I've just completed the 2014 5BBC leadership course. Successfully, I might add :) I wanted to share some things while the memories are still fresh.
I guess some people may just decide themselves to become a ride leader while some grow to it over time. I'm the later. I have been riding with 5BBC on and off for 10 years. Yup, 2014 is my 10th anniversary!
I always enjoyed helping others on the rides and looking out for them, both the trippers and the leaders as well. I liked the feeling that everyone on the ride was equally important, participated in the ride by being drops and the leaders always cared that everyone is safe, has fun and completes the ride. So I was always ready to be a drop, to fix a flat and always ready to give the leaders a hand when they needed it because, to have fun myself, it was important that others enjoyed the ride as well.
They key to a successful ride is that everybody has fun and feels safe. I have become a big fan of the point, drop, and sweep system as well. It is simple but brilliant: it keeps the rides together; helps ensure that nobody gets lost, allows for a wide range of paces and engages the trippers, makes them an integral and important part of the ride. There are times when I ride alone and I enjoy the solitude and navigating on my own, but there are times when I enjoy turning my brain off (well, partially) and just following the leaders and drops and enjoying the ride.
I quickly learned that many people felt like that too, that's why they would show up for these rides: they want to ride without worrying about the route, without having to plan and to navigate on their own, they trust that the club will provide a fun and safe experience. Not everybody has the time or the skills to discover and map out routes. They would like to ride with like-minded people, experience social cycling at its best and get to see new routes and places while knowing that they are safe and in good hands, that they won’t need to worry about getting lost or getting left behind and I think that is the essence of these rides.
I recognized what made these rides so great: the leaders. I quickly found my favorite leaders and always looked for rides by the leaders' names rather than by a location or by the distance. And I enjoyed helping them but I never felt like I could actually lead a ride myself. I never felt like the leader type and just didn't believe I had the skills to do so. Yes, I’m a technical person: I can fix bikes and I'm pretty good at maps and navigation but, being a partial introvert, I never thought I could lead organized rides. But some time along the way I realized that really enjoyed being on rides with these trippers. I opened up and found lots of fun, friendly and interesting people. Suddenly, the social aspects of the rides become more important to me. I was looking forward to meeting them again and again.
I also believe in cycling, both as means of transportation and recreation. I’d like to see more people ride and I’m happy to see that cycling in NYC and elsewhere is booming, but it can grow even more. And the best way to get people to ride is to provide them with simple, safe and free or inexpensive rides led by experienced and enthusiastic leaders so they can have a safe place to either get back to cycling after a long break or to learn from scratch. That’s why it’s important to have more rides at all skill levels and that’s why the club needs more leaders.
Somewhere along that road several leaders including Bill Mastro and Ed Pino approached me and asked me if I would like to become a leader and I agreed. Then I fell on some hard times with my health that made me disappear from the scene for many months at a time. I signed up twice for the training and I missed it. I almost gave up, but then along came others too: Fritz, David "Mel" Meltzer, Kathryn Baur and several others who encouraged me to go forward and I'm glad they did. I also met some new leaders and kind of got hooked on the idea of becoming a leader. The list of the people who influenced and inspired me is too long and you probably know who you are :)
So I was on my way! I started scouting new rides months before the class started and was anxious to share them and see people enjoy them. I somehow dropped my initial belief that I am not the leader type, mainly because of all the support and encouragement from others in the club. If you find something you believe in, something you like, something you'd want to share with others, something you're skilled at you can become a leader if you put your mind to work on it and if you're willing to learn and work towards it.
What made it easier this year was that the training was held earlier in the year which meant longer days and slower time at work. The classes are fun and you will learn tons of useful stuff plus the nitty-gritty of the club's inner workings. You will get to know other prospective leaders as well as the senior leaders teaching the course, you will have homework to do and you will work as a team and all while actually having fun.
Certainly being a leader is not all a walk in the park, it means you will have to take on responsibilities and will have a duty to keep trippers safe by planning the rides carefully, scouting and putting effort towards organizing a ride but in the end it will be your satisfaction when people come up to you at the end of the ride and say those magic words:" thank you, it was fun!".
So, hopefully pretty soon I will have the pleasure to invite you on my rides and I will do my best to make sure you have fun and come back for more.