Riding in a group vs. solo for ultra-distance events -- just how much easier is it?

I’m committed to doing a 200mi, 15K event in two weeks - and I’m a bit apprehensive… I’m at 5,000mi for the year, so I’m moderately prepared, but my longest rides this year have been 100mi or so. I did 100mi today with 10K ft of climbing in 6:30ish (374-TSS) and did that solo. How much easier will it be if I can get in a group and work with others on the 200mi ride? 20% less effort for the distance? It looks like there are only a couple mid-length climbs on the course, so most of the elevation gain is rolling, if that makes a difference. I’m thinking hard about my fueling for the day too. I know that will be really critical.

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Its pretty hard to guess but when you are in a draft behind another rider you can save up to 25% and even at the front with riders behind you, you benefit by a tiny amount (0.05% I think). Then you have motivational/ pacing benefits from being in a good group but that’s almost impossible to quantify.

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Depends on the size and strength of the group…and will be much easier and/or might not be easier at all but much faster. Just don’t overcook it with a too strong group in the beginning.

Just as an interesting side note:

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So important. I’ve taken the “everyone says if you just stick with this ridiculous pace for the first hour they will slow down and you’ll get the benefit of the group” approach… and been kicked off the back completely toasted with 60 miles to go.

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If you are on a big group it can be a lot easier but the drafting benefits won’t be as important on the climbs because gravity will prevail. So if it’s a hilly ride it will be easier with a group (drafting, psychological effects, etc) but not miraculously easier. 200mi 15k sound difficult with or with out a group. Just easier with a group but still very challenging.

Drafting in a group can mean huge reductions in the amount of effort you need to maintain a certain speed. I once quantified this and saw that my speed went up 2 mph and my heart rate down 20 bpm when I went from solo to drafting in a group during an event.

The danger of groups is you don’t know how good the group riding skills of the riders is. You might not want to spend 200 miles looking at other cyclists arses, and relying on them to point out road hazards and telegraph any braking. What you gain in moving speed might be lost in stopped time. If someone gets a puncture or mechanical or wants to stop at a shop do you stop with them or say see you later and keep riding. When riding solo on long events; I’ve seen the same groups go flying past multiple times, but I’ve finished well before them, as I’ve kept my stops short, and not been held up by others. Don’t underestimate the faff factor that can occur with groups.

Best option for riding in groups is to join them when it suits, and do your share of the work, but don’t be afraid to split when the needs of the group and yourself differ.

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As others have said, ride in a group if you can, but be cognizant of your average power. If the group is pushing harder than you can sustain it’s an easy way to blow up. It’s hard to find a group that is riding at your exact target all the time, so you will have to make some decisions on the road if you find yourself on your limit whether it’s a responsible choice to stay in the group or wait for the next. If you are in such a group, do not pull, ride the wheels as much as you can.

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Thanks for all the tips - good stuff to remember… I did listen to Dylan’s video and I think those takeaways apply here too. Make the most of groups when you can - but don’t get in over your head/fitness. It’s a relatively small event too, so there’s a good chance I’ll be solo for a lot of it. Did I mention I bought aero bars? I bought aero bars… never used them before. Could be interesting. And of course wouldn’t use them in a group.

I think you should also factor in the additional motivation you get by riding with others. I reckon many people get a psychological boost when they are not alone. How much of a draft you can get is hard to say, it also depends on how competitive you are. With these long-distance events most people I know who do them, do them with the aim to finish or to finish within a certain time rather than winning or placing in the top-xx.

Also, if you can ride 100 miles with 10k of climbing, you can do 200 miles, too. I wouldn’t worry about that. Just pace and fuel accordingly. You can do it! :slight_smile:

PS I’d be nice if you posted here after the event, telling us how you did.

Bingo! The difference between 100 and 200 miles is almost entirely psychological, not physical!

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I am taking part in the Whistler Granfondo (120km) this year. I am planning to follow my own pacing strategy but will plan to find a group that best fits that effort level, rather than pushing myself to try and stick with a group that I know will cook me.

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This also may be different groups at different parts of the event - especially for a course with a lot of climbing. At the speeds I climb, there is no drafting advantage, so I can’t let the psychological boost influence me to go too hard physically.

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I did that one race. I was with just 2 others. But it was too hard a pace for me. I got lucky and had a group of 5 come up on me and they had the perfect pace for me. Totally saved my race.

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