Today, Saturday July 2, I did my normal, in town routine, get up at 4:30am eat then get rolling by 5:30am. Along the way I meet several training partners to eventually start the Mikes ride from Commercial and A1A at 7. The ride goes to Spanish River and back, but many continue to West Palm. Today the weather caused an early turn around in Delray. The ride turned out to be a 75 mile loop as opposed to a normal 115. Along the way I often am posed with the question "group rides or no group rides?"
Here is my take on group vs. solo rides (Road):
1. + More fun, people to talk to.
2. + Higher heart rates, push to upper threshold when trying to hang!
3. + Safer in traffic, groups are more visible.
4. + Higher average speeds, doesn't always matter but a good conversation piece.
5. + Heightens your skills and comfort rolling at 26 mph inches away from someone.
6. + Base miles are easier to accomplish.
7. - Overall workout is not always geared towards Mountain Biking, ex. intensity is too intense and recovery's are too long.
8. + A good way to measure your fitness level.
9. + Even if you don't want to ride you will dig deep to hang if you are getting dropped.
10. - Road crashes (bike to bike) will happen, just a matter of time before your in one.
1. - Boring on long rides
2. - Tough to hit those high heart rates.
3. - Not as safe in traffic.
4. + Overall work out should be more intense.
5. + Slower average Speed, but rewarding because it was all your efforts not the groups.
6. + Much easier to nail a specific work out, you don't get caught up in all the ego's.
7. + You can gear the work out towards mountain biking zones.
8. + No one will yell at you for creating a gap or swerving.
9. + Minimal opportunity to be involved in a crash (bike to bike).
10. + Recovery rides are easier, no one else is setting the pace.
11. + Shorter recovery times, teaches you active recovery's.
In summary, I do road group rides to mix up the training. I can not hit a heart rate of 190 on my own training rides, not that I will see those #'s in a mountain bike race but I feel it helps me endure the higher mountain biking heart rate #'s. Of my 5 training days, 1 is with a group the rest are solo or with my training partners. The one day also is not a commitment ride if I have not accomplished the overall mountain biking work outs I will ride solo. The best option is every other week do a specific group road ride to measure your fitness, group rides usually don't change average speeds, therefore if you get dropped by mile 15 the first time and now you make it to 25 your headed in the right direction.
Bottom line, be honest with your training and goals, do what is necessary to to stay motivated about this grueling sport.