but I guess the part that wants to live a long life steps in and makes sure I ride w/in my envelope of skill…however when I’m with others on the MTB I’ve noticed I descend faster and much closer to the edge of disaster (and my STRAVA times prove it). I think the same applies on road descents…Plus, as JimP mentioned…if you ride with someone better it’s great to follow their lines and see what you SHOULD be doing on your own…great for improving my game!

  6. PedalRon

    Used to do big, competitive group rides. Great for fitness, terrible for happiness. I’ve met far more roadies that I’d rather not be around than those that I’d like to be around. Just how it is, find that too many are number/data crunching dorks who are in it for the wrong reasons.

    These days I’m only doing longer road rides twice a week, as much as I have time for. Ride with one pal on Sundays, usually solo on Thursday. If the people are cool and good bike handlers, small groups are fun. Make the KMs fly by. If the people are uptight and too competitive, it’s no fun for me. Seems like there are plenty of cool roadies out there in the world, but the majority I’ve met have been far too uptight for my liking.

    That said, my main riding pal these days is awesome. Even when I’ve had too many drinks on a Saturday night, he makes heading out on Sunday morning worth it!

  7. PedalRon

    Oh, and had a good recent sign that most roadies I meet are jerks. Was heading in on Thursday from a road loop. Had just hit a local neighborhood with a nice ride-ending cruise on pretty quiet streets. Caught up to a kid riding in the local uni. jersey, which are only worn by team members.

    Rolled along side, said hello, was thinking it would be a good way to end the ride to do it with a mate. Kid looked at me with a stone face and didn’t say a word. Unless he was deaf, he choose to ignore me. Nice guy!

    And, he’s not the first member of that team to not be cool to me. Interesting as the uni. is a hot-shot mega$ one with many privileged, self-important undergrads who think the city exists as their private playground.

  8. Tom in Albany

    Regardless of terrain I go easier when alone – except down hills on the road. I always fly those. When with others I’m either braver or pushed.

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