Most of the time as cyclists we are caught up in worrying about how many miles a day, week, month, or year we are putting in the saddle. Although there is a place for individual mileage, we often get stuck in a rut of sorts. It wasn’t too long ago when I realized I had become an addict. I was feeding off of and getting a rush from any and every group ride that I could participate in. Group rides also have their place, but the ruts we get into affect our improvement on the bike.
Group Rides: Great social time. Good mileage. Not as much boredom. Speed is higher. Less work at times. Now let’s ask a couple of important questions: How much and how often do you pull in the front? Does your group work on different parts of riding, such as hills, cadence work, bridging gaps, break aways, etc.? Do you find yourself riding with a faster group, only to wheel suck a majority of the time? Have you ridden in slower groups to be the “dominate” rider? Are you a completely different rider when alone than when you’re with a group, as far as pushing yourself and going the extra degree?
Mileage vs. Quality: Riding with a Cat 2 rider the other day, I asked him if he rode the day before. He affirmed that he had and said that he’d worked on hill repeats (with a focus on cadence) a good deal. Within the conversation, he stated that he’d only done 18 miles that particular day. Bouncing off of an old Abraham Lincoln quote, the Cat 2 rider said that it is not how many miles you put into your riding. It is what you are putting into your miles. Many, many so-so riders can knock out a hundred miles at 16 miles an hour, stopping ten times to pee and stretch. Don’t mishear what is being said. This particular Cat 2 rider does have 350 mile weeks, but it is not on the top of his agenda. A punishing 80 miles can be as effective.
Alone: Have a plan. Often we mount our bikes and just head out, come what may. Know where some sprint areas are and what you’d like to do there. Hills? Suck at them? Don’t avoid them. Ride where you are weakest. Have you ever tried to ride 5 or 10 miles, on a fairly flat surface, out of the saddle the entire time? Drop it down. Put it on the big ring and try it. You work totally different areas when you are out of the saddle verses seated. Another idea is to find a rider that is way ahead of you and going at a steady pace. Bridge the gap. Push hard to hook up. It’s a great training game to do.
Yes, it was the great Eddy Merckx who said, “Ride as much as or as little or as long or as short as you feel but ride.” Saddle time is very important, but don’t think that mileage as the most important thing. Don’t get stuck in a rut. Keep pedaling into fresh ideas and new ways to train. Get better by thinking differently.