I was coming home from a terrible encounter with the Palisades climb. One of my friends who’s been cycling for a couple of years was talking about one of the regular rides she does with a friend.
“So, the thing is that the ride leaves at nine but nobody shows up at nine except Peggy, and she’s, you know, ready to ride. At nine.”
“Uh-huh?” I asked, wondering what the problem was.
“Yeah. She’s ready to ride, but other people aren’t ready until you know, sometimes fifteen or twenty after. It really irritates her.”
“What do you mean ‘aren’t ready to ride’? They’re still doing pilates warm-ups?”
“No, silly. They don’t get there until five or ten minutes after, or maybe somebody has to find a parking space because they drove down, or they’re finishing their coffee. That kind of thing. And it’s annoying to Peg because she’s been off the bike with that broken collarbone and everyone else is really fit and she’s like, hey, ‘I want to get my ride in. I want to ride.'”
“Still not sure I see the problem.”
“Well, what’s the etiquette? Is it okay to leave even though other people aren’t ready? Or they’re running late? That’s not really cool, is it?”
“No,” I said. “It’s definitely not cool. But so what? I stopped trying to be cool when I was thirteen.”
The thorny issue of departure times
It seemed easy at first. It’s Peg’s ride. She sets the time. If people aren’t there or aren’t ready or whatever, she leaves. It’s simple.
But of course it isn’t, and it’s complicated because Peg’s ride, like a whole lot of rides, aren’t set up right. And I discussed this with my friend.
“A ride needs two elements and two only.”
“What’s that?” she asked.
“A start time and a leader. That’s it. The leader leaves at the start time. Everyone who’s late or who had to get the kids off to school or who had to check one more social media post chases. Or they ride alone. Or they start a different ride.”
“It is, until people get used to it. Then it’s the opposite of rude. It’s the kindest thing you can do for a fellow cyclist: tell them when you’re leaving and always leave at that time. It lets them plan. In fact, once you’ve drilled the time in over and over again, it becomes a self-starting thing that needs no repetition. Take the Wheatgrass Ride. It leaves at 8:05 whether Iron Mike is there or not. Or the NPR. 6:40 AM, right? If you show up at 6:41, you chase. Even the Donut … it leaves at 8:05. And remember those rides to the Rock? Six o’clock sharp. No one ever complained past the first two rides. You know why?”
“Because the people who can’t get to a bike ride on time stopped coming to that one. They slept in. So the only people left were the ones who knew how to set a clock and not hit ‘snooze.'”
“But it’s hard to get people to be punctual.”
“Why worry about other people? Set the time, tell your friends, and then go ride. What’s the worst that can happen? You have to ride by yourself? You’ll eventually attract people who are punctual like you, and instead of waiting around for twenty minutes you can do your ride and get on with your day.”
“I don’t know … ”
“Oh, and one other thing.”
“If it’s your ride … ”
“Don’t show up late.”
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