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I have been riding about 150 km a week commuting and on the weekend. I frequently do rides over 80 km. I'm riding a carbon cyclocross (Ridkey x-fire) with slicks.

My latest ride was on the Central Coast, New South Wales, in a very hilly area. I rode 90 km with an elevation of 1200 m with an average of 29.5 km/h. Would I be able to join a group ride and not get dropped?

Will switching to a dedicated road bike make much difference to my average speed? I feel like my setup is good enough, and I frequently pass other riders on their high end roadies.

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    There are group rides at many different levels. There are some that go much slower than 30 km/h, and others that go faster. You should be able to find a group that matches your level of performance. – Nik Apr 6 '15 at 6:52
  • Cheers Nik thanks for your comment. How much faster do you think you would ride in a group compared to solo? I'm assuming it's a little easier in a group? – Robaggs Apr 6 '15 at 6:55
  • Supposedly people go faster in groups due to drafting, but I don't have any experience with that so I can't say. But lots of other people here will be able to answer that question. I looked to see if this question has already been asked on this site, but was unable to find it; you could post it as your own question. – Nik Apr 6 '15 at 8:51
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    Speed doesnt mean anything in cycling. Get a power meter and you will know exactly what your effort is. – Kostadin Apr 7 '15 at 18:30
  • So this post is a year old now. Are you able to update us on how the last 12 months went? Did you join a group ride? How did it go? What were the good and bad points, and what did you learn ? – Criggie Jun 12 '16 at 0:17
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Riding at 30kph average for 3 hours, in a hilly area is a solid effort. Assuming your pack riding skills are sufficient, you will also likely do fine in in a club ride that averages 30-40kph (but see the pack riding primer below). Club rides will have a faster pace than what you are riding now, but you will also be working a lot less (about 30% less) at any given speed because of drafting.

Now of course this assumes your listed average speed is an honest average speed. That is you started your timer, rode 90 km, then stopped the timer and found you averaged 29.5 kph. If by "average" you mean when you took the time to look at your speedometer you were often doing 29.5kph, then it is harder to assess.

Short primer on pack riding.

It is hard to give a definitive whether or not you will be dropped because solo riding and pack riding are very different disciplines and club rides also come in many different forms, from very competitive "A" group training rides with a drop policy (i.e., you are essentially on your own if you get tired or get a flat - very advanced groups), to others focused on sustained pace (what you likely do now) with no-drop policies. If you join a no-drop ride, then the answer should be "no, you will not be dropped."

Riding in a "fast" group

Because you explicitly asked about getting dropped I will assume you are looking at joining one of the faster club rides that may have a drop policy. In this case your pack riding skills will be just as important as your base fitness. If you feel comfortable in a group you should have no problem holding tight to a wheel, where you can will get a good draft and will be able to sustain higher speeds. Riders that feel less comfortable will often allow big gaps to form or ride off the back to feel "safer." This will require a lot more energy for a given speed. You will also be able to read the pack, and keep a good drafting position as the group surges. If you get taken by surprised in surges you can find yourself dropped quickly.

Assuming your pack handling skills are sufficient, riding in a fast group will also require two types of fitness, endurance fitness and peak output. The endurance fitness is what you are doing right now and will help ensure you can put in an effort for 3-4 hour duration of the club ride. The peak output fitness will be important to handle pack surges. Often competitive club rides will have sections where there is either an all out sprint or it is "common" knowledge the next x kilometres will be all out effort.

If all your milage has been at one consistent speed, then you might find these types of surges difficult to handle, even though your base endurance fitness is excellent. If you find this happening, it isn't necessarily because you lack fitness, but you may simply not have all the right fitness components. Supplementing your distance training with interval training can go a long way.

Many novice riders make an number of tactical errors that make it harder to finish the ride. A common mistake is try to take long, long, pulls to "prove" how strong they are. Keep you pulls short (i.e., under a minute) to ensure you have lots of energy and don't build-up a lactate debt. As you do more club rides you can start trying longer pulls if that is your thing. Another common mistake is putting in too much effort, too early. Many fast rides will do the hard efforts on out-and-back sections. This means you can get temporarily dropped and catch back in as the group comes back from a hard effort. If you are unsure if you can sustain repeated high intensity intervals, it may be best to opt out of effort and catch back in after everyone has finished tearing each others legs off. You would be surprised how refreshed you can feel by skipping an effort or two.

If you feel comfortable in a group, have no problem hold tight to a wheel and can sustain repeated bursts of speed, then you there is a good chance you that you can hold in on an advanced group ride.

Other Types of Group Rides

As eluded to earlier (and in other answers) not all club rides are created equal. Some rides are focused on building base fitness and camaraderie. These groups are usually focused on riding a consistent pace (no surges) and usually have a "no drop" policy. These types of rides are a great if you are new to pack riding.

Many clubs will also have multiple different rides on any given day so you can do some trial and error to find the one that best suits you.

I suggest chatting up your local clubs, ask about their club ride policies and see which one best jives with what you want to do.

  • Yes it was a legit average speed, to be honest I had a few beers the night before and felt pretty ruff for the first hour. I use a Garmin and Strava so as accurate as that can be. The idea of surges is something that I hadn't thought about. Thanks for bringing that up :) will definitely add that into some of my training. Looking forward to some bunch rides and learning rules/etiquette. Thanks for all your responses guys, very encouraging! – Robaggs Apr 7 '15 at 4:55
  • Also like the idea of a "drop policy". Keeps things honest ;) but think I'll do a few "dropless" bunch rides first. To build up some confidence. – Robaggs Apr 7 '15 at 5:03
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Everything is relative.

For 99% of the population 30kph for 3 hours would be amazing. For a male A grade club rider it would be an off day. For a female A grade club rider it's not bad for a solo training ride.

About bunches

Sometimes an ad hoc bunch forms in a popular road. These can be dangerous - you don't know the experience level of these people, and a mistake from anyone in front of you can bring you down. If you get dropped from such a bunch you can be sure they will not care. It's best to avoid these bunches.

Join organized rides, where people know you are a new member of the group and will teach you bunch riding. Even if they do like to ride flat out, organized group rides usually wait for stragglers at various points of the ride.

Rides are often organized by clubs or bike shops. Ask at your LBS; they'll probably have some suggestions.

With the strength you are showing, you'll probably be able to stick with bunches that ride in the 35-40 kph range, or maybe faster. Remember to do your share of the work, and don't try to impress anyone.

Enjoy.

  • It is true ad hoc or unofficial rides can be challenging and dangerous. In the local one I used to frequent I would often make it my goal to shake out as many of the weaker riders as soon as early to keep it "safer" (if you could hold on you were likely experienced). When I ran organized club rides we always ensured everyone stuck together and new riders were guided as to the principles of pack riding. – Rider_X Apr 9 '15 at 6:10
  • @Rider_X Yes, one bunch I ride with has a no-drop policy, another has a "see you at the cafe" policy. When a new rider joins a bunch and they show an interest in learning, I point out whose wheel is reliable, and whose isn't. At least they can choose who to follow while they learn the rest. These days I don't ride in the fastest bunches, so the good ones always move on eventually :-) – andy256 Apr 9 '15 at 7:31
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Whether your numbers are descent depend on who will answer. I've never riden road so I find those numbers descent, but some people who ride road may tell you that those numbers are mediocre.

If you want to find out how you compare against others (and your self) in parts of that ride I suggest that you start using strava. Used wiselly it's a great tool for enhancing your rides, improving yourself as a rider and adding a lot of fun to routes that you may find boring.

  • Thanks cherouvim, I have been using strava for awhile and am usually in the top third for segments. I have a few top tens for some of the less popular segments. You're totally right about it depending on who I ask. Guess i just need to get off the forums and join a group ride! – Robaggs Apr 6 '15 at 7:50
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    Join a group ride and at some point enter a race just for fun. It's a great experience. – cherouvim Apr 6 '15 at 7:52
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    Also remember that a fair number of people on Strava will be setting those times while riding in a group. – Kibbee Apr 6 '15 at 9:11
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    @Kibbee: and even worse. I came back from an out of town ride to find my 2nd best effort up a hill, surprising because I hadn't climbed it since Strava was founded. It turned out I was KOM because the day before I had forgotten to stop recording before I drove the bike up the hill coming home from another ride. – Ross Millikan Apr 6 '15 at 14:27
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    @RossMillikan, I don't know why Strava can't auto-filter (pardon the pun) these results. If you're all of a sudden riding twice as fast as you usually do, then something is wrong with the reading. It's either left on in the car, or something else is wrong with the readings. – Kibbee Apr 6 '15 at 15:42

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