While cycling with others can be a lot of fun and help you develop group riding skills, cycling alone has plenty of benefits, too. Aside from the social-distancing measures we’re observing now, even when things get back to normal, riding alone can be a good way to relieve stress, problem-solve and work on your mental fortitude when other cyclists aren’t around to provide motivation or distraction.
To help you get the most out of your ride and stay as safe as possible, use our top tips for those times when you decide to head out on the road alone.
KNOW HOW TO DO EMERGENCY REPAIRS
In a group, the collective knowledge of roadside repairs can be a safe haven, and when something happens like a snapped chain or flat tire, chances are someone will know what to do. But when you’re alone, the onus is on you to fix it — and this can be stressful if you’re in a remote area and aren’t as confident in what you need to do.
To give yourself peace of mind, make sure you carry any essential tools you might need and understand how to do all emergency repairs. Know what to do if a cable suddenly snaps, how to deal with a puncture and fix a broken chain — at a minimum. You’ll also want to be on the safe side and carry multiple inner tubes, a patch kit, a chain tool and these other saddlebag essentials.
BE MORE VISIBLE
On the road, there’s something to be said for safety in numbers. A pack of cyclists is certainly safer and more visible to motorists than a solo rider, and while a car might try to slide past you in limited space when you’re alone, they’ll usually wait and move into the opposite lane when there’s a large group.
Because of this, you’ll need to do everything you can to be as visible as possible when you’re out solo. This means wearing bright, reflective colors on your helmet, shoes and clothes and definitely using a good head and tail light even if you’re out during the daytime. Use hand signals in heavily trafficked areas and don’t be afraid to claim your place on the road when space gets tight.
STICK TO YOUR TRAINING PLAN
When you’re out with others, it’s easy to get sucked into a pace that’s too fast. As a result, your long slow ride gets turned into a tempo ride, and your soaring heart rate takes you out of your intended training zone. But when you’re riding alone, it’s much easier to accomplish your goals, so use this time to work on your discipline. Have a plan for each workout, whether it’s to increase endurance or work on your speed, and stick to it as close as you can during your workout. This helps you progress faster as a cyclist and avoid always training in zone 3, which is common in group workouts and can lead to a plateau in your fitness.
WORK ON YOUR WEAKNESSES
On a group ride, you’ll need to pay attention to a lot of things. Keeping a safe distance from your training partners, alerting others of hazards, drafting and keeping up with the group are all things that’ll take a majority of your focus. When you’re alone, the stress level is lower, and you’ll be able to focus on different aspects of your cycling.
Instead of riding along aimlessly, focus your attention on your pace and not allowing yourself to have spikes in effort. You can also use this time to work on your breathing, learn to calm yourself when things get difficult on a big climb, and practice spinning the pedals more efficiently. These are all things that can be harder to do on a group ride that you’ll find can be easier to work on improving when you’re out by yourself.
AVOID EXPLORING REMOTE ROADS
Exploring unknown areas is part of the fun of cycling. However, when you’re alone, you’ll want to make sure you have good knowledge of your surroundings and know where you’re going. If you decide to venture off on a road you’ve never been on before, you could encounter wildlife or other hazards you might not necessarily be prepared to deal with. You could also get lost if you’re in a remote area, and depending on the strength of your smartphone signal you may or may not be able to call for help if you need it. It’s a better plan to stick to routes you’re familiar with and save the exploring for when you have a partner or two just in case something unexpected occurs.
LEARN TO CHALLENGE YOURSELF
Don’t save your solo rides for your easy recovery days. Learn how to challenge yourself when there is no one else around, and rely only on yourself for motivation to push harder. Long, slow rides, hill repeats and even interval training are all good workouts to do by yourself, letting you work at your own pace. This kind of training helps you during cycling events or group rides when you either get dropped or find yourself alone during part of the ride and you’ll have to deal with the situation by yourself.
If you’re used to doing most of your cycling with others, riding alone might seem boring at first. But try to find the positive aspects of riding solo. This style of cycling can be much more meditative, allowing you to think about things and enjoy the quiet, peaceful side of cycling. Getting away from things while not having to worry about holding a conversation can be relaxing. Enjoy your time on the bike by doing whatever it is you want to do that day. If you want to go harder, do so; or if you aren’t feeling well there’s no need to push yourself. This freedom of doing what you want when you want can be more fun than you might think — and the more often you try it the more enjoyable it becomes.