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Why cycling solo is better than group rides

Joe Robinson
9 Apr 2020

While group riding is enjoyable, sometimes all you need is a bit of solitude

Times are changing and cyclists are feeling the pinch of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Cycling is only permitted as a solo activity or with an individual you live with.

And while cycling in a group is liberating, fun and hugely beneficial to the health of all involved, we have found ourselves in a situation where a bit of isolation is necessary.

But don’t let that stop you from riding your bike (while outdoor cycling is still permitted). Sometimes, nothing can beat the beauty of riding solo. The freedom, the silence, it can be just what the doctor ordered.

So with that in mind, here are some reasons why cycling solo can be better than cycling in a group.

You can ride at your own pace

Instead of chewing the stem, eeking every last watt to stay on the rear wheel of the fast group or sitting on the front of the slow group, stopping at every corner for everyone to catch back up, just head out on your own at your own pace.

This way you can dictate how fast or slow you go at any time without having to worry about the rider in front or behind you.

Take advantage of those blessed tailwinds to up the pace and take your turn back round to make them headwinds.

You can ride for however long you want

Group rides will always dictate a distance and it's seldom the length of ride that you actually want to do. Most weekend group rides seem obsessed with ticking off huge miles, something you may not have the time or inclination to do.

Instead, ride alone and go for as long or as short as you like. You may head only planning to do 40km, but return having ticked off 100km because your legs felt pretty good.

Conversely, best intentions could see you pluck for 160.9km (an imperial century) but see you only manage 100km because of various reasons.

Either way, it will not matter as you have no one to answer to.

You never get dropped

How can you get dropped if you’re the only one riding? Smart, isn’t it.

Spare yourself the blushes of being the last rider to the summit by being the only one to tackle the climb. If you want to give it a bit of effort, you can. If you want to sit back and smell the roadside roses, you can do that too.

No longer climb under the shackles of the group who treat each and every incline like one of the mighty cobbled bergs of Flanders. Take everything at your own pace, whatever that may be.

You don’t have to speak to that rider

You know who I mean, that guy or girl. The one on every, single club or group ride up and down the country.

The one who is telling you how his bike set-up cost only £1,500 but is better than a £10,000 bike. Letting you know that your position is not aero at all and that you’re haemorrhaging watts. If you went on a cycling holiday to Tenerife, they went on a training camp to Elevenerife and when they were there, they taught Geraint Thomas how to fuel for a Grand Tour.

‘If you lost a few pounds, you’d be a much better rider,’ he points out, half-wheeling you. Yeah, cheers mate, like I didn’t know. On the group run, he rolls up alongside you and you cannot help but let out an audible sigh as he tells you to pedal at a higher cadence.

We all know who this person is and if you’re scratching your head, unsure of who it is in your own group, well, we have some news for you.

You can pick the route

‘This weekend, we will be heading up that really steep climb, descending down that sketchy road before taking the extremely busy A-road back home,’ the group leader tells you by sending out the weekend’s GPX.

There’s always that group ride leader that seems to have little understanding of what roads are suitable for group riding. Or they enjoy the perilous journey.

Ride on your own and you have full control of what roads you ride and the route you take. You can make it hilly, flat, fast or slow, it really doesn’t matter as you have nobody to appease but yourself.

Of course, we always advise the flat route (because who wants to ride uphill?) but you do not have to listen to us.

You can have a think about things?

Can Mathieu van der Poel really win all five Monuments in his career? Would my face shape suit those really big Oakleys?* Should I buy a new bike? Use your alone time on the bike to think about the important things in life.

Without anybody alongside you asking how the kids are, you can use these solitary hours on the bike to sink into your thoughts and figure out some of the complicated things in life and not only get physically fit but mentally fit, too.

The therapeutic nature of a bike ride will relax you and it is at this moment that you will really discover your calmest and clearest thoughts.

*Yes, they do suit you!

You can pick the cafe stop

Jim only drinks tea, Ellen wants a full English breakfast and Mike can only go somewhere that takes card. We also need somewhere to sit 15 on a Saturday morning among all the other customers. Oh, and we need somewhere safe to store our expensive bikes.

Finding the right cafe stop on a group bike ride can cause no end of trouble, such are the stars that must align to make it possible.

With so many variables, it often means that the club ride will revisit the same cafes all the time.

Ride solo and these worries are a thing of the past. The world is literally your oyster, you can go any way you want. Whether it’s that funky Middle Eastern cafe with sheesha pipes on the high street or that quaint tea room in the heritage centre, you can have whatever takes your fancy.

You can go home when you want

Had enough for the day? Ride home. Legs not feeling a long one? Ride home. Weather starting to turn? Ride home.

Riding solo means gone are the expectations for you to ride the entire pre-determined group ride meaning you can call it a day at literally any moment, whether that be 10km or 100km into a ride.

And, being on your own, no one will know if you jump on a train to get back either (provided you don’t post to Strava, of course).

But always remember to stay safe

Riding on your own is great but also means you might be waiting longer for help if there's an emergency. There are ways to alleviate the risk with simple solutions such as sharing your location on Whatsapp with a loved one or trusted friend for the duration of your ride.

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