Reap the benefits of group cycling

James Spender of Cyclist magazine explains why you should add group rides to your training regime.

First of all, it’s fun and sociable. You’ll meet people who share your passion for cycling, and they’ll help to push you to improve your own performance on the bike, inspiring you to ride further, faster and to tackle more challenging, technical routes. It’ll also give you the confidence to ride in close quarters with other cyclists and improve your handling skills and road etiquette.

That said, by far the biggest benefit of group cycling is drafting. As a rule of thumb, the two main forces you have to overcome to move forward are rolling resistance, which is caused by the friction between your tyres and the road, and air resistance (also known as drag). Air resistance increases exponentially the faster you ride. Up to 20kmph, you’re facing 80% rolling resistance and 20% air resistance. But as soon as you exceed that speed, the balance flips the other way. That’s a lot of air resistance slowing you down.

Drafting involves riding close in behind someone ahead of you so they shield you from the air resistance. Assuming they’re roughly the same size as you, they should deflect around 30% of the air resistance, which means you’ll have to use 30% less energy to keep pace behind them. If you’re in a group that’s taking it in turns to lead, you’ll all be able to conserve energy and ride faster for longer. And who wouldn’t enjoy that?

James Spender is a staff writer at Cyclist  . For more information, contact him on Twitter @jamesspender  

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