As I’ve said many times before, Cycle Oregon is more than a big ride that happens in September. It’s an experience that starts the moment you sign up and begin training. And when it comes to the riding portion of your training, there’s nothing better than riding with a group of like-minded people.
Having other people around is good in many ways. It helps you stay motivated, it’s safer and it’s simply a lot more fun to share the joy (and the occasional agony) with others. But finding the right group can be a challenge, depending on the type of rider you are.
It seems like there’s no shortage of training groups/clubs that cater to the hard-core hammerhead. These groups typically go far and fast and are simply not suited for everyone. At the other end of the spectrum are groups that are geared more toward learning how to become an endurance cyclist. If you are brand-new to cycling, these groups can be invaluable.
But what if you aren’t a beginner and also can’t – or don’t want to – spend your season chasing faster riders? The best solution I’ve found is to start your own training group. Provided you’ve got the time, energy and some organizational skills, it’s pretty easy to do. And you might be surprised how quickly you can acquire a great collection of cycling buddies. If you build it, they will come.
The first step is to find a few others who are in the same boat. All you really need is 3-4 people. Perhaps these are people you know from a previous beginner training group or have met at other events. Or perhaps they’re people you recruit from the Cycle Oregon forum or the Facebook page, or even a local bike shop.
The next critical step is to plan the routes. I’ve found that by using a combination of rides I’d done before, routes from a book I purchased from my local shop, and routes I found online that I had more than enough for an entire season.
When building the schedule, start out with short rides (30 miles or less) with little elevation gain. Spend a few weeks building up mileage and then introduce climbing into the mix. Save the long and challenging rides for later in the season, then taper off a few weeks prior to Cycle Oregon by doing shorter rides with greater frequency. Be sure to find a few weekends where you can ride several days consecutively.
Planning the whole season at once takes a little extra work upfront, but it’s the best way to make sure you’ll be ready come September. Once you’ve got your schedule, figure out the best way to share it with the group, keep things organized and make sure everyone is on the same page in terms of goals and objectives.
Next week I’ll cover tips and techniques for turning your fledgling training group into a well-oiled machine.