The TWTex May Pie Run was held last Saturday up in Hico, TX. With the location over 200 miles away, only two riders (me included) from Houston were initially signed up to attend. I planned a nice route and sent map files to the other rider for review. The night before the event, two other riders PM’d me asking for the location of the meet point. I replied with that information as well as gps files of the planned route.
Thus it was that at 7AM on a sunny Saturday, I found myself leading a group of four to a far-off destination. Reason: no one else knew the route.
I. Don’t. Like. Leading. Groups.
And for the most part, I haven’t ever really had to. I mean, how much directing do you need to do when the route is 80 miles, turn left, 50 miles, reverse? Even when we did more complicated rides, like Napa/Berryessa, I (the planner) always led from the sweep position with bike-to-bike radio to the leader.
But Texas is more complicated. You seldom spend more than 15 miles on a road before needing to turn onto something else. That is, if you want to find the twisties.
So I sucked it up and led the way there and back. I can be very self-critical sometimes, and there were a lot of things on my mind during that ride. Let’s just say I had a hard time staying relaxed, and consequently was much more sore than usual after a mere 500 mile day.
I was constantly looking back. I was also analyzing every situation ahead and how it might affect my group. In the forefront of my mind was every action by the leader that I’ve always hated having to deal with when on a group ride.
– On single lane, passing every car in sight and then charging ahead before the group is finished: It means that the last people in the group must speed to catch up. I hate that because I’m usually that last person.
– Not selecting a side of the lane, making staggered riding awkward: The leader doesn’t have the visual clues to remind him/her to stagger, but it’s even more important that he do so. When a leader can’t stick to one side, the rest of the group will have to adjust constantly. Dangerous. And the leader looks like an ass.
– On multi-lane, lane changes that split the group: If the leader puts his signal on, the sweep is supposed to move over and make room first. If the leader just charges in, it tends to split up the group. And then the last people have to speed and make lots of lane changes to catch up.
– Consistent speed on the superslab: If you go too slow, the riders behind will wonder what’s wrong. If you go too fast, they’ll think you’re a crazed speed demon. If you do both, you’ll drive them nuts.
Actually, Bluepoof did a great post on this a year or two ago (a much more entertaining read than mine). I admit I was thinking about it both last Saturday and that day several months ago when I was on a ride with her and a few other ST.Ners. The leader on that particular ride was particularly bad.
With all this on my mind, I’m sure I was a pretty good leader as far as being considerate to the group, but they weren’t the only things bothering me. Another reason that I don’t like leading is that I’m not that fast in curves. Furthermore, I absolutely hate it when someone is behind me to observe my awful lines and “parking” whenever I fear gravel or other traction issues.
But really, I had a great time on Saturday. The ride up was uneventful and the twisties on the way home were a lot of fun. Compared to most sportbike riders, the group (a R1150GS, V-Strom1k, and a VFR) had pretty iron butts. We took breaks only every 80 miles and I’m told they could easily have gone longer than that. I focused on keeping a smooth, relaxed pace with only a few hiccups (read “parked it”) on a section of gravelly chip-seal. When we got closer to home, one of the other riders took over because he knew the route from there better than I did. This helped my state of mind immensely and I was able to have even more fun following him.
Do try the banana-blueberry pie at the Koffee Kup if you’re ever in the area. I’ll post a photo or two later.