TCI Friday

I feel certain I’ve asked this one before, but it’s been a while and my memory isn’t what it used to be. I went for an MTB ride with some friends the other day. There were four of us. I love each one of the people. I enjoyed the ride.


When you’re on the trail with more than one other person, it is MUCH harder to get a flow going. Unless one person is clearly the leader, you get this stop-start rhythm where everyone needs to agree on which direction to go. You get a lot more talk, and as a result, less riding.

The other issue is that the gaps are often wrong, by which I mean that the distances between the riders are harder to maintain. On a mountain bike, each rider will have a different way to surmount obstacles. Some blast through. Some slow down, plot, plan and then execute. For everyone to get a good shot at cleaning trails they like, they need space.

This might be a good time to review proper use of the Sympathy Bail.

The same issues apply to a gravel ride, though arguably they are less acute. You’re generally on less technical trail. There are segments of many gravel rides that allow for drafting. I can tolerate a lot more company on that style adventure.

Oddly, on the road, my ideal number of companions goes down again. Big groups are unwieldy, and I have a hard time ignoring when people are in the way of traffic or otherwise in the wrong place on the road. The problem is me, as usual. Nonetheless.

This week’s TCI Friday wonders how many people you like to ride with. What is the optimal number? How many is too many? Or are you a soloist in all time and in all places?

Join the conversation
  1. Rosé Dave says

    How many ride companions do I prefer? It’s all about the context of the ride, i.e. route, terrain, my purpose for the ride, etc. Mostly I ride solo as it time to myself, convenient and easier to control my effort level. But for those times when I break out of my shell, let me provide the “optimal” number and what I mean by that.

    For a long road ride, 15 to 25 riders all free to ride at their own pace with 3-4 pre-planned regroup stops is perfect. This lineup gives me the chance to hammer at the front, sit in or go solo if that is my pace. I’ve got the opportunity to be social, to be fast with the momentum of a group or to be steady on my own with occasional connections to the group around the stops. Sometimes though it is best to ride all day with just one person to maximize chatting opportunities.

    Gravel ride, let’s go with the number of signees for a Grasshopper Adventure Series ride. I’ll start with a large group and hammer. The rest of the ride will be a mix of groups in the 3-10 rider range and solo. Perfect mix.

    MTB, I’m going solo. Maybe with 1-2 other riders. The group dynamics just don’t work on the terrain. Too many riders on the trail trying to stay together equals too little flow. I’ll team up with others if the trails are particularly remote or unknown and we need the support of others to be safe.

  2. khal spencer says

    If I am in an organized century, I don’t mind riding with a couple or so people, to trade time and the front and break the monotony of the miles. If I am on a normal ride, whether mountain bike, gravel/cross, or road bike, I prefer my solitude.

  3. trabri says

    Riding alone is the best. Otherwise I like to ride with one other good friend where it is easy to adjust the pace and conversation level as needed. In large organized rides I like to let the big group go before me, then drift along enjoying brief company as other riders drop back or catch up. Eating up the road miles in a large group is great but the dynamics involved don’t appeal to me anymore.

  4. dr sweets says

    I suppose the answer is zero as mostly I ride alone. Otherwise, off-road if I am going to be riding with others generally it’s just me and one other. At most four to five riders because the momentum becomes unwieldy with more. On road (which I rarely do any longer) I do not really care as if the group is moving they know what they are doing and the banter is minimal. Overall I really do not care. I have no agenda so more or less riders doesn’t matter. Just roll.

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