Group vs. solo cycling
When you first decide to start cycling again, you can go alone, with someone, or with a group. Depending on what sort of personality you are, you might have a preference, but it probably benefits us all to do both.
Going it alone
It’s really good to be able to brave getting out on your own. You need to be more organised and prepared – if anything goes wrong there’s no-one to help you and you are totally responsible for route finding. You need to be a “self-starter”, in order to get out of the door.
How to do find the motivation? One way would be to have a chore to do in the next door town that you would normally drive to. Get on your bike instead. Plan yourself a treat when you get there – coffee (and a cake if you rode fast enough!). Venturing further afield might need some added motivation – something to see or do when you get there, a friend to meet for lunch.
But once you’re out on the road on your own, the benefits are felt immediately – you can hear the birds, you can go at your own pace, you can stop and start as you wish, you can take a diversion and you can whip that strava segment into submission (!?)
Cycling alone gives you the chance to experiment with pace, style, speed and distance in your own way to build your confidence up. You also have to do all the work so you build up your fitness quickly.
But if you’re low on self-motivation, committing to going out in a group could really help.
Just planning a ride with one friend immediately increases the chances you’ll do it! You have someone to chat to, someone to help you change a punctured tyre and someone to have coffee with. You can both motivate each other if one is flagging, but you do have to go at the pace of the slower rider. Sometimes, this is a relief, sometimes it can be frustrating! The advantage is all there for the beginner – your cycling mate gives you tips and technique and encourages you to do more and try harder, they’re rooting for you and pulling you on.
Group rides tend to feel more threatening to beginners. Your mate knows you and your weaknesses, but in a group you have to get on with it. However, in a group ride you can learn all sorts of useful things for your sportive or race. Drafting – where you tuck into the slipstream of the person in front can save your legs, helpful warnings about potholes and turns, the joy of no responsibility for the route and the planned pitstop are all bonuses. Generally, clubs tend to have 2 or three groups going at different stated speeds (e.g. 12mph average, 15mph average and 18mph average) so you can start of in the slowest group and often go up or down as you progress or tire.
Finding a cycling group