With well over 100 group rides each year at Swicked, more often than not when I ride, I’m leading a bunch of mountain bikers through the trails.
When leading, there are pros and cons. I get to pick the trails, choose the length of ride, and set the pace, but I also have to keep the pace suitable to the group, and sometimes the group can be a variety of fitness levels making this task a little tougher.
Choosing the right trails can ease the stress for me a bit, but setting the correct pace is paramount to any sort of success on these rides.
I want the slower riders to enjoy the pace without suffering too much, but I also want to challenge the faster riders.
In the end it can be challenging, but I somehow manage to get each rider home with a smile.
Having said all that, once in a while we have a group all at the same level. We ride together regularly, and I just try to keep the pace steady so everyone is getting a fun, but challenging ride.
As the “leader” in this situation, it should be easy. I’m in front, I have only one pace to figure out, and no one in this group is looking for a race.
Yet, every time I turn around and see another rider on my wheel, my need to keep everyone happy has me speeding up.
As I speed up, the group speeds up to hold pace, and I see another rider on my wheel and I speed up a bit more, and they speed up to hold pace … and so on, and so on.
Soon we’re sprinting up the trails at full race pace, and when I finally concede and ask if they want past, I usually get a response that sounds something like “no, gasp, this is, gasp, fast enough.”
I happily slow down, but then I feel a rider on my wheel and guess what?
It makes for a bit of a sufferfest, but we all love it.
I’m starting to wonder if I am actually leading or following.
I’m James Durand and I’m Goin’ Ridin’…