In 2002, when I first moved to Vancouver, the only time I saw mass groups of riders on the road was on my commute to and from work and on Saturday mornings. But since the introduction of the Fondo, mass groups of cycling enthusiasts are on the roads before the sun rises and continue long past sunset. Vancouver has embraced the large numbers of bikes on the roads by providing bike lanes and specific bike routes, but if you are hoping to train for a Fondo, triathlon or any sort of bike race, trying to do your sprint workout on a bike route is extremely dangerous. The bike routes are great routes when travelling to and from your workout but definitely not the place to lay the hammer down.
So how do you deal with training in traffic? First off, you must remember that as a cyclist, you are legally obligated to obey all the rules of the road like any other vehicle. If you break the rules, it is you who is going to suffer the most if you get hit. So choosing an appropriate route for your workout is the key.
For long rides you want to choose routes that have very little traffic and as few stop lights as possible, otherwise you won’t get the training benefit of the workout. Because it is impossible to find a route without any lights, here are a few common rules to help keep the flow of your group ride moving, without dropping anyone or breaking any rules.
- Indicate to vehicles AND your fellow riders the direction you plan on riding well in advance (right or left turns).
- As the leader, don’t ride through stop signs or red lights (see #4 for more of an explanation).
- As the leader, if the light turns yellow, stop to avoid breaking up the group when the light turns red.
- When riding in a pack, stay close and consider yourself as one vehicle. So when crossing intersections continue to move as one unit. Having each person stop individually will create confusion for other vehicles and confusion in the group. If there is a break in a group – then yes, you become two vehicles.
- Use the most trafficked roads as time to warm up, cool down or recover between harder tempo pieces.
- Start long rides early in the morning when it is still quiet on the roads.
Every program will also include shorter workouts where you are specifically working on hill repeats or flat sprints. I always look for three things when designing routes for these workouts:
- the number of traffic lights, stop signs and pedestrian walkways on the route;
- the amount of traffic; and
- a safe, legal and appropriate U-Turn location
Due to the nature of these workouts, your goal isn’t to find a route that is pleasant to look at, but a route that is safe and will allow you to complete the workout as close as you can to what was prescribed. It may seem boring but training on the same route for the same workout each time will give you consistency and specific numbers to measure your progress.
Kristina Bangma is a coach, personal trainer and writer with a love of riding and racing. Email questions to Kristina@kitsenergy.com.