How to Train with a Slower Rider

By Nathan Cline How (not) to train with a slower riderIn order to train with a slower rider, adopt the role of the good shepherd. (Note: Like the opposite of megaphone-dude in the cartoon.) Not every ride can be exactly what you want. In life, as in bike riding, it is up to us to make the best out of any given situation. So when it comes time to ride with people of different ability levels, the more experienced cyclist has an opportunity to be a leader and help guide the other people on the ride. Here I will offer some tips and tricks that I have done myself to both give the person I am riding with a good experience and also get a workout for myself in the process. Let’s face it biking can be downright scary sometimes. For those with less experience, help them by choosing the path (a route) of least resistance. Usually in a city this means using bike paths to avoid gnarly city streets and the cars that roam them. In the rural area this means staying away from highways and using less traveled routes or gravel roads when available.

Tip #1: Lead from the Back

Don’t make less experienced riders chase you. Power is relative to how much you ride. People without the muscle memory just haven’t developed their “bike legs." Ride behind them. Let them dictate the pace. Most of the time people I ride with have no idea I am doing a workout behind them on our rides. No dropping.

Tip #2: Equipment Resistance

Train with a Slower Rider with Equipment ResistanceIf I am riding with newbies on road bikes, I will take my mountain bike or cyclocross bike and/or I will lower the air pressure in my tires.

Tip #3: Resistance Obstacles

Train with a Slower Rider with Resistance ObstaclesGoing with knobby tires gives me the option on city bike paths to ride alongside the trail in the (usually) mowed grass. Any grassy area can be used as an interval. When I am feeling it, I hit the grassy areas boosting my heart rate till it hurts then backing off and then repeating.

Tip #4: Scrub Speed

Train with a Slower Rider by Scrubbing SpeedIowa is full of undulating hills (Whoever started the saying that it is flat is so mistaken), so when descending, break to scrub speed. Start the next climb with no momentum. Every hill is effectively longer and steeper when you begin at a near stand still.

Tip #5: Brake Sprints

So, this one is hard on equipment. I hold on to my breaks while I am riding. Not hard but just enough added resistance. Just like the sprints in the grassy areas, I ride hard to jack my heart rate then back-off then do it again. Keep in mind you are putting extra wear on break pads and rim/disc surfaces. Doing this on uphills just slightly can put me in the red zone real fast.

Tip #6: The Booster

This one is not for everyone. My wife and I call this riding duet. I simply put my hand on her back and help boost her along, mostly helping her up hills. I admit this is a little sketchy but we have never wiped out doing this. Again, I use this is another form of an interval. I help her along until I start to burn. Then I give her a little push and drop back to recover. Then repeat, switching sides/arms after a while. Note: She does not like it when I push off too hard. It’s not a madison style race launch, just a little nudge. When we are on big hills, this method helps us stay together and move much more quickly as a team.

Train with a Slower Rider Today

I hope these tips can encourage you to ride with people you normally would not. I used to often avoid riding with friends because they were of different ability levels. Over time, I have learned life is way too short for that. Not everyone can be a sponsored racer. I’m happy to say that my wife and I have become closer and she has improved her riding greatly this year. Sticking together on rides has opened up new options for us as bike packing and touring topics are coming up more and more up frequently. Thanks for reading and enjoy the ride. Please share your tips in the comments.  
2016-08-23 13:48:16
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Christian Baughman
I really appreciated this post! I've been riding a lot with my kids the last couple of weeks - they love being on their bikes! I really like how you encourage riders to break out of their comfort groups - good advice for all of us. And the strategies all make a lot of sense! Thanks for the article!
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