Though you might enjoy riding solo under normal circumstances and spend a large part of your training – through choice or necessity – on your own, it feels different when it’s compulsory.
Many of us are missing the buzz of competition, whether racing or just sprinting mates for a town sign, as well as the sociability and chat of group rides. Even so, enforced solo riding offers some real benefits – and I want to explore how to make the most of them.
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Lockdown has narrowed our focus in ways that are not altogether pleasant but which can be turned to your advantage. Without the distraction of racing and group rides, you have a chance to create a truly individualised and effective training plan. One of the key components of individualised training is working to carefully prescribed and calculated training zones.
Now that most of us have power meters and/or heart rate monitors, we can really pinpoint our effort level and ensure our riding remains in the correct zones for making maximum fitness gains – specificity that doesn’t work as well in a group setting. Cycling Weekly’s Michael Hutchinson, as a former national time trial champion, spent a lot of his career racing and riding alone, through choice, because of its benefits.
“Using a power meter, you quickly realise group riding doesn’t work,” says Hutchinson, “even if the speed of the group remains constant, your power can be wildly different depending if you are on the front or sat in at the back.”
Riding solo requires you to be a self-starter. Life in lockdown, without your normal routine to follow, can be tricky. Whether you are hitting the turbo or heading out for a solo ride, one of the biggest struggles can be simply getting on the bike and getting started. Dr Hutch relates to this problem.
“When you are meeting the group at 9am, that is all the motivation you need to do the ride. The hardest thing about solo riding is getting out the house!”
A self-confessed procrastinator, Hutchinson admits he often wouldn’t ride until late in the afternoon, even if training was his only task for the day. “There have been times, even when I was seriously training, when my 9am ride didn’t happen until 2pm.” His advice is simple: “Getting dressed is the key to it. I start going through the motions of getting ready, pumping up my tyres, then make myself a coffee. By the end of my coffee, there is really nothing else left to do except get on with it and ride my bike.”
Without a group to meet or a chaingang to join, solo riders have to rely on self-motivation to get them out the door, but with the loss of so many events and races, many of us are floundering. Try to see it as an opportunity – without racing obligations, you’re free to focus on personal development.
Mac Cassin, physiologist for online training specialist The Sufferfest, advises: “Shift your focus to something you can still have control over to gauge progress. Refocus on personal rather than result-based goals. I think this is something people should be doing anyway.”
Lockdown has forced us to change the way we live and train, and that can have benefits. “It can be a time to revaluate and try something new,” continues Cassin. “Long-term, it can be highly beneficial to be forced to change things up.”
Read the full feature in the May 14 issue of Cycling Weekly magazine, available to buy in supermarkets and newsagents priced £3.25. If you’re avoiding going to the shops you can get a subscription and have the magazine delivered to you every week.