This spring I volunteered to run a series of mountain bike rides for beginners in our local town forest.
A beginner (or rookie) ride is not like any other group ride. It is slow. We stop a lot. We encourage people to walk if they aren’t comfortable (to quote my friend Alex “in every mountain biker is a built-in hiker.”) We take time to let people catch up. Catch their breath. Have a snack. Ask a question.
As ride leaders, we answer these questions. Offer advice. Explain fundamentals about etiquette or equipment. Share stories of mistakes we’ve made. Offer opportunities to “session” (which sounds so much fancier than “practice” an element).
And we don’t accept any apologies or offers to “go ahead.”
I enjoy leading rookie rides, in part, because it gives me time to reflect on my own progress. To remember what challenged me on these same trails. To think back to a time when I had all the questions and often felt overwhelmed.
And to feel grateful for all those riders who rode slowly for me.
To my husband, who from the beginning was game to get his girlfriend to learn how to ride, and who continues to ride slow for me. Sometimes in the woods. Sometimes on the road.
To my girlfriends, who believed in me before I really believed in myself, and dragged my ass the final kilometers of the Rapha 100.
To anyone who led a ride. Answered a question. Gave me a shout. Gave me a hand.
To all, I say thank you. You are why I ride. Why I am part of an amazing community of riders. Why I am healthier and fitter than ever. Why I can call myself an athlete and find my place on amazing teams. Why I have the confidence to take on the role of team leader. Why I can support causes that are important to me. And speak up to defend and grow this activity I love.
And why, even as I get stronger and faster, I continue to make time to ride slow.