Riding slow and riding fast

I was out on a bike with a friend recently. It was a gorgeous morning. There was beautiful scenery. We talked about philosophy, about friends, about cycling, and about family. Perfect. At least that’s what I remembered about our ride.

But when we next meet she asked, “Were you riding at that speed for me?” She was anxious that I’d slowed down to ride with her, that I’d been moderating my speed on her behalf.

I’ve encountered that worry a few times and I want to say a few things in response.

First, and most notably, it almost always come from women. Now part of the reason for that is that when I help out beginning cyclists they’re often women, but not always. And men might start out slower than me but in my experience that stage doesn’t last very long. (I’m going to blog about riding with men in another post. If you’re a fast woman cyclist, you’ll spend lots of time riding with the guys. It’s interesting and challenging.) But women also seem more apologetic right from the start.

Second, it almost always comes from beginners. When you start any activity, it’s hard to grasp “slow” and “fast.” There’s just one speed you run/ride at and it’s the speed you can run/ride at. It’s like when I started running and I thought idea of speed work and recovery runs was incomprehensible. All runs at that stage were all out.

Third, what does the question mean? Could I have ridden faster? Sure. And still talked? Yes.
It’s true it wasn’t my race pace but I don’t often ride at race pace. It wasn’t a race. How about was I happy riding at that speed? Yes!

Fourth, most cyclists like riding with others. Riding alone, unless I’m doing training drills, feels both dull and dangerous to me. Generally speaking, I don’t do it. I’m flexible because I want to ride with others.

Fifth, it’s great to ride with people of different speeds. You can have a hard, fast day with one group of friends and slow, social day with another set. I like that. It’s like heart rate training without the monitor! Sometimes I’m the fastest and sometimes I’m the slowest, here’s my advice about etiquette at each of the spectrum.

I’ve written before about things you learn working out with others.

See also It takes all kinds.

I recommend riding with other people. You learn a lot. You should always ride with the fastest people willing to have you along. And to pay it back, you should be willing to ride with beginning cyclists some of the time. People come in lots of different speeds and sizes. Get to know them all.

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