Solo v. Group Cyclists: Sad and Lonely, or So Happy Together?

For some time even before the Great Plague of 2020-20??, I mostly rode my bicycle by myself. When Coronavirus hit, and health rules didn’t prevent bike riding but discouraged doing so with others, nothing much changed for me. Sure, I’d go to the occasional social cycling ride, or a friend might join me sometimes. But for the most part, I was Forrest Gump on a two-wheeler. I Just. Kept. Bicycling. Things sort of relaxed, with some people getting vaccines (including moi), then they got worse again with the Delta variant. Still, I have ridden every day of the pandemic and then some — 23 months straight as of 9/11/2021. But am I happy or sad about being on my own? As usual, it’s not a simple answer.

On the one hand, if you’re a more introverted person who requires a lot of personal time to recover from being around others, a solitary cycle sesh can be a lifesaver. I’m sort of in the middle on the Myers-Briggs scale, but definitely more intro- than extrovert. Once I even had to correct someone who had wrongly graded me as an extrovert — they refigured it, and I was right. One isn’t better than the other in my book, they’re just different.

When I ride by myself, there’s a lot to enjoy: The quiet solitude, the individual effort, time with my own thoughts, no distracting conversations or having to worry about the other person. I’m also responsible for me alone, and while there’s also more risk if something happens, it’s my choice. When I crest a hill, or hit a big number of miles (rare for my tired old fathlete body these days), or just am present in my own skin, there’s a certain satisfaction, pride even. Except we know pride goeth before the fall, and we don’t want falls. (Autumns, yes, we do want — and it’s starting to look a lot like it might be autumn than August.) Point is, if you’ve ever been on a long solo ride and enjoyed it you, you get it.

For the foreseeable future, it seems that with the coronavirus we may be needing to keep ourselves apart, masked, and vaccinated. President Joe Biden (a bike-rider himself) is looking to make more people under federal rules get their shots we can stop the silliness — and the suffering and dying. I’m generally for public health. Your personal free-dumb doesn’t work with a killer virus, you idiots! That’s not very relevant, but I felt it needed saying. Though I might avoid going on a ride with someone I know is anti-science if I can manage it.

Anyway, what about the enjoyment, camaraderie, and trash-talking that happens on group rides? Well, those are all valid experiences. Many are testosterone-fueled sausage festivals (mostly men) that are early in the morning for mega miles and really not much fun unless you’re really in shape and into competition and torture. Many group rides I went on while training for charity rides like the Mamma Jamma Ride to Beat Breast Cancer (which as mentioned in my last post, there’s still time to register, fundraise, and ride on September 18) were not competitive, more gender-balanced, and thus more fun. There are all kinds of rides and riders, and you need to find your tribe.

Other advantages of group riding should be obvious: safety in numbers, ability to draft off people in front of you, and help if you have a flat tire or other mishap. You can make some pretty good friends if you show up to the same events week after week. When in a big group, it’s kind of fun to wave at kids, or see dumbstruck look of drivers watching a peloton go by (or to hold up traffic on a two-lane country road with no shoulder; it’s perfectly legal to take the lane). Forget your wallet on a group ride? Someone else will cover your beverage. On your own? You’re going to stay thirsty, my friend.

It’s not really fair to compare solo and group rides, because they’re two very different animals. Jaguars, snow leopards, marine turtles, the platypus, polar bears and blue whales are generally anti-social except for mating season and caring for young. Elephants, lions, wolves, dolphins, chimpanzees, bees, meerkats, penguins, ants — they are among those that prefer being in a group.

Humans fall into the latter, usually, but some of us lean one way or the other. It’s not good or bad, it’s just a choice and personal preference. Some days, you need to be alone with your thoughts. Other days, you need to be with people. And clearly you can do both depending on your schedule, mood, and so on. If you’re lucky, you can have your pick of riding alone and with others, be they social fun groups, recreational weekend warriors, or hammerhead land sharks.

Just because you’re on your own doesn’t mean it’s not fun, meaningful, or a success. And you can be in a peloton surrounded by others but still feeling like you’re by yourself and not having a good time. So pick your poison, but whatever you do, ride your damn bike!

How do you normally ride? What do you prefer — alone or in a group? What makes you choose one over the other? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Featured image by Photo by Everton Vila on Unsplash

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8 thoughts on “Solo v. Group Cyclists: Sad and Lonely, or So Happy Together?

  1. Both have their place. I do around 95% of my riding solo, mainly because I tend to ride whenever I can fit one in with little notice. Riding solo also means I can ride exactly how I want. Ride hard? Take it easy? Stop for the ‘Gram shot? Empty the tanks on a Strava segment. All easier when it’s just you and the bike. Plus it’s a bit of “me time” to escape the world.

    But it is nice to have a wheel to draft off every now and then! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well said, Taz Man. Maybe if it weren’t still the plague I’d go on some social rides. But they can be a little slow and actually dangerous with different levels of riders, show offs pulling ticks, etc. Shop and team rides are too fast for me and my 9-speed heavy steel bike. Maybe I should start my own but nah. I may find some others to ride with but if not that’s quite alright with me, too. Thanks for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. well I am not going to make an enemy here – but first of all – this is not a plague – this is a mismanaged virus and this part :

    “Your personal free-dumb doesn’t work with a killer virus, you idiots! That’s not very relevant, but I felt it needed saying.”
    this shows so much bias on your part and the truth is we do not know what the vaccine has in it and how effective it is – (people still get it and still transmit with the vaccine) and the vaccine is made by a for profit company and you wave your rights to seeing them –
    in addition – there is not even enough mention of people Improving their immune systems or fortifying the terrain

    dr Zach Bush is my hero when it comes to understanding viruses and how they travel and how human health is impacted –


    1. Obviously use of the word plague was sardonic, Prior.

      If believing in the established and majority accepted science makes me biased, fine, but id disagree with that use of the word. That assumes there’s an equally convincing and valid argument against vaccines, which work very well by the way. Just calling something bias doesn’t make it biased. When one has a minority viewpoint, it’s common to use whatever means to object. I’m often on the losing side of political arguments. In this case I’m with the people who are far smarter than either of us, and the numbers showing that the people getting sick and dying are virtually all unvaccinated. Sure they are exceptions, but you don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Well, I dont. Why do you? Not sure,don’t really care to know.

      There is not bias just people in the US are individualists, not concerned about the collective well being, and they believe the fearmongers and conspiracies too easily without question. Maybe the virus did come from the lab by accident, so what? We’re all supposed to trust our immune systems to some quacks or Trump telling us to take horse medicine? Not this dude!

      There is a lot of fear and disinformation and second guessing by armchair quarterbacks without advanced degrees in immunology, but I am not buying it.

      Perfect is the enemy of the good.
      Vaccines work very well. The percentage numbers of breakthrough cases you’re talking about are very small. Sure, it’s corporations that make them, because the government isn’t set up for that. So what? Why is everything about suing? Oh, right, money.

      Did you not get a small pox, measles, mumps, diptheria, rubella and whatever other vaccines there are out there? I’d encourage you to seriously consider getting vaccinated and asking reputable sources for accurate information.

      Anyway, I respectfully disagree, and I stand by my comment. I suppose it’s fair for you to reply since I did make that comment, and thanks for reading, but further discussion of vaccines isn’t going to change my mind or yours. So I’d direct your arguments to a more appropriate venue somewhere else, if you don’t mind please and thanks.

      Although this has been fun, this is a
      mostly a bike blog, after all! Biking is probably good for your lungs and immunity, so on that I imagine wed agree. Happy biking!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. thanks for the reply and best wishes in all you do! i have so much more to say but will rest my case and get back to the bike topic- 🚲 never really thought much riding solo or in groups and you explored the topic so well! i would assume that times of long solo rides would be awesome. especially for an ambivert (not sure if you are a true ambivert but that is the middle with intro and extro as you described) 😊☀️☀️☀️

        Liked by 1 person

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