Take the Reins

"Left, right?" "Right... why'd you go left? I said 'right'!" "You said 'right' about 'left'!"
“Left, right?”
“Right… wait, why’d you go left? I said ‘right’!”
“You said ‘right’ about ‘left’!”

The majority of cyclists I’ve met – not all, but a pretty sizable majority – are not only nice people, but they’re exceedingly nice. They’re humble, modest, good-natured, and easy-going. And this is great… usually. But it does have its drawbacks. One feature that’s lacking amongst casual riders is decisiveness (note: I haven’t found this in racers, who by nature must be decisive… or lose).

What do I mean? Here’s an example: you meet up at 9AM with a bunch of riders, but no one said where you’d be riding. The next 10 minutes is often spent volleying back and forth route after route, with lots of “Sure, if you’d like” and “That sounds good” or “Yeah, we can do that” stated after each ride suggestion. Though this very cordial and democratic system of route planning could teach our government a thing or five, it doesn’t get us on the road any faster.

There are two forces working against our friendly neighborhood riders. The first is just that: they’re so nice, that they don’t want to disappoint anyone else by suggesting a ride that someone may not like, or not going with a route someone might like better. But the second reason I think is the one that we’re less willing to address: if we select the route, or if we setup the ride day, we’re taking responsibility for the ride. You’ve now become the ride leader, with everything that entails.

Someone gets a flat due to a debris-filled road you’ve never been on? Guess who’s fault that is. Get lost once or thrice? Yep, don’t have to look far for the culprit. Lots of wind? Well, might as well take the blame for that one while you’re at it.

I don’t mean to say that other riders will actually come out and say these things. In fact, most won’t even think it other than in a joking way like “Seriously? You couldn’t take the time to add just a tad more broken glass to this road?” But it’s very easy to start thinking it yourself (even if no one else does).

Back in my martial arts club days, we encouraged everyone – and I mean everyone, at any level – to take a turn up front leading drills. Someone lead punching drills. Another lead kicking drills, stretching, stomach exercises, and so on. We found that one of the best ways to learn something was to try and teach it. Yeah, you might not know everything, but you’ll quickly find out what it is you don’t know. And your perspective is unique, so different people leading the same thing in different ways gives everyone a different experience.

So, the next time there’s an opening in your ride schedule, take a chance. Load up RideWithGPS, plan a route you don’t normally roll (don’t get ridiculous with it, just try to vary it up) and send out an e-mail with the map, date, time, and start location. You might get takers, you might get some suggestions on alterations to the route/etc. That’s all good. Take the reins, and have fun. Next time, it’ll be someone else’s turn… and you can laugh with them while you struggle up a hill they didn’t know was on their own route. 🙂

Maybe we shoulda' made that left at albuquerque?
Maybe we shoulda’ made that left turn at Albuquerque?