I've got to confess, I'm a bit of a competitive cyclist regardless of the ride and whom I'm riding with. Be it a group, a friend or even by myself I always pushing myself to go harder and faster. It's probably why I prefer to ride alone, but I'm hoping to change that. I've been riding the streets of New York alone for too long, but I'm now starting to find more and more people who are just as passionate about cycling as I am.
Having moved to New York five years ago my interests have floated over a number of old hobbies. However, I didn't consider cycling early on because I used to think New York wasn't much of a cycling city. Boy was I wrong. With the growing popularity of cycling across the US it's quite surprising to see the wave hit New York with such force. Everything from hip fixed-gear fashionistas in Williamsburg to club racers in Central Park. It might not be as big of a boom as it is in Portland or other self-proclaimed cycling friendly cities, but there certainly a wide gamut of riders, including mountain bikers.
So, back to the topic of riding with others, I have to relearn its inherent etiquettes. I'm sort of new to of group rides on the road, the ones similar to the peloton of the Tour de France. There are unspoken rules that make riding with a group efficient and enjoyable, but above all, safe. Riding with just one other should be no different, something I still have to practice. I realized no one likes to be left behind or feel like they're out their element. So on those days I need to dial it back and let them dictate the speed.
Riding with others, especially ones that are faster than you are only make you better, in moderation. Growing up I had my dad to keep pushing me, followed by my friends in high school. Then I started racing mountain bikes, and it was a completely different world then on. I found myself surrounded by faster riders than I was. I gradually got faster, but didn't know how to maintain that growth.
Now I'm finding faster groups and people to ride with again, but I feel like I missed out on a few years of prime development as a cyclist. I'm not kidding myself into thinking I could be the very best, but, like I said, I'm competitive by nature. It doesn't hurt to keep trying. To keep striving to be better, faster, stronger.
[UPDATE] Shortly after publishing this blog post I read this great article about training with others.