A Fast Cyclist isn’t necessarily a Good Bike Racer

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There is more than riding a bicycle fast to be a good bike racer. I think that is one of the many problems that our sport has right at this moment. There are a lot of guys that are professional right now that never learned how to race bikes, even though they have the genetics to ride bikes fast.

Learning to race bikes is a long process, even for super smart guys. Some riders never, never get it. Some guys that get it, miss it a lot of the time. That is one of the most interesting aspects of the sport. You never know what is going to happen until everyone is across the finish line.

One reason I despised radios in the peleton is that it has the ability to make stupid bike racers, that are really strong, into robots. Robots being run by some ex-pro bike racer that is sitting in a automobile, watching the race on a TV that is mounted in his dashboard. And these guys in the car might or might not of been good riders and/or tacticians in their own right. It really doesn’t matter. I believe that part of the sport of cycling is that the participates themselves, make the decisions during the race.

Just because you can ride your bicycle fast doesn’t really matter if you don’t have the tactics to back up your strength. That becomes less important on super hard courses, but in general, tactics during a race, usually decide the outcome.

And the way you become a better bike racer is hang out with good bike racers. You do what they do and emulate what makes them good. That is one of the best reasons to go on group rides.

Group rides are very unique. It is one thing that the sport of cycling has that makes it much different than most all other sports. It allows athletes of different abilities to train together, for hours upon hours. This is mainly due to drafting. There are very few sports that have this awesome aspect.

You need to try to do what makes you a better rider, not necessarily a faster rider early on in your career. Or anytime in your career. You can become a faster rider by training. By doing those intervals and the things you need to do in Zone 2, 4 or 98, whatever. Train with power and do structured workouts after you become a good cyclist. But, don’t pass up the opportunities to become a better rider to make sure you do your workout.

Anyway, I urge all of us to try to become better riders. You need to live the sport, as much as your life allows. You need to show up on the group rides. And do the whole group rides. When you show up on a group ride, you have to be all in. If you’re only “supposed” to ride for 1 1/2 hours easy and the ride is going 3 hours hilly, then sit on, but do the ride. You’ll be amazed how much better of a cyclist you will become if you’re out riding with friends, and others, than riding your bike around by yourself, looking at your power and heart rate.

Here’s a blog post about group riding. I don’t necessary agree with everything here, but it has a lot of information that rings true.

There is no better place to learn the art of riding a single or double echelon than on a local group ride.

14 thoughts on “A Fast Cyclist isn’t necessarily a Good Bike Racer

  1. Sean

    I agree that group rides make you a smarter rider. I ride with a bunch of different levels. I feel bad when I hold up the group, but I won’t get any faster if I am not hanging on by a thread! Good post.

  2. Peter Erdeos

    Sometimes I think you write the dumbest shit. But this piece is brilliant. Well done. I read your piece and kept thinking about Vaughters and how he looked kinda’ stupid at Flanders last year when they had him live on Versus screwing up the race. I kinda’ think Hushovd thought to himself “WTF am I riding for a guy who never could think for himself in a race and usually crashed out because he sat in the back until a climb”?

  3. Jed Schneider

    You mean you’re telling me that there is more to tactics than sitting seventh wheel while your whole team rides tempo between the Alps and the Pyrenees? That is just a straight up lie. Everyone knows that’s how you win bike races. I’ve seen it on TV between 5 hour energy commercials.

  4. john adamson

    Good post. I don’t think we hear near enough about what you are doing on your regular group rides. Nor enough about that woman you live with – you know the Pro.

  5. Scott Dickson

    This is by far the best piece of advice you have written to help the aspiring racer. There is absolutely no substitute for the group ride when it comes to learning race tactics and achieving race fitness. Plus it is fun!

  6. John Townsend

    Well written Steve. The best cyclists have the best of the two; the genes and the brains. I need more group riding, for those who know, you are spot on group riding will improve your overall skills and abilities.

  7. jp

    this is why i read steve’s blog, could not have said it better, will forward onto to those that NEED to read this, free coaching dummies.

  8. Brooks

    And there is more to being a good writer than simply owning a computer. This article would be even more effective if written in clear, simple English, complete with appropriate syntax, matching pronouns etc. Next time you’re in the peloton, be on the lookout for a good copy editor. Suck his wheel for a while and you’ll both be better at what you do.

  9. Jim

    This Brooks comment is hilarious; click on his name and he misspells his own url. Classic.

    The group ride article is, unfortunately, too much of a whine fest and not enough constructive criticism.


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