We are assigned article titles that leverage our best knowledge and skill set and I was given the title ‘Riding Fast’ from the powerhouse that is Marcus Smith. Riding fast is relative and determined by a multitude of factors; current fitness level, weight, terrain, wind, equipment. One of the best and, in my opinion, the most fun ways to learn how to ride fast, is riding as a group. I have therefore decided to use this article as a way of highlighting something that has been ongoing for the past few months and has seen people riding faster than ever. Beginning as Start to Cycle, this weekly event has evolved to Cycle Skills and aims to develop group riding skills giving the confidence to ride fast. Because there is not a lot that beats the feeling of riding a bike fast!
Every Monday morning a group of riders, new and old, have been turning up to the NAS cycle track. We start by covering important topics like, “How are you today?” or “Getting a bit warmer isn’t it?”. Then we cover the fundamentals of group riding that allow for the smooth, safe, and deceptively fast movement of a group of cyclists.
LAP 1, Starting Speed, we move off as a group after a brief briefing about how not to crash, we then join the NAS circuit and ride 2 abreast. This means you pair up with someone next to you and sit directly behind the person in front. Within this time, new riders are told what to expect, what to do and what not to do.
LAP 2, Starting Speed +2-4 kph, we then start a ‘paceline’, this is where the 2 abreast cycling starts to transform. The people on the right-hand side, go a bit quicker than the people on the left-hand side, as soon as the front right rider passes the front left rider, they pull over to the left and in front of them. So now you have a group moving forward yet rotating at a higher speed than lap 1 with little to no extra effort.
LAP 3, Starting Speed +4-8kph, we then increase the speed to ‘mission-critical’ for some and comfy for others, riders are encouraged to take longer turns on the front and push. This usually means some shedding of numbers as people fall off the back that cannot hang onto the pace. This is absolutely fine as we’re all approaching mission-critical by this point and can be satisifed with this harder effort.
LAP 4, we cough, splutter, regroup and return to base. We drink coffee whilst scrolling through all the PB’s on Strava. Returning shortly to “It is getting hotter isn’t it?”.
In summary, lap 1 is using drafting to gain additional speed that would require more effort as a solo ride whilst remaining in your comfort zone (zone 2). Lap 2 is using drafting and group riding techniques to move faster as an average by taking shorter but more intense turns at the front. Here you barely notice the increase in speed. And lap 3 is a threshold effort, you ride on the wheels of faster riders until you can’t anymore. You don’t notice your speed, time or power, you solely focus on the wheel in front of you, continuing your effort and hanging on for dear life.
So to ride fast, ride with a great group who can help you push harder than you thought possible. Each week, you’ll get a little bit better, a little more confident and ultimately a little faster. This will then transfer nicely over to your solo rides as you have been developing specific cycling fitness and efficiency. There’s science behind this, like always, but we don’t need it here, it’s just good fun!
If you want to come along for this, drop me an email email@example.com
Rob Foster, Endurance Coach