After an absolutely amazing tough 200km in the saddle today, I reflected on what made it so great.

Sure, the sun and 23 degrees definitely didn’t hurt but after 5+ hours in the saddle when fatigue is setting in, I am beyond the enjoyment of the weather. There was something else or better someone else.

A great training partner.

It sounds so simple riding with other people. But reality is, especially on long rides where slight training-partner-misalignments will eventually be uncovered, it is not as easy as it seems to find the right riding buddy.

So what makes someone a great training partner?

1. In contrast to what one might think, it is not that both cyclists must have the same strengths. It is more important that both cyclists agree to a pace that both feel comfortable with. And even more importantly respect it. That means the stronger person will not increase the tempo on every rise if s/he know that the other rider is burning up all matches (unless it is agreed to it). The weaker rider is happy sitting in the draft if that keeps the pace comfortable for both riders.

2. Competing against each other (again, unless agreed upon) will result in annoyance especially in a tough ride when people are seriously suffering. Instead, both riders should help each other to get the most out of the ride and take advantages of their individual strengths.

3. Respecting the ‘dips’ of the other cyclist. Especially on long rides, there are chances that one or both riders have a bit of an energy dip at some point. Instead of trying to push through, it is more important to figure out how best to get him or her out of it. That could be a quick coffee stop, sharing home-made baked goods or drastically decrease the speed for a while.

4. Agree early on what it is expected from the ride: Steady pace? Individual efforts on the climbs? Distance? Stops? Length of stops? When both riders go into the ride with the same expectations, there won’t be any miscommunication later on when neither of the riders might not want to talk anymore due to suffering.

5. Enjoy it. The beauty of riding with someone is that all joy (and suffering) is shared. Even if you don’t talk during the ride you most likely have similar experiences on the road and there is plenty of talking material over post-ride coffee.

What are your thoughts on what makes someone a great training partner? Let me know in the comments.

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