by Deborah Turton
“Hi, I’m Deborah, your mostly friendly Potomac Pedalers Ride Leader.” I start most of my pre-ride spiels that way. I realize that PPTC does not always have the reputation for being the friendliest of clubs. It doesn’t matter if that’s true or not, perception is reality. But I’m a mostly friendly person. My husband says I’m a Golden Retriever type of person – I like everybody, so I’m naturally friendly towards everyone when they first show up on my rides. I feel this is especially important on my regular Friday ride. Regular rides can be a key way to introduce people to and integrate them into our club.
I started thinking about this after I had an interesting conversation with a new member the other day. She had tried a ride – a regular weekly ride – and no one stopped to say hi or introduce themselves to her. It was not a fun experience. I could understand her feelings, my husband and I had tried a regular weekly ride when we first joined. It did not start out as a fun experience – we never found the ride leader, no one had cue sheets and I don’t even remember if we signed in. If I hadn’t mapped out a ride before we showed up, we would not have been able to ride that time. We were glad we knew each other so we could make our own group. But even though the ride leaders never even knew we were there, some of the regulars made a point of stopping by at the end of the ride and saying ‘hi, did you enjoy the ride?’ Those small conversation were enough to leave us with a mostly positive view of the ride.
On a weekly ride, it’s obvious when someone is new. We all know each other on weekly rides so new people stick out like a dropped chain on a hill. You might think that taking care of the newbies is the ride leader’s responsibility. However, some weekly rides are huge, and it’s impractical to expect the ride leader to always notice a new person. Besides the ride leader may have other issues to deal with. That leaves the new person standing there feeling awkward. You may even think they look out of place. Maybe they showed up with a hybrid complete with fenders and a rack on a CC/B ride. Or they come to a C/D ride with a bike that costs more than your first car and a kit more expensive than your first bike. It’s hard to know how to fit in with a new group, so don’t judge the new person. Most of us can understand how being in a new group is not a comfortable feeling. Weekly rides can feel like being the new kid in high school again. Everyone is chatting with their friends, and the new person is left out.
So if we want those new people to join Potomac Pedalers, it’s up the regulars to help the new person feel comfortable. Stop by and say hi to the new person; ask if they need any help; invite them to join the group for a bite afterwards. I’m not talking about exchanging life stories with every new person. Even I would blanch at that. But just some quick human contact makes that new person feel more comfortable and more likely to return. Who knows, that new person may turn out to be a new best friend. At the very least, that new person can be a new member of the Club. Without our members our Club ceases to exist, so it makes sense to use weekly rides to encourage people to join the club.
I know this sounds like your kindergarten teacher saying “A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet.” And you’re thinking “I have no wish to meet another weird person who wants to be my best friend.” So if you introduce yourself and the person won’t let you be, you can think of it as incentive to up your game and leave them in the dust. I did say I was your mostly friendly ride leader.
Want to lead a ride but not sure what to do? We can pair you with a Ride Leader Mentor or someone to co-lead a ride with you. Contact Martine Palmiter or Linda Kolko for details.