by Earl Lang, Acme Bicycle Shop
I sometimes wonder! I keep getting comments from riders who tried a bicycle club ride that was advertised as a “No Drop”. The ride started with no briefing, and immediately exceeded the speed advertised, then when the new rider didn’t make it through the traffic signal with the group; they were left wondering “where did all those riders go?”
Just how are you helping grow bicycling and your club when you don’t consider the new rider? This rider may not know anyone on the ride, and may be expecting to ride as advertised. Are you and your regulars riding on an ego trip? Are you training? If so, you have no business leading this ride! By leading a ride that you do not conduct as advertised, you are hurting your club, and bicycling. Keep reading to see how far out of the mainstream most current club of bicycle riders you are.
The 2002 National Survey of Pedestrian and Bicyclist Attitudes and Behaviors was sponsored by the US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Bureau of Transportation Statistics in order to gauge pedestrian and bicyclist trips, behaviors, and attitudes.
According to the survey, approximately 57 million people, 27.3 percent of the population age 16 or older, rode a bicycle at least once during the summer of 2002.
How far do people generally bicycle?
According to the 2002 National Survey of Pedestrian and Bicyclist Attitudes and Behaviors, the average length of a bicycling trip taken on a typical day during the summer was 3.9 miles. Trip length was dependent upon the purpose: trips whose purpose was for exercise or recreation were longer (5.6 miles) than trips that were for other purposes (2.2 miles).
How many of the 27.3 percent belong to a club? I will guess 5%. That means there may be 2.8 million riders who belong to a bicycle club. Do the division, 50 states, how many bicycle clubs leaves a small, small number of potential members. Pulling new members from these small percentages is a daunting task. Why do most people join clubs? For the Riding Fun! The number of potential new club riders who are interested in going fast for long distances infinitesimal. In the above cited article the average ride distance was 3.9 miles and only 7.3% of the 27% claimed to have ridden over 10 miles. I find that most club riders, like about 30 miles. Now that is a big leap from the average 3.9 mile ride.
Do you wonder why it is so hard to grow a bicycle club?
Are you thinking about joining a bicycle club? I recommend it but, go on a couple rides as a guest first. Find a Leisure Ride, one where they spell out the speed, time and distance. When you arrive, introduce yourself to the ride leader and ask how the ride will be conducted. Ask if you need to sign a waiver of liability.
Ask these questions:
How fast will we be riding?
When do you expect to end?
How often will we take rest breaks? Will there be restrooms? Water?
What happens when the whole group doesn’t make it through a traffic light? (They should answer that they will stop and wait for the rest to re-join.)
Is there a “Sweep Rider”? This is a rider who is responsible for any stragglers. You should know who that is and ask them how they handle slower riders.
If you don’t get a positive answer to these questions, plan on being dropped. Unless you believe that you can “keep up”, don’t go. If you don’t know the area, thank the ride leader and take a short ride by yourself. That will do two things: 1) it will inform the leader that you won’t be joining, and 2) you won’t find yourself lost at the end of your energy and have to call someone to come get you.
Bicycle Clubs are good and offer many benefits to their members. They are all run by volunteers with little or no experience in running a club. Larger clubs have a number of rides and you may have just picked the wrong ride. Perhaps the ride leader could give you information on a ride better suited to your riding style. If not, look for a different club.
Bicycle Club Officers
Bicycling is growing, so why impede the progress? If your ride leaders are not providing the ride advertised, move them to a different ride and find a leader who will be considerate of all riders, regardless of their proficiency. As you see above, the average rider has only ridden 3.7 miles in the last month, wouldn’t it make sense to have a really short ride, at slow pace, widely advertised to help grow your club.