I used to do a lot of my riding alone – come rain or shine. Now I’ve been at it a couple of years, I’m can see that sometimes you need a good group to thaw your heart out in case it starts to turn cold against the sport.
This summer I didn’t do a lot of group riding – firstly there was the back injury (blahblah) – then the recovery (avoiding riding with others) – then there was a couple of months of racing every weekend, and thus not having any time for real training.
A few weeks ago, I returned to the ‘drome (Redhill CC’s famed meeting place). I’d decided I absolutely needed to improve my group riding skills, and I missed the company. I rode with G4 last year and it seemed sensible to join the same group, but a couple of rides down and today I opted to boost it up a notch and tail on to G5.
I’ve got to say it was the best ride I’ve had in ages. I pre-excused myself from finishing by saying I’d just hang on and drop off if I couldn’t keep up, but actually the pace was absolutely perfect. The miles just spun by. Of course, I was last up a few hills, but having someone to chase makes climbing less painful, and when I wasn’t last it was good to know someone had my back.
It’s not just today I had company. Setting off at 6.50am on Monday and Tuesday, I bumped into (thankfully not literally) a bloke who lives down my road and rides a recumbent. Since it was a bit foggy, and not quite light, I’d actually been feeling a bit nervous about my ride – but seeing this intrepid soul dressed up in every bit of high viz available, I thought I best be less wimpy, and we had a lovely little morning chat before going separate ways.
I actually had even more company on Tuesday which was less welcome since I was mid-way through 7 x ascents of that bastardy hill in Outwood when not one but two Evans Cycles office members whooshed past. The first came at about ascent no 3 – not so bad since I was feeling ok. Then on descent no 5 before climb no 6, a nice guy from the Buying and Merchandising team whizzed by and I just wanted to abandon the session and follow him to work where it was warm and comfy and there were no more hill reps. At the time, then, company wasn’t so appreciated, but it gave me a funny story to tell when I explained what I’d been up to once I got to work.
Wednesday and Thursday (both laps of Horne and thus a bit boring anyways) had no real shared moments, and it seems a shame. I suppose where I’ve always said I like to ride alone, I’m starting to change my mind. Sometimes it’s necessary to be out on your own, unless you have a perfect training buddy who will match your 15 second intervals exactly. But excluding focused intervals (which shoudn’t really get boring, anyway) – I’d say we cyclists work pretty well in a pack.
Firstly, we’re safer. Drivers are less likely to squish 5-10 riders than just one. Secondly, standing alone as you mend a puncture is never fun, and it’s always good to have someone to giggle with when you realise your hands are too numb to operate a lever. Thirdly, more riders means more bike know-how, more geographical knowledge and a pool of useful information that comes from experience. I could go on forever, but when it comes down to it, the best things in life are shared. Except chocolates.