How to properly ride in a group without much excertion?

Whenever I ride in a group, I notice that my level of exertion in terms of power and effort is higher compared to other riders. I mostly ride with people who are at my level or slightly below. I don’t feel like I am riding smoothly as every time a gap opens between me and the rider ahead, I need to hammer down and go into zone 5 power to close it. Meanwhile, other riders take it easy and do not close the gap with such high power.

In today’s ride, I looked at fellow riders’ power and heart rate data on strava (yes, all of them have a power meter), their power graphs were more smoother and consistent. Their HR’s were also lower. They all ride very smoothly and last longer than I do.

I have a 4.0w/kg/284W FTP, but I have been doing around 90% of my training indoors. How do I stay more smoother in outdoor group and solo rides?

Edit: These are no-drop group rides so there is no race here. The group consists of 10-15 riders (fairly large)

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I am fairly new to group riding myself and I am one of the stronger riders in my group.

What I have figured out is, there is no reason to save the day. If its a paceline, sit behind the guy in front of you. If he really starts to let them open a gap, close it, but close it hard with effort so that you drop the guy and he doesn’t latch on. If you go hard but accelerate slowly, he’ll just get on your wheel and you’ll spend a lot of effort towing him along. These group rides are all about race simulation, so while you don’t want to be a jerk, you want to refine your ability to do this stuff in a race. Let these guys get dropped, and rest at the regroup spots.

edit to add: now that I am being a little more deliberate in my own group actions, I can do the ride to my strength, get the training and skills I am looking for, and not kill myself to keep a group together.

Sorry, I forgot to mention that these are no-drop group rides. There are around 10-15 riders, which is a fairly large amount so the average speed is around 33-34km/h. There are riders with different abilities from pros wanting an easy ride, well-trained amateur riders, weekend warriors, to beginners just getting into group rides. There is a short 5km race towards the end of the ride, but an overwhelming majority of the ride is done at an easy pace.

Look at it like this: These riders are being smarter than you. They have figured out how to make you spend energy in the ride so that they’re fresher at the end. That means that they can either drop you later or out sprint you to the line.

So that realized, you have to figure out how to pull your weight and not smoke yourself. You have no obligation to keep the group together. If they are no drop rides, and the gaps dont open enough to drop anyone, then just stay behind the guy slowing down. If he starts to get dropped, sprint past him so he has to do work too. Otherwise you’re just going to show up to the end smoked.

Learning to ride efficiently in a group is a skill. On every group ride, give yourself a skills goal to practice. Once goal could be learn how to sit at the back of a group and not take pulls, but not do a lot of work and don’t disrupt the pace line.

If you have a GoPro or similar, shoot video of your ride, and then watch it later just like a race analysis video. Why are you having to go so deep to close gaps? Is it because you aren’t being attentive and letting gaps open? Without identifying the why, it’s hard to figure how what skill(s) you should work on first

That isn’t how pacelines work.

So a couple of things here….first, don’t fixate on the wheel in front of you. Look 2-3 riders ahead so you can anticipate changes in pace. Second, if a gap does open in front of you, don’t overreact and spike the power to close it. You are just burning matches. Instead, just up the effort enough to close the gap smoothly. It will take a bit longer, but it is more efficient.

But the key is really the first point….look ahead, anticipate changes in pace and you’ll be able to respond without spiking your power.

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Yeah, I misread the first post. Thats what I get for watching a movie, doing classes, and reading cycling forums.

I thought the guy in front of him was letting gaps open and he had to close the gaps himself.

If you are the one letting gaps open, and then have to go to Z5 to close them, you are also making the guys behind you work harder than necessary. So I would agree with Power13. Do your best to anticipate the riders in front of you. You’ll learn your distances and the other riders as well. If you’re too close, you’ll be choppy with power, and too far you’ll be working harder than necessary. Looking ahead and knowing the area will help. Plus getting used to how everyone rides. From my short experience its a learned skill but it comes quickly.

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@yajvans as Power13 alluded, anticipation is key. Not only looking a few riders ahead but, also looking in front of the entire group to see undulations/curves/wind etc…will help you apply a little pressure sometimes earlier, sometimes you can ease off sooner, sometimes lag off the wheel through a corner not hit the brakes and exit faster…and on and on.

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I’m not sure that comparing power from strava will end up being helpful in the short or long term just due to all the missing contextual information. How much did they weight? what does their bike weigh? How much water / gear are they carrying? What about all those questions for you? Has their PM been calibrated? Is the PM even accurate? What is their headunit recording interval? What is the PM reporting interval? What is their MHR? LTHR? How hot was it? How did they hydrate / fuel? Did they have caffeine?

Like you I spend a lot of time riding indoors or by myself. What I find particularly challenging about group rides, even with groups that I am much stronger than on paper, is the high variability in power output relative to more steady state riding on the trainer or by myself. The ways I try to address this is: 1 - do more group rides, 2 - tempo burst workouts, 3 - 30/30s.

I think it is just practice. I started group riding 5 years ago. I seemed to be accelerating and hitting brakes way too often. Riding with the same people definitely helped me get a sense for how to ride easier. My first group ride this year was the smoothest I recall doing. I was focused on just taking it easy. No pushing the pace…just sit in the group and rotate around. It is surprising when you realize how little work you can do and keep pace.

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When I’m on a group ride, about 60% of my RPE comes from the effort I’m putting out and the other 40% is from anxiety being around other riders. I find I can reduce that anxiety by being at the front of the group or finding someone that I know isn’t a sketchy rider.

If you’re strong enough you can do the former, it may take some more power but the benefit of reduced anxiety can outweigh the added effort. It takes time to do the latter, I’ve ridden my local groups long enough to know which wheels to never be behind or to the side of but even then I still get nasty surprises :frowning:

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You want to look at the pace of the person a few riders ahead of you, not immediately in front. Most people are bad riders just like they are bad drivers. Jerky movements, sort of stop and go behavior between them and the wheel in front of them (like a tailgate driver). You just want to match the pace of the ride, so look beyond the person in front of you.

A gap opening up a bit doesn’t matter if you can use momentum to close to rather than power.

Also, continuously move your legs rather than free wheeling when you don’t have to pedal. I am not saying to put in power, but to just move them lightly around. Also, don’t be over geared. It’s better to spin faster than with higher torque.

If gaps are opening up, the question you should ask yourself is why? Is there a pattern? Is someone in particular upping the pace? Does it always happen on hills? Are you not maintaining your pace? If the group is riding smooth, as you say, a gap that requires a hard dig to close shouldn’t be happening. If you know the pattern, you can anticipate it and be ready. It’s much easier to put in a few hard strokes to keep the wheel in front than to close a gap.

Also, if it’s a matter of fatigue and then later in the ride you find yourself struggling then I’d look at fitness and fueling. Even if you are 4.0 w/kg it doesn’t mean you “time-to-exhaustion” is as good as some of these other riders. You said you are stronger than them? How do you define that if they are “lasting” longer than you. Also fueling could be an issue. If you aren’t taking in food then you may be running out of available energy. It might not be an outright bonk, but performance will definitely decline if you aren’t fueling through the ride.

Last, are you working too much? The guy on the front is doing 30% more work. If you are on the front a lot, are you 30% stronger than they are? Probably not. Do less work until your fitness is better.

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You only have so many matches to burn, drifting up to a wheel rather than sprinting upto it will preserve them. You’ll probably find that the riders which are sprinting through will blow up earlier in a ride and in some cases before they even get to the front and if you’ve preserved them you’ll still have them at the final/ end sprint.

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The riders I see having to surge to get back on wheels are typically trying to ride way too close to the wheel in front of them for a casual group ride. If it is game on 50+ kph hammer time, I can sit inches from a wheel, but just rolling along, I leave a half wheel to a full wheel space. That way if the rider in front of me slows just a little I have some buffering space. If that gap suddenly opens up, it usually means they let a gap open and punched it to close the gap, I’d rather take 10 to 15 seconds at threshold to sew up a gap than 5 seconds at 200% FTP.

Are you tapping your breaks because you are too close then suddenly there is a 4 bike length gap in front of you? I talked to a guy in our group night about doing this, it was making his ride harder than it needed and drives everyone behind you crazy.

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Watch this video to see how NOT to do it.

Many of the aforementioned points come down to concentration (looking ahead / pacing in advance rather than last minute surging / using the riders in front to take rest in the draft / remembering to manage cadence effectively / trying not to lose the wheel / not tapping your brakes / keeping awareness of positioning at all times etc).

Normally I ride regularly with people around my own ability level so have no problem focusing properly to avoid all these pitfalls.

In this particular case all the above issues arose at one point or another on this ride, because my concentration was completely off - I was just wholly focused on trying to stay with much faster riders (B-group all around high 3s to low 4s w/kg whereas I’m low 3s) and in the end just simply couldn’t keep up :joy:

NB: the ‘A’ group is all E/1/2 category hitters so that’s out of the question for an old knacker like me :laughing:

If you are one of the stronger riders in your own group then with some focus you ought to be able to improve your group / chain gang riding skills quite a lot and fairly quickly with some practice. The advice given in this thread is all pretty sensible and valid and can be applied fairly easily.

Best of luck :+1:t2:

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I saw the video and if I was in that situation, I wouldn’t last long!

When I get too close to the rider in front of me, I do tap my breaks but the gap between me and the rider in front increases. I then have to do 350-380 watts to get back on. I would say, the gap length is about 1-3 bike lengths. If I have to keep doing that every 10 to 20 minutes during a ~3-hour ride, I wouldn’t last long. I will try leaving some space to spare so I don’t need to tap my breaks too often.

I remember dropping the same riders during last season. Some of those riders aren’t as fast as me but they have more experience riding in groups. I am currently nearing the end of SSB LV 2. Given that I am mostly interested in fondos and long rides, I plan to follow sustained power build LV and century LV. I might want to reconsider if I want to switch to short power build as many workouts over there replicate those hard group ride efforts.

The group rides I do on zwift are very different from those compared to outdoors due to the high variability in power as you said. Again, I think I will try short power build instead of sustained power build even though most of my events are fondos and century rides. There are lots of 30-30s that replicate what I can expect from these rides. I will also do more group rides.

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The dynamics of group rides on Zwift are in no way comparable to group rides IRL. Don’t try and ride them similarly because it won’t work.

I don’t think your issue is an aspect of your fitness, it is how you ride in group rides. As noted above, keep your head up and pay attention to what is happening 5+ riders ahead of you. Anticipate surges or decelerations so that you can keep the power more consistent vs. continually spiking and wearing yourself down.

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:rofl: :rofl:

This video was great! The music and everything, and with your heart rate pegged I know you were just begging for them to let up. I could feel your pain every time it was getting close to your turn to pull!

Good riding brother, that looks like a fast group :muscle:

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Thanks :smiley:
I just need to lose about 10lbs and add 30+ watts and I’ll be golden :joy: