I’ve trained with a lot of people over the years. Some have been good, some have been awful, and others have really stood out at as the ideal partner.
A regular training partner has the opportunity to form a pretty personal relationship with you, so finding the right one is important.
Cycling is a unique sport in that a lot of time is spent socializing when training with others. On long endurance rides, you have the chance to cover a lot of topics with whoever is on the road with you. In this sense, you can really get to know someone.
Perhaps, for me, one of the most important characteristics of a good training partner is that they must be someone I can have a proper conversation with. I’ve discussed every topic under the sun while riding and value quality conversation to reduce the potential monotony of a five plus hour ride.
You also need someone with a very similar approach to riding. I recognize that I, for example, am a little odd when it comes to ‘training’. The ‘no Garmin, no rules’ motto is an excellent term to describe my general approach to rides. Now, I know that the randomness and spontaneity that having no rules when riding does not bode well with many, so I need to be careful and receptive to the likes of the people riding with me.
A regular training partner of mine couldn’t be someone who’s afraid of taking their road bike on a bit of dirt or gravel, spending an hour trying every dead-end road on a hill in hopes that one of them will lead to a secret trail or a forgotten fire road, or is embarrassed to ride with someone who has a bar bag and a t-shirt on a race bike. Needless to say, I need to find someone who is also a little whack. Someone who is committed to an average speed, a prescribed route, average power or anything number related would likely put a stick in my spokes – and I wouldn’t blame them!
It’s also important to find someone who is closely matched in ability. Too slow and they’ll take away from the effectiveness of your training, but too fast and you may do the same to them. Find someone who pushes you sometimes, and at other times, you push them.
You must be supportive of each other. Keep each other honest. Set training times and be prompt. Don’t make the other wait. Be reasonable though and flexible when necessary. Encourage and motivate each other to train. Sometimes you’ll want to quit a ride, and your partner might encourage you to push to the end and at other times you may do the same for them. Personally, I’ve found that having a set time to meet someone has really helped me get out the door. And sometimes, getting out the door is the hardest part of a ride, so having that person to meet can make all the difference.
My training partner for the past few months has been Nick Monette. He’s a student in Victoria who will be racing for Mighty out of Vancouver next year. We’ve crushed gravel, spent entire days adventuring by bike, ridden in style, spent hours in the rain, ridden before sunrise and ‘won’ many a group ride together.
The benefits of a good training partner go far beyond the obvious improved ride quality and enjoyment. For me, riding with a partner is riding with a friend. Getting up at 5 a.m. to ride is made easier knowing that Nick is getting up to ride with me. Spending four hours in the rain becomes fun and the experiences become epic when they are shared with a close friend.
Some people prefer to train alone. I know that I often become more attached to people than most, so others may not fully relate to what a training partner means to me. But the moments I’ve shared with Nick on the bike are the best moments of my week. And fortunately, there’s no one with whom I’d rather share those moments. We were friends before but became partners on the bike.
Here is a brief list of things to look for in a potential training partner:
1. Solo vs. Social – Are you a social rider? Do you prefer to train alone or with a friend?
2. Conversation – Can you have quality conversations with them?
3. Style – Do they agree with your training methods?
4. Ability – Are you closely matched? Can you healthily push each other?
5. Schedule – Will your schedules actually align well enough to train together?
6. Supportive – Will you push, motivate and support each other, and respect training times?
Oliver Evans is a 20-year-old cyclist from Winnipeg, currently living in Victoria. In 2019, he will be riding with Trek Red Truck Racing.