After a few of those, Russ, the fearless leader of 7BSC, decided to change the old Sunday ride routine, that of meeting at Bojangles, then riding around the area for 50 or 60 miles until everyone split up and went home. He wanted to join in on our rides. So we let them in.
Because I had been doing it anyway, I began leading. Almost every Sunday since. Almost every long ride too, including North Carolina several times, the Natchez Trace Parkway, Charleston, Tampa, Apalachicola and even Virginia and back.
I do it because I love it. I enjoy planning the routes, finding the best roads to traverse to make the ride as pleasant as possible. In doing so, I have found roads that I never would have ridden, even in my back yard of Jacksonville.
A conservative estimate is that I have led at least 40,000 miles of rides. These rides had between three and twenty five riders. Never an escort.
In leading, I have discovered what might make a good leader. I have failed at times, too. What I have learned:
I have discovered that the best number of riders for me is up to six or seven. That many can be observed easily. I can tell if they are dropping back, or missed a traffic light. We always wait if someone gets held up, but when we have a big group, it is hard for me to see what happens in the back.
We usually ride country roads. On these, I have found that the best speed for the group to travel is a few mph faster than the posted limit. This allows us to blend in while not holding up others. We get passed occasionally, but pass sometimes too.
Our club is a group of seasoned riders. Most ride on many rides each year. I know how the regular riders fit into the group. It is a cohesive group, always in a staggered formation. When a new rider comes along, we usually just see how they do and offer advice if we see something that doesn't fit our normal routine.
Sometimes, someone will show up on a 150, or even smaller. This is fine on some rides, but on most Sunday rides, we have some ground to cover. Puttering around doesn't work. But we give it a shot anyway. We will put the slow newcomer in second, right behind me. I then gauge their speed and try to maintain enough pace that we are not causing problems on the road. We had one a few months ago on a Chinese 150. He said it would go 60 mph, but when I tested it against my GPS, I found that he started dropping back as soon as I passed 51. He thought he should drop off and go home, but I encouraged him that we were fine and he continued to the lunch destination, then rode home with the group. Two weeks later he showed up with a new Kymco 300 GTI, and has ridden with us on almost every ride since.
I have had a few failures while leading. It is usually due to poor planning. The GPS has sent us on the wrong road a few times. Once led to me dropping a scooter, turning around on the steepest incline ever ridden. The other lack of planning problem, is that I do not always locate a lunch stop on the heading out leg of the overnight rides. Not knowing where to stop makes me feel like I am not doing my job well enough.
Riding is my favorite thing to do these days and leading this fine group of friends makes it even better.
On the Strom Thurmond Dam on the very first ride to the mountains in 2011.
The group on the Cherohala Skyway in 2013
Rocket behind my brother David's BMW in North Carolina in 2013
Parking lot on the Skyway on that trip
Five of us on a 200 mile side ride in Virginia in 2015
Eighteen riders on this year's Bridges Ride.
I sometimes take photos while leading. This one from the Bridges Ride.