Indoor group rides in winter = PR in spring.
Outside, the sky is dark, the weather is dreary, and the roads are not at all rideable. But for thousands of riders each year, their best training happens in these weeks. Thanks to the growing trend of indoor group rides, more cyclists than ever are breaking through training plateaus in the off-season. These bring-your-own bike rides at shops and club headquarters—featuring stationary trainers, upbeat music, lots of sweating, and the occasional bout of smack talk—provide a more appealing alternative to setting up a solitary pain cave in the basement.
“The camaraderie shared in these rides makes getting up and out of bed to work out in the winter much easier,” says Jay Ridgeway, CEO and Head Coach of Pacific West Athletics in Berkeley, Calif. “It’s good to know you’re not alone in your suffering.”
And suffering, there is—though there are indoor social rides that exist simply for a fun spin, many are helmed by a coach or instructor whose job is to push riders through the workout. Ridgeway’s classes, for example, utilize Wahoo Fitness KICKR trainers and specialized software to keep tabs on every rider’s effort level.
“All classes are pre-scripted, with a specific goal and purpose and tied to a master 52-week macrocycle periodization calendar,” says Ridgeway. “The KICKR Studio multi-rider software does a great job keeping everyone focused on their individual performance, using their unique ‘green, yellow and red’ output meter, while our instructors keep the class atmosphere fun and engaging.”
Not all classes are so high-tech. Ride Headquarters in Sherborn, Mass., for example, hosts indoor rides known as Trainer Games, where a group leader chooses 10 cards from a deck of intervals at the beginning of the 90-minute session to build a unique workout for the group. Though some make use of software and power meters, many riders simply self-assess how hard (or not) they want to go. After all, when given an effort scale of one to ten, one person’s 10 is another’s five. Yet everyone stays in the paceline—er, circle of trainers.
And that might be the best reason of all to join an indoor group ride—no one gets dropped. For those who struggle to keep up on the roads, taking a bike and trainer to an indoor social ride can be hugely motivating; to see and hear what those around you are doing encourages you to level up your own riding skills. Who knows? By the time spring rolls around, you might just be able to hang with the peloton.
To see if your area offers an indoor group ride, contact your local bike shop or tri club.