In short, the answer is yes, you will still benefit from doing some of your bike training with someone slower than you. In fact, with indoor training, you can do sessions together and never drop them!
Unless you’re on the turbo, though, you shouldn’t do all your workouts with them, but you can manage your training to make the sessions as sociable as possible.
Be clear with your purpose
Remember that slow riding benefits aerobic endurance, general fitness, active recovery, cadence work, over-gearing and other efficiency gains. Most people spend too much time training their easy rides too hard. Only look at the top marathon runners who do their easy runs super slow compared to what most of us even run at!
If you choose to ride with someone slower, then the way to make it more effective with your time is to be very clear with the purpose of that training session. Also, be mindful that the other person may be working much harder than you, so look after them too!
You can make sessions more fun to keep riding with the slower person and still get a good workout if you aren’t focussing on slower, steady-state work or recovery rides, which should all be at the same intensity throughout.
How to make sessions more fun
1. Work the hills
Gamify the hills or sections so you do intervals, and the other person goes steady. Depending on how big the difference is, you could try and do two repeats for their one, or you can handicap yourself and give them a head start to catch them before they reach the top.
2. Focus on cadence work
You can try and hold higher cadences throughout the ride or in sections. This can improve your pedal stroke efficiency and improve your neural firing patterns. You will also see your HR is a little higher for the same effort, so you get more of a workout.
3. Over-gear and train your muscular strength and endurance
At the other end of the scale, if you focus on lower cadences and increase the resistance on your pedals, you can get a tremendous muscular workout, even if you are riding at a slower pace.
4. Change your bike
If you are a faster rider, you can handicap yourself by taking a slower bike. Trade your triathlon bike for a gravel or mountain bike, and you will be more evenly matched.
As you can see, there are plenty of opportunities to ride with someone slower and still get an excellent bike workout in, either by going slower, at the lower intensity zones for you, or by adjusting your session to work with the other person.
No one likes to feel they’re slowing someone else down, and if they’re less experienced, they may not understand the benefits you can gain, so they may get more anxious about slowing you down and won’t enjoy the experience.
Ensure you communicate all this to the other person while managing your expectations. Your ride won’t be a smash fest, so ensure you go into the ride clear on your purpose.
Top image credit: Getty Images
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