As I researched for this article (googled “group rides”) and thought about other’s opinions, I realized that there is a bunch of BS out there about group rides and racing. There is a lot of esoteric dialogue about making racing special, group rides being dangerous, and “proper etiquette.”
Truth is: Most group rides are races and if you need some race speed in your legs they can be a huge benefit to training. Not only do you get to practice a race (experience is critical in bike racing), but you get to race with nothing to lose. This frees you up to try new tactics, work on teamwork with your mates, and sprint/attack/climb at a higher level as you are pushed by others. Should you do a group ride every day? No. Can they be critical components of a comprehensive training plan? Absolutely. I wish more folks did race pace group rides. The overall group benefit of racers that are comfortable handling their bikes in a large group, race format is worth having a few group rides around.
There is no doubt that group rides can be dangerous. Mostly because bike racing IS dangerous. And group rides are bike races, essentially. So many of the issues are shared between them. The additional issue of group rides sharing roads with cars does have a factor. However, if you have any sense in your head this can be dealt with. Sure group rides compound the hassle for a car, but as an individual in the group you still have choices about the elements that are the common complaints: running lights, crossing the yellow line, etc. Most of this is common sense. Don’t run the light. Don’t cross the yellow line into head on traffic. Duh.
The Bus Stop ride will start next week with the time change. This is a classic group ride on Tues/Thurs night. Just last year, I was thrilled to test my legs against the likes of Baden Cooke, Greg Henderson and other world class pros on this ride. I can’t wait to see who shows up in 2012.