February 2020 Top Talk

What is the most important activity of a bike club? That’s easy – bike rides! Who are the most important members of a bike club? That question may not be so easily answered. Members comprise any club and therefore, of course, are essential. Specific officers and event coordinators keep our club operational, but who are the people essential to every single bike ride on the calendar? Ride leaders! As we head toward fine riding weather, I want to extend my sincere thank you to all our ride leaders. As our road captains repeatedly state, “Thanks for all your rides. You make our club possible.”

Many of our ride leaders are well seasoned and have been leading rides for years, some for decades, whereas others are relative newbies. In 2019, 65 ride leaders led over 900 rides! All these ride leaders are fantastic and essential; however, we have become dependent on just a small number of members to keep most of our riders moving. Two of our ride leaders, or 3%, led 23% of our rides! Our busiest 10 ride leaders (15%) led 60% of our rides! Having just a few, very busy, ride leaders means a couple of things. Firstly, the ride calendar is vulnerable. Should any of these who are leading many rides get ill, injured, take a vacation, or simply elect not to lead as much, we will see the number of rides on the calendar plummet precipitously. Secondly, we see that many of our most popular weekend rides are experiencing overload because only a few options are offered on any single day. At the recent ride leader meeting, it was noted that rides with more than 25-30 cyclists, i.e., our most popular rides, are unwieldy, harshly viewed by motorists as we are herded through intersections and can get very spread out. Riders may be dropped, injured, or get lost; and ride leaders may not be aware of issues developing at the rear of the group. Many solutions were entertained: for example, ride leaders need to adhere to the advertised pace, provide excellent paper maps, have additional ride leaders within the group, and designate a sweep. All of these would help. Another way to approach this would be to analyze what types of rides are the most popular and duplicate them so there are several of this type every weekend, particularly during drier months. We all know there is a single ride leader in the club who draws the most cyclists during any weekend, so here is my solution – clone him. I collected some of his DNA at the last ride I attended and sent it to a local cloning agency, “Bud Cloning, Inc.” Sadly, they replied that it is very costly, more than our dues support, and they can’t have one ready for about 25 years.

Aside from cloning our most popular ride leader, I have another solution! Solicit more ride leaders to do similar rides. What rides are most popular on weekends? “Slow to leisurely,” “under 30-35 miles,” and “social” are terms that describe our most popular weekend rides, and rides that are most welcoming to newcomers. If you have been enjoying these rides and would like to see them continue to be enjoyable, there is an easy solution. Become a ride leader! To make these into smaller rides, the club needs to offer more of them! To do this we need more ride leaders. A ride’s success is not measured by the number of people who attend, but rather by how enjoyable it is. Many ride leaders expressed the opinion that the best rides have fewer than 20 riders. These rides are more personal and can take you to rest stops that don’t need to accommodate large groups. The Portland metro area is huge, so in order to offer rides geographically scattered and easily accessible to members around the city, we need more members willing to regularly lead some of these rides.

Finally, if you are feeling inspired to do more for the club and would like to find a way to fulfill that desire, please think about leading some social, short, or easy rides this summer. If you have favorite routes you take and places you visit that aren’t being utilized by current club rides, contemplate sharing these gems. If you are currently a ride leader and are leading fewer than six rides a year, how about upping your goal for 2020, and varying the rides you lead? If you only lead weekday rides, think about leading occasional rides on weekends. If you only lead faster or long rides, consider dreaming up something a little bit more social and slower. If you have been leading rides that have only the goal of riding, consider something with a theme (e.g., historic houses, gardens, architecture, trees, Portland oddities, an event, or street art). You might even find that leading something short and slow allows you and others to experience another side of riding a bike, the side that allows you to stop and smell the roses. For more information, log in to the member’s only section of our website and check out Ride Leader Info.

Pat McManus, President