Riding in a training ride group can be like a time warp. The riders up front see the course as fast and want to push themselves. The riders toward the rear see the course as challenging and want to maximize their experience by taking it all in. The former may finish a ride in 3 hours, where the latter may take 5.
Even among the two groups, riders differ. Variations due to skill, nutrition, weather, temperature, road conditions, traffic, and patience (with self or others) can lead to vastly different experiences for riders on the very same ride. With so many variables, every single ride is different for every single rider every time. So how do Training Ride Leaders keep riders from both groups (and riders who fall into neither group) happy on a ride?
Training Ride Leaders must remain mentally between the two groups in order to help all riders accomplish their goal — cycling 545 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles. While riders see only the road in front of them, TRLs see magic: a network of riders and skills that mesh together into a fun and exciting experience for everyone.
TRLs work best when focusing attention on one rider at a time. The AIDS/LifeCycle trains TRLs in safety issues, basic cycling skills, and nutrition. TRLs are volunteers who have ridden at least one ALC. In offering advise, TRLs bring this experience to bear, and can help you when you are struggling or help you improve.
TRLs take both your self-reports about your condition and other factors into account. For instance, TRLs will consider: the condition of your bike, your apparent riding skills, how much you’ve ridden before, whether you’ve been eating or drinking, your dress (which is more important than you realize), whether you prepared for the ride as required by the ALC, and your general physical health. TRLs also consider the needs of the other riders.
On a ride with 15 people, there may be only 2 or 3 TRLs. So out on the road, TRLs may be stretched thin. Ideally, TRLs will check in with each rider. But due to unforeseen circumstances, you may not see a TRL during your entire ride. So keep the TRLs’ phone numbers handy in case you run into trouble. Also, keep the route sheet and your phone’s map feature handy in case you get lost.
If you follow the course and safety instructions, you’ll find that independence on the bicycle is liberating. Half the fun is the adventure! As you’re riding, you will notice that other riders are having different experiences. If this concerns you, ask the TRL why. The answers are usually instructive and will make you a better rider.
TRLs can only give advice; they cannot tell you what to do. Still, consider their advice carefully. It is usually based on experience and training. And when you complete your first ALC, sign up to be TRL. It is an incredibly gratifying experience.
Your Bear — 3 time TRL.