Nearly all of my riding to date has been solo, at 15-16 MPH avg speeds. A few weeks ago I technically did my first group ride, a Granite State Wheelmen organized weekly ride advertised as a "leisurely" pace of 14-15 MPH. And that's what it was - no big deal, and not very hilly.
A co-worker of mine does the Thursday night rides from the LBS we bought our bikes at. It's an advertised 18 MPH avg speed, and a no-drop policy. They wait for you every so often if you fall off the back. I've heard you can do a couple MPH more than you can solo when in a group, so after procrastinating on it for weeks, I finally decided to give the ride a try tonight.
My idea of a "hard ride" is forever changed.
Wow, what an experience! After about five minutes of "warm-up", they kicked things into gear (pun intended) and my heart rate got well into the 180s. I believe my max is somewhere in the low 190s, so it was everything I could do to hang on and not blow up. The urge to throw up came and went a few times on the ride.
Did I mention that two of the riders were on single-speeds? Amazing.
Surprisingly, I could keep up reasonably well on the flats, but as you would expect from a clyde, any time the road went up I couldn't stay with the group. It was a somewhat hilly course, with one "major" hill IMO.
Anyway, the group of riders, though fast, were really friendly and encouraging. I received a lot of riding tips and enjoyed joking around with them.
It was a great experience because I've now re-calibrated my sense of what I'm capable of doing. I'd highly recommend people try pushing themselves like this if they have the chance. I'm glad I did.
So, will I be there next week? Probably not. But I will ride with a new perspective and will definitely join them again in September.
Man, my glutes are sore...