Lessons From the Herd: My First Group Ride

Lessons From the Herd: My First Group Ride

For health reasons, I joined Zwift in November 2019 so I could keep cycling year-round. In those beginning days, I could barely do 5 miles. I remember the day I did 10 miles. I thought that was a big deal! I was happy with my progress. At least I was able to ride and I loved the game aspect of Zwift, so it was fun.

One of my local cycling friends who is also on Zwift suggested I should look for group rides because they were a great way to get stronger. I was still trying to learn about Zwift; how things worked, and all the lingo and terminology, so I wasn’t too sure I would do that. But I told her I would consider it.

Not long after that, I was on Facebook, reading posts in some group I had joined called The Herd Cycling. Cute name, I thought. I was looking at their page and it said something about a 1-hour group ride that was between 1.0 and 1.2 watts per kilo. I didn’t know what that meant and I had no idea really what a group ride meant except it wasn’t a race. I had never seen any of my numbers go over 0.8 so I figured it had something to do with that since it was decimals. I thought to myself, what do I have to lose? The worst that’ll happen is that I get dropped. So I went on Companion and clicked to join the ride.

I remember that morning I got up earlier than usual to make sure I was all ready for my first big group ride. I had laid out my cycling clothes the night before. I made sure I had coffee and an extra water bottle. I put a box of tissues and a towel by my bike. I was going to be as ready as I could be for this ride, doggone it.

As I clicked to join the ride, my heart was pounding. I was really nervous. I kept telling myself to relax. You’re going to get dropped anyway. Just ride. It’s not like you’re gonna get lost!

The timer ticked down to zero, the red gate disappeared, and suddenly there was such a flurry of riders that flew past me, I could almost feel the wind from my screen. I felt like I was standing still. I summarily ended up at the back of the pack, and despite all my efforts to hang on for dear life, got dropped in less than a minute.

At that time I was very bad on hills. I’m certainly not great now by any stretch, but I’m a little better than I was then. I didn’t know about spinning. So on the first hill, I was just grinding as hard as I could. I got to the top of that huge 3% hill and was very happy to see far ahead that the rest of the group was flying down a hill instead of climbing another hill around a bend. I just kept going at my own pace because at least I was seeing a new part of the course and it was fun.

I continued down the hill and saw there was a single rider ahead in the far distance. “Wow,” I said to myself, “it would really be cool if I could catch him.” I pedaled like my life depended on it and sure enough, it seemed like I was getting closer. I saw the seconds between us were getting smaller and smaller very quickly. “Damn, I might catch him,” I thought. Sure enough, I caught his wheel, and I was elated. I guessed he was just trying to catch his breath at the bottom of the hill.

“Gee, apparently I’m not as weak as I think I am,” I proudly decided. “This poor guy. He must be really tired. As soon as I can actually breathe again myself, I’ll pull for him.”

Once I reached the rider, I rode in front of him. That lasted a hot 5 seconds until he pulled in front of me. I repeatedly tried to take my turn at the front, but every time he would just go by me to the front. I said to myself, “Aha, the poor guy, he must be embarrassed! He probably feels like he has to pull because here we are, the last two people in this ride, and the guy must be trying to save his pride.” So I most graciously allowed him to stay in front. 

I clicked on his name and saw that he was somewhere around level 30. I thought, “That’s odd. I would think somebody at level 30 would be a little stronger of a rider than I am, but apparently that may not be the case.”

Every time we reached a hill, I got dropped. I pushed up the hills as quickly as I could with my 2 mph massive speed, and every time I reached the top, I could see this guy at the bottom of the hill. I thought to myself, “Wow, he must not be very good at going down hills.” So I would speed up to catch him at the bottom of every hill, and would you believe it, I caught him every single time!

This went on throughout the whole ride. I was very happy about my generosity with allowing this gentleman to feel better about himself, because it surely showed that I was not acting with pride or ego. 

During all this, the chat was very active. I could not type anything into the chat due to a connectivity glitch of some kind on my end, but I could read everything. Suddenly something caught my eye in the chat. Someone said something about going to the back of the pack to act as a sweep. I asked myself, “How the heck do you sweep a virtual road that has no actual debris?” Then someone else said the sweeps are the heroes because they sacrifice their ride to stay with the dropped riders.

Enter epiphany.

I shook my head in self disgust. “YOU MORON!” I yelled out loud at myself. “You didn’t catch him! He was waiting for you every time to ride with you! He’s a sweep, you dingbat!”

I thought to myself, “This poor guy. He could have had a great ride, but instead, he chose to stay at the back of the pack to pull me around, and here I am, thinking I’m all that and a Di2 groupset.” I was ashamed that I had been so pompous and supposedly magnanimous. I was filled with a tremendous amount of respect for this rider. I made sure to remember his name. I was so frustrated that I could not type into the chat to thank this guy. I figured he must have thought that I was totally ungrateful. By that time, I was not feeling very good about myself at all and I was pretty mortified, and glad no one could read my prideful mind through the computer.

As soon as the ride was done I got on my computer and got on the Herd page. I wrote, “If anyone knows K. Kondo, please tell him that my chat wasn’t working but I want to thank him so much for waiting for me throughout the whole ride! He was great!” 

I got immediate responses. Oh that’s Kuni, he’s wonderful. Yes Kuni is a great guy. Kuni is the best. And then I saw somebody named Kuni Kondo comment, “It was my pleasure.” I was so happy to be able to thank him personally! If I could have hugged him through the computer, I would have. 

As a result of this ride, I knew that I wanted to be a part of The Herd. These people truly embodied the spirit of cycling as a group, with no cyclist left behind. I knew this was the group for me. These days, every group ride I’m in, I am very happy to moooo in the chat at the start.

One day I hope to be strong enough to be able to go to the back of the pack and be a sweep, just like Kuni. 

But for now, if you see me at the bottom of a hill, I’m probably just trying to catch my breath.

About The Author

Linda Messinger

Linda is a lifelong cyclist with a love of anything on two wheels. The bike has become her go-to instrument to be that twelve-year-old she still thinks she is.

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Tobi
Tobi (@tobisnet)
1 year ago

Very well written. I like it. 🙂

Thiep Nguyen
Trusted Member
Thiep Nguyen (@thiep4698)
1 year ago

Awesome. This is what cycling is about. Almost bring tear to my eyes and that’s why I love cycling.

Maarten
Maarten
1 year ago

Thank you Linda for sharing this.

Buddy The Elf
Buddy The Elf
1 year ago

Great job Linda and a great story!

Ray Ruyack
Ray Ruyack
1 year ago
Reply to  Buddy The Elf

Sweeps rule :-{)

Thomas Kossi
Thomas Kossi
1 year ago

Thank you for this, Linda. -Virtual Hug-
🙂

abaelard
abaelard
1 year ago

Aww, very nice story. And you’re definitely not alone. I sometimes like to drop from a group ride as well and do a bit of sweeping. Too bad, we don’t have the option to switch on a little “follow me” sign or a “i appreciate help” sign. Would avoid to sweepers waiting for each other or people that just want to roll out and stop being “harassed” by sweepers 😉

Kareltje
Kareltje (@karel-grootte)
1 year ago

Linda you chose one of the best groups on Zwift to do your first group ride! The HERD’s all about the group. Congratulations on making it. Hope to see you out there! Ride on!

Jeff Allen
Active Member
Jeff Allen (@jallen3tn)
1 year ago

Great story. On IRL group rides I tell myself that I’m in the back to keep thee sweep company, when in fact I’m being swept

Carol Scott
Carol Scott
1 year ago

beautiful

John Woodard
John Woodard
1 year ago

The Herd is kind of awesome, but you’re not getting the full effect. You REALLY need to get Discourse loaded on your phone and jump in the live audio chat. You’ve got people from all over the world with all kinds of accents talking during the ride and it’s often truly hilarious. They’re also extremely helpful when you have questions.

Mark Larson
Super Member
Mark Larson (@marklarson44)
1 year ago

This is great! Awesome journey! I also started Zwifting in November for health reasons (broken collarbone). I think once the fence issue is fixed, the group rides will also slow down more to their intended target. But I’ve had fun on HERD and WolfPack rides (and others) so I always look for those first.

Vlada
Vlada (@demon2307)
1 year ago

Beautifully. Movingly.

HeléneJn
HeléneJn
1 year ago

Yes, that’s the Herd spirit and Herd love

Paul Smith
Paul Smith (@smithpauld1501)
1 year ago

Kuni was in the same place no so long ago. Then Zwift happened and he can pay it forward.

Marion West
Member
Marion West (@mlwest500)
1 year ago

Great storey. The Herd is fun. I did the Alpe de Zwift with the Pack and the Silent Sweep was super encouraging. I made it to the top and could even smile. Well maybe it was a grimace that looked like a smile

Dave T
1 year ago
Reply to  Marion West

Steve AkA silent sweep is a great guy in real life also . I used to help sweep at pack with him and met up with him on the pack irl meetup before I joined the herd

Ross
Ross (@arkeele)
1 year ago

Thank-you for sharing your personal experience Linda 🙂 It is inspiring to read about your perseverance, and motivation to reach out to other riders who have played a part in your enjoyment of Zwift. Ride On!

Martin Deschenes
Martin Deschenes
1 year ago

Very refreshing. Thank you Linda 🙂

Rafe
Rafe
1 year ago

Wonderful story. As one of The Herd founders, I’ve got a tear in my eye now.

Dan Aponik
Dan Aponik
1 year ago

Amazing story! Gave me goosebumps the further I read into it. An excellent reminder of why I enjoy the Zwift community so much. Ride On!

Chris
Chris
1 year ago

Amazing story! I identified with your first group ride experience very much, I was able to stay with the group but I know I was hanging on for dear life! Such a great group! Love herd rides!

Thanks for the share, hope to see you out there!

Kim S
Kim S
1 year ago

The Herd runs the best group rides that I’ve found on Zwift. Great group of people. I strongly agree with the comment from another poster about downloading Discord. You miss half the fun of a Herd ride if you can’’t listen to the banter.

Faz
Faz
1 year ago

Kondo is the best! We’ve chatted a bit before 😁

Kuni Kondo
Kuni Kondo
1 year ago

I got a lot of notifications from Facebook when I got up in the morning, so I wondered what happened !!!
I think it’s important to keep doing anything.I’m glad you want to keep Zwift on your first group ride.
I forgot to say something important. I’m not a strong rider! Let’s meet in a group ride 🙂

Maria
Maria
1 year ago

Wow Linda, this was really an amazing text. I laughed and I cried. This is such an fantastic groupride report. Loved it! I would also love to be sweep for a ride. Best to you! /Maria

Thomas Chew
Thomas Chew
1 year ago

I did a group ride about a week into my Zwift experience, that was towards the end of November 2019. Billed as having an “easy” pace for beginners, my lack of experience and only being semi-fit, I really didn’t technically get dropped and it’s possible that someone would have pulled me along but my pride kicked in and so I just quit at the halfway point. That was my first and last time to date that I have quit a social ride, race or route (to get the route badge) before it was officially completed. Just like Linda, I found… Read more »

Vláďa Zwift
Member
Vláďa Zwift (@demon2307)
1 year ago

Beautiful and moving story

Tony Perotti
Tony Perotti
1 year ago

Great article! Thanks

jack
jack
1 year ago

Wow that was an amazing story and very inspirational thank you so much for sharing.

Nita
Nita
1 year ago

I love your story. It was hilarious. I hope you write more.

Mathieu Mercken
Mathieu Mercken
1 year ago

Maybe a little late to read your article, but I assure you this really touched my,Want tou see more from that
Greatings

Tom
Tom
1 year ago

Sweeps rule.

Cathryn Cortissoz
Cathryn Cortissoz
8 months ago

absolutely love your articles! I can so relate to many of your observations and experiences.

Anne
Anne
8 months ago

made me cry! (I’m not a cryer!) I was searching sub2 trying to find a ride that actually is 1.5 so I can do it. I’m in my second week of Zwift. 💕 thanks for the inspiration!

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