fast group of cyclists

So you want to ride with the A group, but afraid you’ll get dropped? You certainly need a good level of fitness to ride with these guys, but group ride tactics are just as important as race tactics!

I learned these tips the hard way, after progressing from fun-oriented group rides with friends to the cutthroat club rides that might as well have been races! (Actually, I think a lot of Saturday morning group rides are more intense than road races!)

Anyway, there are a few simple ways to do stick with the fast group, even if you’re not the strongest rider around. It all centers around one thing – energy conservation.

Check your ego at the start line (you can pick it up in the parking lot post-ride, though) and use these tips:

Start Slow

Always remember this: the group ride veterans will take it easy for a few miles. They’ll cruise along and let the young guns and new guys go out front and think they’re really pulling.

Then, when the group hits a certain spot on the route, the veterans will kick it up a notch and drop the guys who were on the front! So watch out for that, because it’s easy to get caught up in the fact that you’re riding out front. You’ll be feeling great, but expending more energy than you realize, and next thing you know, everyone is riding away from you effortlessly!

It happened to me, then once I wised up to it, I saw it happen to at least a couple guys on each and every ride thereafter. It’s perfectly alright if it happens to you, just learn your lesson after the first time it happens!

Take Shorter Pulls

Here’s another way to stay with the group – take shorter pulls at the front. Say everyone is doing 30 or 60 second pulls. When you get to the front, you’d take roughly a 20 or 40 second pull.

The other riders would rather have you doing shorter pulls than slowing the pace by staying up front too long when you’re not capable.

Ride Conservatively When Possible

Along with starting slow and taking shorter pulls, you need to ride as conservatively as possible throughout the group ride. The easiest way to do this is to ease off whenever you’d normally go very fast.

Say you’re a strong climber – go easy on the hills. Getting to the top first won’t do you any good if you use up all your energy and end up getting dropped on a long downhill or on the flats!

Conversely, if you’re strong on the flats, spend just enough energy to stay with the group. If you showboat and take extra long pulls, you’ll be too worn out to stay with the group on the next climb!

Basically you take it easy in your strong suit (whether that’s motoring on the flats or flying up climbs,) and then make use of that extra energy when you’re struggling.

Always remember: Whether it’s a fast group ride or a race, you’re not going to win if you don’t make it to the finish line!

Think about it – if you waste a lot of energy on a hill climb, what do you get? Maybe a little ego boost from getting to the top first. But then you just wait for the group to catch up anyway.

If you end up too worn out to finish the group ride up front, no one will remember your performance on the hill climb.

Take heed of these tips and you’ll stay with the fast group, longer!

Photo Credit: Allison Wildman

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