Cycling is an odd juxtaposition, it’s mostly a team sport that very seldom looks like one and in general it encourages groups of people to be around each other. The counterweight to this is that the key components of exceeding are generally best executed alone following a precisely measured training plan. Or if you follow a more laissez faire approach and do it anti-socially together, the breathless blood pumping and generally painful experience of the chain gang where there isn’t the spare moment to have a natter.
It might be difficult for those outside the sport to understand how the team work contributes to one rider crossing the line on their own. Even In stage races where its hard to even spot the team work, especially those stages that don’t end in a bunch sprint. You could compare to the scoring of a goal, only one person actually scores the goal but the buildup would not have been possible without a team. This analogy is flawed as you can see the build up, the similarity ends, you can’t really play something like football on your own but you can certainly ride a bike on your own and you can definitely compete on your own.
So this prompts the questions is cycling really a social sport, are the soloists among us the exception or the rule.
My initial start in the sport was with my local club where my uncle and cousin rode and i joined the club run, which involved some long slow miles, some important lessons in Group etiquette and a lot of tea and toast (i don’t remember much cake on the little chef menu). As i progressed to racing i joined up with a group of fellow racers and a regular routine of sunday morning riding.
This was also true of my days at University, i was on a sports science course so the odds were in favour of at least being a few people who also rode a bike. There was a great group to spin away the sports afternoons while others were off playing football or rugby.
The same could not be said for post university, the work environment is not quite so convenient for meeting people who share the same hobbies, or even if they do the chance of them actually living close enough to join you. That was a situation my group riding didn’t really survive, the absence of routine became my routine, mostly going out when i was free, when the weather was good or just when i felt like it.
Life for me has taken quite a turn in the last 8 months and its led me to look back and wonder about my habits…”the group ride of one” suddenly seemed less of a joke. Was my lone riding a victim of circumstances or something else so i went through my reasoning, trying to work out if i was antisocial or just out of step with other peoples routine.
A part of me would like to put it down to simple geography, living too far away from fellow club riders and when you combine with timing, motivation all but vanishes. If you work the timing back…the meeting point was 7 miles away, while not an inconceivable distance by any means, still 25-30 mins riding at starting pace. Add to that at least 30 mins to get ready and that’s almost an hour before you’ve even seen another rider. Now all of that doesn’t sound too bad but when you stick the start time at 7am all of a sudden your first day of the weekend you’re getting up at 5:30am. Then we you chuck in winter, its cold and its dark, does anyone really enjoy that? Isn’t it nicer to wait until the sun has come up, you haven’t put extra layers on for those few extra degree’s of cold. It was interesting to chat this over with some of the 7am regulars over a few beers and realise that they go through the same thoughts, They live a bit closer but the pain is still the same they drag themselves out at an ungodly hour, layer up and somehow manage it time and again, probably pushing through the less enjoyable darkness and cold until the sun comes out.
So to try and set my mind to rest i thought i would try some data mining and as its that time of year it coincided with Strava’s annual year in sport. Lets assume for a minute the mantra of “if its not on strava it didn’t happen” is true, although to be impartial there are other platforms and some people don’t even record them (oh the horror) . If that’s the case then for 2019 49% of all rides are group rides but i don’t think that gives the whole story. There are some details you could assume are missing or at least list out as questions…
How many of those rides are races,,,,i’d exclude them, i don’t count virtual rides as group rides, even though it could be with 100’s of others, lets exclude them. it would be nice to get a look and see some more details.
What i’ve come to realise is that i want a bit of everything, its nice do a group ride occasionally, although i would prefer to be in charge, but i probably prefer the quiet time and spontaneity of the group ride of one going when and where i want.
When i get back on my feet again from injury i’m probably going to do a lot of solo rides…not having walked or ridden for 3 months will have seriously reduced my fitness not sure i want to inflict those first rides on anyone 🙂