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As your AIDS/LifeCycle (or other) bicycle training gears up, the miles will get longer, the weather becomes more fair, and you’ll meet many more cyclists out on the road. Some will be your training-ride mates, and some will be strangers. But in both cases you will, inevitably, compare your performance to theirs. It is inevitable and is simply human nature. The trick is to make it work to your advantage.
For instance, you’re riding your shiny new Cannondale CAAD 10, you’ve been riding since September, you’re feeling fit and comfortable for the coming 70 mile ride, and you start up Camino Alto, the first hill on the ride. And who comes up from behind? An individual with a larger-than-average (*ahem*) BMI, on what appears to be a junky hybrid. This hybrid-rider passes you and is quickly out of sight! That sort of thing happens, and it can be demoralizing.
1. Don’t fall into the trap.
What do you do? First, smile and forget about it. This isn’t a race, so what does it matter? You’ll be happier over time if you focus on your own riding and use tools like Strava or Ride with GPS to check your progress over time.
If you take your sport seriously and train regularly, you’ll improve. Have faith in that process and you won’t have to worry about who passes you.
2. Understand the delicate balance required for efficient cycling.
Second, remember the complicated ingredients required for efficient cycling:
- Number of years cycling,
- Familiarity with the bike,
- The details of gear ratio,
- Tire inflation,
- Bicycle fit, and
- Cardio-vascular fitness.
To optimize your experience on the bike, you have to juggle all of these things. That person who passed you is probably more experienced, and (despite the weight) in better cardio-vascular health. So now that we’re rationalized why he or she passed you, the question remains, how do you use the experience to your benefit?
3. Meet people.
Third, if that person was part of your group, the best thing is to befriend them. Ask about her cycling experience, ask for tips and tricks, find out how often she cleans her chain, eats, and what she had for breakfast. Do this as often as you can. It will help you grow as a cyclist and help you meet some awesome people.
If that person was not part of your group, then ask a TRL or an experienced rider for their opinion. How could this person have passed me? I was feeling so good. Once they stop giggling, I’m sure they’ll offer some very helpful advice.
4. Find a riding buddy or group.
Fourth, the best people to compare yourself to are those with similar skill-levels who you meet week after week. The number one recommendation I can make is that you find a riding buddy or buddies with similar skill levels and use each other to improve over time.
To do this, be friendly and helpful and avoid complaining. Ride along with likely candidates and ask questions. As you meet them each week, you’ll see if you can keep up. If you can, they will start to seek you out. If not, then you’ve just extended your network of rider-friends who might remember you and suggest riding companions.
If you strive to keep up with another rider, you’ll find your skills automatically improving.
As you progress together, you can better compare and contrast your performances. And the comparison will mean something.
5. Challenge yourself.
Fifth, make sure you’re not riding with the same people all the time. You don’t want to fall into a rut. If you ride with different people on different roads, you’ll find the sport far more enjoyable.
Also, ride alone several times a week (or as often as you can). This will enhance your group riding skills by giving you a chance to practice some techniques you may have picked up from others. Plus it will make you a more confident and self-sufficient rider.
Becoming confident and self-sufficient will help you find a riding buddy. Finding a riding buddy will help you meet more riders. Meeting more riders will help you learn the mechanics of cycling. Learning more about cycling will help you to not to care when a seemingly less-fit rider passes you.
Its a positive feedback loop.