I was asked to share a few thoughts with everyone on what cycling in Group 5 is really like! I was hesitant to be honest but feel its important for everyone to have better insight into our groups to hopefully encourage more of you to move up a group from time to time, building to a permanent change thereafter (to group 5 or your next group up). Please take my comments as they are intended, to help people move up and to try and take away any nervousness that I'm sure exists when stepping away from a group and way of cycling you have gotten used to.
To start, here are the basic stats for the Group 5 spin on December 10 last so you can gauge for yourself.
Flat(ish) spin, 95k loop through Arklow, Gorey roundabout and back.
Approx 710m of climbing
Average speed just over 28kph
9 in the Group.
Compare your own rides in the past year to the one above. Remember that average speed is a relatively poor indicator of difficulty (and form) and that often a spin on your own at 24kph is more difficult than being in a good group going at 28+.
In big groups the average speed is mostly imacted by group technique and not by fitness or power. What you would find is that Group 5 will do a lot of the basics a bit better than other groups and also a couple of things no other groups do at all. With that in mind here are a few tips to think about on the Saturday spins to help some of you prepare to move up a group, or even better move up to Group 5.
1. Concentrate for the duration of your spin. Cut down a bit on the chit chat and focus on what is your main (and possibly only) long spin of the week. This is training and you should be working reasonably hard. If not move up a group!
2. Concentrate on your technique, your bike handling, your position relative to the wheel in front and to your side, your use of gears, your pedalling action and your cadence. Too often the average speed is brought down by gaps in the group, people yapping away at the front and not rolling through, losing wheels at corners, etc. If you find your group splits when the road is technical or slightly downhill then you need to work on bike handling and concentration.
3. Keep the speed and power output more even throughout. For speed, this means relax a bit on the drags and climbs and avoid the almost universal follow up act of freewheeling and/or easy pedalling on the downhill and flat that follows. To improve your average speed it is far more effective to maintain form and power on the flat. A 5 min burst up a drag is no substitute for sustained effort throughout. For power, most of us don’t have power meters to check how even the output is over the course of a 3 or 4 hour spin but here are 2 easy tips we can all keep in mind:
a. If on the flat you can chat away as easily as in the boozer you are going too easy
b. If on the drags and uphill you can only grunt or barely nod you are going too hard
4. Make the first hour of your spin purposeful. Hit the speed you want to maintain right away but DON’T push it. Particularly for the stronger riders in each group, its important you only do the same amount of time at the front as everyone else in the first hour or 2 when the group is fresh. You can then do longer turns when heading for home if others are struggling in the last hour. That is much more beneficial to the group and the average speed than the reverse order which unfortunately is what usually happens.
5. To all the hero’s out there! You know who you are, always first to the top of the climb and easily able to round up the stragglers at the back. Please please try the next group. If you are the strongest in your current group and you follow some of the tips above you can easily progress to the next group. If that group happens to be Group 5 and you can still drop everyone on climbs and its all relatively easy, happy days, you will probably do well in your races .
Hope this helps. Plus, each time I do manage to get out on a Saturday with Group 5 I will post up the details of the spin for everyone to see so you can start to compare the real stats to your own stats and are hopefully then not put off by any exaggerated claims of world class standards being spread throughout the club!
If anyone wants to move up but is hesitant, please just give it a go. I promise that you wont regret it and your cycling will improve very quickly. If you want to chat about it, I’m more than happy to help anyone looking to improve and challenge themselves.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Paul Evans, Macy, edzen
Really appreciate this Dave..Might try and join your group for a spin in January (even if I can only last an hour) as need to train for Mallorca 312 which is coming up in April.Promise not to slow you guys down and will just drop out if I cannot maintain the average speed. Again thank you for posting this. Edwina
DaveB wrote: 2. Concentrate on your technique, your bike handling, your position relative to the wheel in front and to your side, your use of gears, your pedalling action and your cadence. Too often the average speed is brought down by gaps in the group, people yapping away at the front and not rolling through, losing wheels at corners, etc. If you find your group splits when the road is technical or slightly downhill then you need to work on bike handling and concentration.
When I've been out with a mixed group (have never made the full jump, only when numbers dictated!), it's this stuff that was really shown up in my own skills, rather than fitness. I didn't realise I soft pedaled while taking out the drink bottle until I was out with a group of mainly Group 5, and was constantly closing gaps. Not sure I'm any better since, but I've tried to work on it!
From personal experience, the first few cycles with a new group tends to be a struggle. I certainly remember Dave, Linus, Jamie etc. having to mind me when I tried out Group 5 at first. But if you stick with it you'll get there. I was afraid of holding them all up again so the week after my first attempt I was lining up with the next group down when Dave shouted over at me asking where the hell I thought I was going... At the end he told me to spread the word that they're not ogres and don't eat people... they'd much rather have more people in the group to cycle with, pass on knowledge to and encourage than to have a smaller but faster group. Cycling has gone from probably my weakest discipline to my strongest thanks to these guys so if you feel like you'd like to make that leap (or any leap up a group), I'd really recommend it for what it's worth.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Paul Evans, Macy, edzen