A group ride philosophy 180

Thinking about the latest trend of re-focussing on low intensity training, polarised, 80/20, Z1, Z2, vt1, fat max, slow twitch etc etc, is the old adage about ‘ride with people faster than you’ actually completely back to front! ???

Is the real benefit to mixed ability group rides actually to the faster riders who are forced to ride a little easier than they might alone???

Are the guys stretching themselves to cling on not in fact just spoiling a good endurance ride?

I’m a B on Zwift so of course for a 100k group ride last weekend, I signed up for C because that’s where my endurance pace sits (2.5-3.2w/kg).
The number of people who were moaning about the pace was staggering. Well, at least until I pointed out that any of them holding 3.2w/kg for 2.5h couldn’t (by definition) be genuine C’s anyway :rofl:

My friend and I get stick from the chaingang crew when we arrive at the local shop ride on a Saturday and join the 15-18mph group but, if we want to ride Z2- that’s where we should be :man_shrugging:t2:

Tl/dr is catting yourself down for group rides actually a better strategy to get max aerobic benefit than catting up?


I did change my philosophy this year. I was always about hard but I can do a z2 ride a lot better if I ride with someone else that doesnt push pace. I just changed who I ride with and the groups I joined to get the ride I wanted. On my own, I am just trouble as the pace only goes up.


Z2, polarized etc…have been around for a long time. Forever maybe. Certainly nothing new and not a trend. My opinion but, the trend is game platforms that have to sell plans and workouts that keep new and experienced cyclist interested. Inside Z2 on glass doesn’t sell.

As far as outside group rides philosophy goes, unless it’s a B/C rides where a steady pace is the goal, I show up to push myself. But, over the years I’ve understood most people do not have the discipline to ride Z2 by themselves. If that’s you then yeah I think if it gets you out riding more miles easy (if that’s what you think you need) it’s a great tactic. If you do enough Z2 on your own use the group ride for fun intensity and push the limits.


It seems like everyone is looking for a definitive answer for questions like this when, as usual, the answer is “it depends”. There are training benefits to approaching group rides both ways. The challenge is knowing when to choose which option and having the discipline to adhere to it.


Depends on where it fits in your overall plan I think. If you’re already doing your hard sessions during the week then opting for z2 is probably the best approach, but group rides can also be your hard days and that has its own advantages and disadvantages versus more structured sessions. Context is probably important here, and I think it’s worth noting that outside of the Internet forum world the majority of cyclists aren’t on structured plans (or not to the degree of granularity we usually see here.) for some any kind of intensity might be a good stimulus for improvement, and likewise more experienced riders can pick and choose what’s useful to them and maybe get some additional motivation to push that bit harder. (For example, I’m a >50kg woman riding with a bunch of big dudes, so our A ride is a good way to accumulate a lot of time at tempo/threshold on the flats without having to hammer up climbs)

I’d also say there are a lot of performance benefits to be gained watching faster riders, fitness aside- I learnt a lot about positioning, descending etc. following stronger riders versus simply ‘riding my numbers’ and I’d argue that’s relevant no matter how experienced you are.


Riding with better riders teaches you skills in following wheels, good lines, gives you confidence at speed.

You probably shouldn’t do every ride like that, but once a week or so can help.

Also if you’re bew to cycling, it can bring on your skills very quickly. And if young, you can probably smash it almost every ride without too many negative consequences.

If you’re one of the fast riders in that group, yeah you can probably treat it as an endurance ride.


Yeah I suppose I was coming at it from a race/event point of view. Ie not someone for who Thursday night worlds is their training goal (and nothing wrong with that- that’s often been me).

Of course, as with most training ideas- it didn’t escape Friels latest Bible where he suggests in a table periodising your group rides from easy to hard as the season progresses. And of course ‘group ride’ has always been a named workout in the Bible where he says early season you should break off and ride alone if necessary.

I was just wondering if it would be a more useful and productive ethos for wider cyclist community to adopt?
Because the ‘lower’ the ability of a group ride around here- the more sharply polarised the efforts are :rofl: Cycling to them is literally smash a hill, regroup at the top, coast!
Perhaps a “Z2” revolution would result in more sociable training for more people :grinning:

I went out this morning with a guy (50 odd miles) who’s lost a lot of fitness……and I put a few efforts in when we parted. I think garmin 530 said it was good for my Base…… ideal!


Well done!
Two of us just did 2h20.

Took it in turns to draft the other one where appropriate (he’s lighter so I’d draft him on the hills and so on).

There’s at least three of us lined up for the morning to try the same sort of idea.


Both are good, the key is the balance. Chill endurance rides are great for aerobic benefit and super hard group rides are good to practice group dynamics at high paces and high effort and to help push past where you might be able to by yourself. Obviously the balance tilts toward more endurance and less smashing group rides but both are good for different reasons.

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For me slower group rides have several positives:

  • thru the season it keeps me motivated when I do these from time to time
  • I enjoy 100+ miles distances quite a bit but I am not able to perform more than couple alone - this is for me an opportunity to do what I love
  • Since I big part of season stick to TR training plans it means that I am riding a lot of 2 hours session alone. Riding in a bunch gives me also an opportunity to re-establish good habits and eventually improve my experience
    • especially if I stick for some time to indoor rides thru winter it takes me quite a while to get used to people aroound again

In one of podcasts Amber said - do what you love so you stay motivated - there is always some benefit. Thus I take it as an “excuse” to do what I like and to remind me from time to time that pushing it hard is not always the reason why I ride the bike ;-).


When I was younger I’d make sure I won sprints etc but since I have started training I go with the flow so as to speak. If its a hard ride I can cope but if its a slow ride I just treat it as a bonus Z1/2 ride.


Another successful day at being the :speaking_head: “Z2!” guy here :rofl:
The other two pinned it on the first hill so I just held my watts and let them go, when they saw I was then happy to pull through on the descents to keep things moving it seemed to work okay.
We basically just drafted or pulled or overtook as required to each keep ourselves where we wanted to be.
One chap was amazed at the end that our average was still 20mph for the loop despite a strong headwind and him not feeling trashed.

Sticking to Z2 is a bit like a walking race I suppose- it feels odd to purposefully limit your output but when you get good at it you can go faster than some people can run :grinning:


That’s weird isn’t it, happens in our club as well. I got told off for riding too fast on the flat in a group, even though they’d smash out a lot more effort uphill as you describe. I was trying to get them to ride a more measured effort, without smashing the hills, that delivered the same average speed.


Yes! I assume it’s because climbing is such a part of cycling culture.

As an athlete I got better by training with people better than me.

As a coach, my better teams have always been when there are faster teammates pushing each other. In my experience, almost every time, as an athlete and as a coach, when you train by yourself you plateau.

I am sure there are exceptions for those incredibly gifted. But for the masses, the biggest benefit is always to chase.

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It sounds good in theory. And it could be good with the right group. But a couple problems I see with this - if you want to make or keep friends, it’s best not to mention that you’re riding with them because you are trying to stay in Z2, or endurance-pace or taking an “easy day”. :crazy_face:

Also, For Z2 to be maximally effective, it needs to be steady with minimal stops. And if you’re trying to be disciplined about Z2, you will be super slow on the climbs and then ridiculously fast on the flats, which feels un-natural to folks who do not have the Z2 wattage goal. Most folks will push a little too hard up the climbs and then rest and coast as soon as it flattens out, as we would if we weren’t staring at our computers trying to keep the wattage steady. :grin:

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You have hit the nail on the head :grinning:

I suppose to put it very simply- let’s say 50 riders turn up to the shop on a Saturday morning.
At the moment, people group around speed. The fast Saturday group are usually 21mph in summer. The next group are kind of 18 and then there’s occasionally a slower group.
Would everyone get stronger, less fatigued, feel better and improve themselves more by grouping around their Z2 w/kg? And as you say- then riding more disciplined.

For some, their ego refuses to let them even contemplate riding the B group. Which means the A group does end up a little less stochastic in power as they are going harder on the flats. But they are then also going ‘too’ hard all the time :joy:

Then in the B group, people seem to overcompensate by doing exactly as you describe.

My friend Rich is slowly moulding them to our plan- he often just sits on the front of the B’s now, dragging them along a little faster on the flats so they aren’t quite as fresh for the climbs. Then he sags the climbs and drags them on again before they have a chance to pull over to the side and smash their bottles :rofl:

Just to add- there are other drop rides and chaingangs around town on different days- so plenty of opportunities to stretch yourself when it’s an intensity day.

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But how much of this is beneficial and how much leads to burn out? There’s a large array of chaingangs and TT’s locally for people to push themselves a couple of times a week- I just wonder if a “Z2 ride” should become as integral to bike culture as the ‘ cafe spin’, ‘club ten’ and ‘Tuesday night worlds’ ??

That seems really fast. Our club rides are 16.5mph. It depends on terrain and road surfaces, obviously.

Also not quite sure about the hills etc. We usually have a few stronger riders at the front that try and go steady up the hills, but still are too fast for some, so we regroup at the top. Going ahead of those at the front isn’t done, so nobody is smashing it up really.

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