Monday, March 16, 2009

What's it mean to be a ride leader?

I'll give you more thoughts on this tomorrow. Why tomorrow you ask? Because tomorrow evening I'll be leading a Greenville Spinners group ride out of Donaldson Industrial park. I'll be riding out front for the beginning of the Country II ride (18-19mph avg speed). I say 'for the beginning' because it takes teamwork to maintain that kind of pace on a road bike.

It looks like last week's little write-up got me noticed - but hey, who am I fooling, why else would I write something like that and post it on the Greenville Spinners - Yahoo Group ? Actually, it's not about getting noticed so much as simply wanting to communicate to {whoever will listen / read} the great time I had. Maybe it will motivate someone else to join in the ride, maybe it will help someone else decide to volunteer as a ride leader. Besides, it really is fun to write out my experiences. It helps when I am inspired - as I was that night.

A couple of weekends ago, I joined the crowd from Upstate SORBA for a trail ride followed by a trail work day. We met up at the main parking area for the Issaqueena trail system near Clemson. We had about 10 riders join us. SORBA super volunteer BRADO1 'volunteered' me to lead the ride. It's actually a pretty cool feeling to be asked. A bit of an honor in fact. I was a bit nervous, as I had never 'officially' led a group ride with people I didn't really know. Most of my riding has been with friends - I mean who's really leading when the whole group knows the trails, knows everyone else's abilities, etc? Or, I've been just another rider on a group road ride.

So, that day at Issaqueena was my first real opportunity to lead a ride. We had a dad and his 8 year old son along with us, so I was a little nervous about losing them. We headed down the Dam Road Trail and wouldn't you know it, we got to a major intersection and waited.....and waited.....and waited. We lost the dad and his son. Feeling bad about it, I asked the group if they minded if I rode back to check on them. Thanks to one of the group (I forget his name!) who led me back up the dam road trail (on a single speed no less) to look for them. We didn't find them, but what could we do, the trails are relatively difficult to get lost, and I knew the guy had a map.

So we took off and headed down the pine tree trail, hooked into rocky extension and then down over to five forks. This is a fun and fast section where at last year's Clemson Challenge I managed to pass a number of other competitors. A really cool fast section leads you into two twisty sets of hairpins before dropping you into the five forks area. From there it was across the Lawrence trail, up the indian springs connector to the Indian springs logging road. We stopped to clear some blowdown before the final climb to rocket down the Hardwood forest trail.

The Hardwood forest trail takes you down this wicked fun section only to dump you at the base of arguably the toughest climb in Issaqueena - it takes it out of you. To make it worse, there was a little mud on the trail. Thanks to my brand new Michelin tires (I know, shameless plug!), I had plenty of traction and made the climb sucessfully. We had to wait a little at the top for everyone to catch up.

A little traverse across a connector trail and then rocketing down Collarbone. Fun and fast, this trail could definitely put some hurting on you if you took a spill. A brief stop at the intersection of Lawrence trail showed we had lost another of our group. Derrick from Clemson Cyclery volunteered to cruise back up the hill to find our lost sheep. Alas, Derrick returned alone. Another one gone. Our last intersection was at very close to the parking lot, so the assumption was he headed that way (confirmed later when we caught back up with him).

We continued down Collarbone and connected to Rocky Logging road back to Five Forks. Jumping over to the fire road, we made our way to Vomit. No, we didn't do a group vomit, the trail name is vomit. Normally, I ride up the fire road and down this little trail. We decided to ride up to to connect with Dalton Road. It's a fun little techy climb with really only one spot to give some trouble - a steep and sharp switchback. It pays to be in the right gear - or at least quick with the gears.

Continuing up Dalton Road, we took a right towards the top of Wildcat technical. At the top, there is an unnamed trail that splits between Wildcat technical and Chainbreaker. This is a fun little trail with a nice flow. Our group flew down this trail to the base of wildcat technical. Again we stopped once to clear some blowdown from the trail. Now our little group was staying intact - a little spread out in the more technical areas, but quickly re-grouping at the intersections.

From here, we decided to head over to the downhill area. This is a wicked cool place built by the Clemson Freeride club (normally found at but I can't seem to connect to the site as I write this). These guys are some really hard workers and have built some really cool stuff. Of course, I am not a freeride guy, but I enjoy seeing what they have done, and several from the group had not seen it either. There is a really fun downhill course that does not include super hardcore jumps. Derrick showed us the way down this route. It was a great time. We did a brief stop at the parking lot and who comes riding up? Yep, Dad and his son.

They had jumped off the Dam road trail somewhere and onto the road. Although they missed riding with us, it sounds like they had a good time going down to the lake, across the lake trail and linking together some others to find us at the bottom of the downhill course. It was all uphill for them to get to the top of the DH course, so they decided to follow us out.

We headed out by the roads and our group started to spread out. Feeling bad for losing Shaun and his son earlier in the day, I stayed back with them to enjoy the ride. We linked back into five forks and onto the Lawrence trail. I came to a stop at an intersection after putting down a little hammer on a climb and waited for them. When Daniel came riding up to me and his dad, he looked at me and said "Wow, you're fast". Although I didn't say it, I thought 'Wow, you're only 8!'. In a few years, that kid is going to be far faster than I have ever been.

A brief consultation of the map and we decided to take it straight up Collarbone for a direct shot up to the cars. You can imagine if this is such a fun and fast trail going down, it has a good grade when going up. As I rode up to the top of the trail, I had a few chances to talk to Shaun as we waited for Daniel to make his way up the hill. Shaun told me they had clocked about 15 miles on the day - that is he and Daniel had clocked 15 miles. It was the longest day for the young rider and Shaun was wicked proud how he handled it.

As I drove away from the trailhead, I realized that sometimes you don't have to be out in front of the group to be a leader, sometimes the leaders can be found in the back of the pack.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the help and for leading the group! very much appreciated, and sorry you guys were left behind for the work party! before you know it.... you'll be leading this group ;)


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