All season I’ve been fortunate to be an AIDS/LifeCycle Training Ride Leader. I’ve seen new riders
blossom; I’ve seen experienced riders learn their limits; and I’ve seen adults reduced to self-imposed helplessness. Training ride leaders are there to encourage you, help you get through your limits, and avoid pitfalls. But primarily, TRLs are there for your safety and the safety of others. So, what can you expect from Training Ride Leaders?
ALC training ride leaders are volunteers who have been minimally trained to: recognize cycling issues (maintenance, cleaning, nutrition, and skills) and make rudimentary suggestions; prepare and organize training rides; and guide riders on challenging training rides. TRLs are ordinary cyclists who have done at least one ALC and received appropriate training. TRLs are not experts in fitness, bicycle maintenance, or nutrition.
|Buzz Miller leads stretching; photo by Joseph Collins|
You can expect TRLs to make reasonable efforts to prepare you for a ride: remind you of your obligations to ride safely, get you out on time, give you a route sheet and explain what it means, give you tips both before and during the ride, and help you understand the challenges you’re facing (mostly because they faced those same challenges, too).
You cannot expect TRLs to be your personal trainer, coach, or bike tech. During each ride, the TRLs try to interact with as many riders as possible. But given the range of abilities on most ALC rides, riders tend not to ride together. Thus, TRLs can often only be with one rider at a time. So you cannot expect the TRLs to guide you at every intersection; make sure you know how to read a route sheet.
You also must put out the effort. Read the route sheet and do your best to absorb the explanation — and keep it in an accessible location. Appear on time, and be ready to hear the safety speech at least 15 minutes before the scheduled ride out time. Ride safely and wear your helmet. Make sure you have water, money, tubes, a pump and tire irons, snacks, and a basic understanding of how to ride your bike.
Make your best effort on your bike, but know your limits. If you know that part of the ride may be too challenging, ask a TRL for advice. She can give you tips along the way. If SAG (“support and gear,” refers to a driver who will give assistance to riders) is available, the TRL may advise you to take a ride to the top of a hill. Alternatively, the TRL may advise you to turn around or take an alternate route. Listen and consider your own skill levels. A TRL cannot tell you what to do, but can only make suggestions.
When a TRL gives you suggestions, consider them carefully. All of us take riding seriously and don’t like being told we’re doing it wrong. But, if a TRL makes a suggestion, it is probably because he or she has experience you may lack, so fight the urge to argue and instead listen and absorb. Also, the TRL is probably thinking about the ride in the whole — she may have 10 or more riders to see through to the end. So, especially as rides get longer, she wants to help everyone finish in a reasonable amount of time — so avoid unnecessary delays on the route.
Remember, training ride leaders are volunteers and are provided primarily to ensure your safety, the safety of other riders, and their own safety. If you work with them, you’ll find training rides far more enjoyable and safe.
Thank you to all the TRLs who volunteer to make our riding an enjoyable experience!