“How hard is this ride going to be?” Here’s what you need to know when deciding to show up to a group ride.
Group ride can often mean anything from full on no-rules racing to we wait for everyone no matter what. And for many riders in Steamboat, their experience (for better or worse) has been the weeknight Tuesday Night Worlds, where you had no idea who would show up, but could be pretty sure it would explode like a cheap suit. It’s one of our team goals for the majority of our rides to communicate in advance what type of group ride is planned using the levels and general guidelines below.
Ultimately, the group that shows up will decide how they want to play together, but these ride levels are intended to help build similar expectations, behavior, and a positive culture when we ride together as a team.
Level 1: Social Ride & Recovery pace –
This one is pretty self explanatory, but surprisingly hard to do correctly. It means a sub-tempo pace, no breathing hard, and frequently looking back to make sure the group sticks together. We’ll aim for routes that have gentle hills, but if there is a big climb we will absolutely stop at the top. Remember effective training should have plenty of easy rides so your hard rides can be even harder. Plus, your teammates are a pretty interesting bunch to chat with.
Level 2: Base Ride –
We’ll start these rides at an easy pace and build towards tempo at the highest pace. Given that everyone’s fitness varies, and some may just want to go easier, you can expect some regrouping.
If you are just getting into riding with a group this is a great place to start out. Start with the group and see how long you can hang on (you might surprise yourself). Strong riders might find this pace easy and newer riders might be challenged, but having a variety of abilities works as long as we’re looking out for each other and regrouping.
Level 3: Moderate Efforts –
Many group rides without any objectives end up speeding past moderate to race pace, but we want to make this level conducive to the group with a little self control, rather than the strongest rider’s intervals.
On these rides, we will aim to to have designated segments on the route where we can go harder, potentially splitting the group, and then have a clear regroup point afterwards. For the rest of the ride expect the group to settle into a smooth pace line at tempo pace. Regrouping and the amount of waiting will be at the discretion of the group, so yes, please draft as much as you need to, and remember there are more rides to come if you end up rolling home solo.
Level 4: Pace line –
Everyone loves a good hammer (unless you are the nail), but this is not Tuesday Night Worlds style of hard. Riding with a group in a smooth rotating pace line can be extremely valuable training and is often harder than soloing off the front (and then blowing up). Read this bit on pacing for group rides and races.
The key with this type of ride is for each rider to maintain a smooth power output up and down hills; imagine a tight elastic band, rather than a loose band with hard surges, snapping the whole group behind. Specifics of the group rotation (like how long you sit at the front) are at the discretion of the group, but if you ride with experienced riders that know how to rotate, this will often just happen without having instruction. *There is no problem at all sitting at the back of a rotation and not pulling through, it’s super fun and allows you to catch your breath!
Level 5: Let’s race!
Mock time trials, staggered start time trials, team events, and full drop rides where we attack the snot out of each other. This is where you can test what you’ve got, push those highest levels of intensity, and simulate race environments and situations. Allez, allez!
Mountain biking as a group can be a little tricky. Technical abilities come into play for uphills and downhills, and big groups on trails become cumbersome not only for the group, but for other trail users as well. We’ll strive to keep these in groups of 5 or less, and you can expect that they will split apart, with a set regroup and snack spot.
*In order to keep our rides safe and build camaraderie, Steamboat Velo rides are for members only (no drop in’s please). We strive to foster a team of likeminded riders who are comfortable riding together, rather than offer free community rides. If you want to join in, shoot us a note first.
**Steamboat Velo rides are social, not guided, and as such all participants need to come responsible for themselves and prepared to make good decisions.