Updated: Apr 13, 2021
Pacing is a big part of riding, an often overlooked way that you can improve without having to change your fitness. A big part of the Toolbox concept. There are two aspects to pacing that you will need to master. The first is understanding the relationship between your wattage and the effort you are doing. The second is getting to know yourself as a rider - the harder of the two!
Controlling your wattage and effort
You will notice that one of the things the Sans Chaine programs focus on is developing the ability to control your wattage. Once you develop the technical ability to control your wattage, you can start to better manage your efforts . As a rider, you need to start developing a sense of the relationship between how hard you go and how sustainable that effort is. For some clues take a look at the perceived exertion chart below, available on the Training Zones page. The harder you go the less time you can sustain the effort, the less repeatable it becomes.
Pacing in the real world
How many times have you been on a group ride, planning on doing a big long day, that started off ripping out of the parking lot all guns blazing? The ride rips along for a while, but then the pace slows, the riders get a bit ragged and suddenly everyone is struggling to hold the pace. The riders pushing the pace have shown
that they have no concept of pacing their effort. Yes, they feel great off the gun - as does everyone - but what happens later in the day? They fade and fade.
Having an understanding of pacing properly can help you manage your efforts, while those around you are burning through their energy. You can be the hero later in the ride that is still able to pull, hold the pace steady and get everyone back in one piece.
Knowing yourself as a rider goes hand-in-hand with an awareness of pacing. We have our power meters, heart rate monitors and head units full of data to help us with pacing, but knowing yourself as a rider is the ultimate goal. Ultimately it would be great to be able to manage and pace your rides without looking at your head unit.
A big part of knowing yourself as a rider is being honest with yourself about what type of rider you are, where you fit in with the group, and what your abilities are. We all want to be heroes pulling on the front, but perhaps on a given day that isn’t the right decision for you. Making these decisions based on your self awareness are the most difficult as they require setting our ego aside.
Your training is all about preparing to ride better, not only through being more fit but also through an increased awareness of yourself as a rider and what sort of efforts you can manage. Take the experience gained in your workouts - tempo, VO2 and even endurance rides - and apply it to your riding. Whether on the road, gravel or mountain bike your pacing can make you a better rider. Be honest with yourself, manage yourself, and you will be surprised at how your riding experience changes for the better.