The Stoke is Always High on Group Rides

The stoke is high on group rides, which tend to be longer than solo missions.

The Stoke is an occasional opinion series highlighting the things that get us stoked about mountain biking. 🤘 👍 👏 🙏

Comet Trail Cycles Thanksgiving weekend group ride. Photo: Paul F.

Strava recently published their much anticipated (by me, anyway) Year in Sport 2022 where they share insights into how people ride, run, and play outdoors based on an analysis of data from millions of activities. One chart in particular caught my attention: it shows that folks who bike together ride significantly farther and for longer than those who bike solo.

Not only that, the data suggests that while riding with one other person results in 50% longer rides by distance, riding with two or more folks boosts ride lengths 150% on average. And the effect is more pronounced among bikers than it is for runners and hikers. My guess is we ride farther with a group for a number of reasons, starting with the fact that we’re having more fun. Or something like that.

Earlier this year, while bikepacking with friends across Florida, I completed my longest, single day mountain bike ride, and then bested that by riding even further the next day. I’m not gonna lie: it sucked. Riding singletrack at night, in the rain, I turned to Chris and pleaded: Whatever you do, don’t leave me behind. I don’t think I can do this on my own.

The summer after I graduated from college I signed up to do the Bike Ride Across Georgia (BRAG), thinking I could do it on my own. Well, alone in the sense that I wouldn’t know anyone at the beginning of the ride. I threw a set of slick tires on my mountain bike, hopped on a bus to Eufala, Alabama just across the Georgia border, and hoped for the best.

Midway through the first day of the five-day ride, and having made zero friends, I decided I was done. I called my Mom from a pay phone and asked her to pick me up in Americus, exhausted but even more so, mentally deflated.

Hang on… my bad. I was supposed be talking about how group rides are fun. And they are! Riding alone can be fun too, but let’s face it, after a while it gets boring. That’s probably why our solo rides end up being much shorter, and why time flies when we’re smiling and laughing with friends.

Admittedly, going for a solo ride is the much easier route. Getting a group of three or more human adults together in the same place at the same time, doing the same thing — that takes a little bit of magic. And so when we do manage to come together for a ride, we can’t help but make sure it counts, to ride for as long and as far as we can, right up until the moment life’s responsibilities scatter us to the wind once more.

Circling back to the group rides that aren’t very fun — at least in the moment — there’s still plenty to be stoked about. When others push us to our limits it’s painful, but as we all know, the reward is oh so sweet. And somehow the stories of our suffering end up being the ones we share with one another the most.

Teamwork in action during the 2019 Summer Solstice group ride.

The Bible tells us it’s more blessed to give than to receive, and I firmly believe that’s true. Sometimes we’re the ones in the group that are doing the pushing and (hopefully) the encouraging, all the while building friendships and spreading the stoke to the next rider. I used to get frustrated with the slowest riders on group rides, and grit my teeth whenever anyone needed to stop for a mechanical. How am I supposed to get better at riding if I have to keep stopping for everyone else?

It turns out there’s more to being a great mountain biker than just getting fitter, stronger, and faster. Like patience. And confidence. And teamwork.

I guess you could say I’m a group ride junkie, RTR anytime there’s a crowd and a vague plan. Because the stoke on group rides is alway high, and it tends to be infectious.

Show your Support

Become a Singletracks Pro Supporter today and enjoy benefits like ad-free browsing.

With your support we can provide free worldwide trail information and original content created by our team of independent journalists.