I picked this up from the recent Source Endurance Training Center of the Rockies newsletter and decided to run with it. In this article, coach Zack Allison points out that we're all responsible for the health of our sport. If we want to have large group rides, and well attended local races, we all have to go out of our way to welcome new riders.
What can you do to welcome new riders to the scene?
- Wave. For the love of all the universe, wave. People take this super personal. It doesn't have to be a Forest Gump wave. A finger (not the middle one) or head nod will do.
- Make small talk. Chat 'em up. Ask about their bike, where they're from, how long they've been in NoCo, if they've done any of the local races...
- Invite riders to races and group rides.
- Give tips to new riders on group rides (be careful not to be a jerkass). How to rotate. Where to draft. When an attack might be coming. Where to position prior to a climb, change in direction or impending attack. Tell them ahead of time where turns are, sprint linnes and where the finish to the ride is.
- Use your fitness for good rather than evil- Help dropped riders bridge back to the group. Give a hand (push) to struggling riders on climbs. Start a second echelon for the back half of the group ride.
Last week I was doing intervals. Yeah, even coaches do intervals, we just never know which ones to make ourselves do because we are always trying to figure that out for you. In the middle of my interval, I saw a few people I knew. These guys had been in the training center before and some actually work in cycling. I'm not super close with them but I'd consider them friends.
I blew past them in my 340 watt threshold interval. It was towards the end of my interval and I thought to myself, wow what a dick move. I don't know if that's what they thought of me at the time but I realized that there's a negligible amount of fitness to be gained by doing exactly the correct 2 minute rest period following the interval, and there's a lot to be gained by getting to chat with my friends for a few minutes on a local climb. I turned around and rode with them for a bit and it was great.
This group of people specifically is pretty solid in the "cyclist" category. I'm sure they have the self-confidence to blow of the odd jerk of a cyclist that doesn't wave, but if someone is trying to get into cycling and they encounter enough weird negative energy they are going to try something else. I hear time and time again about people newer to the sport having negative interactions with someone that's supposed to be an ambassador to the sport. It's not hard to be nice, if you find it hard to be nice and find yourself in a position of ambassadorship in cycling, just stay home and don't embarrass our sport.
I'm still a fierce competitor and I think that's a big foundation in cycling. Pushing yourself and pushing others is healthy. We sit here and whine about low turnout on the Wednesday group rides or the weekday crit. Those organic races and rides are a representation of how good a job us as ambassadors or us a cyclists are doing at getting other people into the sport. If there's someone new on a really hard group ride, maybe try a bit less hard to drop that person specifically, and tell them when it gets hard. Compete, but with class. If you're not competing, be friendly and remember those first few rides you had when you fell in love with cycling and you met someone cool who furthered your positive experience in cycling, now be that influence for someone else. IF we do this right everybody wins. It doesn't matter that the dopers ruined the Tour. There are more people on the road, more people at the Tuesday night crit, the Wednesday group ride, and the easy long weekend miles are even easier.
- Zack Allison