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The Noob’s Guide to Cycling; The Key to a 24-mph Average During a Club Ride

When I wrote, years ago, that I along with our cycling club could hold a 23-mph average, it blew some skirts up. One fella even claimed I was full of it unless I could show him proof on Strava. The old, “if it didn’t happen on Strava, it didn’t happen”. Well, it’s happened a lot on Strava, and Endomondo, and Garmin Connect… and Ride With GPS.

A few weeks ago we blew the doors off 23 and went straight for 24… ish. And it did happen on Strava. On open roads (opposed to closed). Oh, what I’d give to see what we could do with that loop without the worry of traffic! Anyway, I digress.

img_27813974094510603532547.jpgThis photo was taken at 28-mph by my friend, Joel – and that guy in the blue is on a steel Ritchey with gravel tires… dude is strong.

A 20-mph average in a group, especially on a hilly route, is hard. 21 is very hard. 22 & 23 require a really good group, and a fairly flat route helps. For 24, hold onto your butts, it’s gonna get bumpy.  The group will have to maintain speeds between 25 and 30-mph (40 and 48 kmh respectively) to end up with a 24 average – the faster pace cancels out hill climbs and traffic stops where you’re going to lose some speed and average.

The keys to success for that kind of speed are quite simple for us above average Joe’s: 

  • A flat course – the proper rolling lumpy route is possible but the hills tend to shatter the group – flat is fast.  Preferably under 20′ of up per mile over the course (our 30 mile route is around 12 to 14′ if memory serves).  
  • A good, strong, exceptionally competent group.  Averages that high are really tough on new folks because they dynamics change so rapidly, if the group isn’t familiar with each other, it can get dicey in a hurry.  However, if the noobs know what they’re doing, there’s no better way to hook a new cyclist than for them to be part of that kind of group ride.  I should know, that’s what hooked me.
  • Good legs.  I’ve gotta have the good legs when going for speed like that.  No hammering the day before a big ride – I’ll get dropped like a dirty shirt.  Monday and Wednesday rides are always at a seriously easy pace – 16-mph… 18 max.
  • Group continuity.  A smooth group is much faster than a group that has to deal with constant attacks and shake-ups.  Though, every once in a while, there’s no question a shake-up can help to keep the pace up and the group focused.  The key will be when – uphill is a horrible idea unless your goal is to shatter the group, downhill or with a tailwind, much better.
  • “Want to”.  Speed like that pushes a regular old cyclist to the edge.  If you don’t have some “want to” to hold on, forget about it.  

It’s still striking to me that a decent group of B-Grouper’s managed a 28-mile loop in 1h:10m:and some change.  We had some A-Group help and a perfectly placed kick of a tailwind that popped up out of nowhere, but we crossed the line (at better than 32-mph) with a 24-mph average and hi-fives all around.

One thing is for sure; if everyone can keep it smooth and (relatively) safe, that kind of speed is amazingly fun.  The difficulty and training are worth it.

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