Group rides are fun. But what happens when your riding buddies are weaker or stronger cyclists than you are? You can either pass up every group ride opportunity you get — or you can implement the tips I share below.

Tip #1: Introduce structure to your training

A cyclist who does 45-minute group rides outside during his lunch break recently asked me a question. He asked,

“How can I improve my fitness and stay effective in my training … and not kill the other two guys I ride with?”

Because this cyclist is concerned with improving his sustainable power, I recommended getting on a structured training plan to start. This is the first step in learning how to tailor your outdoor workouts to match your cycling goals.

Following a properly timed, progressed and, to a large extent, personalized, plan becomes more necessary as an athlete trains to reach their potential. That said, training with a structured plan doesn’t mean you have to forgo all group rides. It just means you have to become more flexible about the way you ride. Which leads me to my next tip.

Tip #2: Make adjustments based on your cycling goals

One of the greatest benefits of having a structured training plan is that it provides goals. And more importantly, a clear plan for accomplishing those goals. When you know your weekly indoor workouts, you can prepare for an effective outdoor group ride. This is key.

If you don’t have a power meter, don’t worry. You can learn how to tailor your outdoor workouts to match any indoor workout prescription without one. Here’s how:

First, start to associate your perceived exertion indoors with the power you see displayed in real-time. This will help you acquire a basis for comparison when it comes time to work at specific power levels outdoors.

Next, figure out how to ride with your buddies without sacrificing your workout quality. This might seem tricky, but it’s really not. It just requires some prior thought.

Before your next group ride, think about the adjustments you can make. The purpose of your adjustments is to keep your outdoor workout aligned with your goals. I do this all the time when I ride with my girlfriend and other riders who have different objectives than mine. I’ll do a hard five minutes above FTP, noodle back to my girlfriend, recover as I ride with her, then do another interval. It’s not a perfect plan, but it works. Especially on sustained climbs and routes that aren’t plagued with traffic and stoplights.

Tip #3: Concentrate on building higher-end endurance

When you have a tight schedule to work out, like in the case of a 45-minute lunchtime ride, focus on building strength endurance. This will help you get the best performance return for your training investment when higher sustained speeds are your goal. A great way to accomplish this is through workouts that take place at roughly 90% of your FTP. We refer to this as “Sweet Spot.”

Sweet Spot is where your workout is demanding, but it still allows you to complete intervals without feeling wiped out. Such intervals can start as short as six minutes and range all the way up to 30-40 minutes long.

When implementing these kinds of workouts during group rides, don’t forget about rest. A good rule of thumb is to rest around 50% FTP for about a quarter of the time you spend working at Sweet Spot. This will keep you fresh enough to grow your ability to push the pedals harder for longer lengths of time.

Do you have a cycling question you’d like me to answer?

Every other week I record an episode of my Ask A Cycling Coach podcast. Share your training question below for it to be answered in my next episode. Or, sign up to attend my next podcast recording on Friday, October 23rd at noon PDT to ask me your question live.