Does your train leave on time?

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.”

“Seems rude.”

“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.”

“What’s that?”

“If it’s your ride … ”


“Don’t show up late.”


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27 thoughts on “Does your train leave on time?”

  1. Peter Schindler

    That about covers it. If you want the ride to leave on time, leave on time.

    1. Ha, ha! Some things are needlessly complicated. Merely stating that I was going to have an “alternate” coffee ride leaving promptly at 8:00 set off a teapot of controversy.

  2. A few observations (based on my experience):

    Donut is a soft 8:05. More like 8:08 +/-2. Used to be 8:10 all the time.

    Kettle is 7:09 +/-3.

    LaGrange (Sunday) is 8:10 +/-3.

    Hummer/Pre-dawn group is uberpunctual (5:08).

    Konsmo group is also punctual (1 min or 2 late at most), but the departure time varies by day.

    Wednesday Mandy is 6:43 +/-2, though they do a ~10-min loop to start.

    1. Hummer/Konsmo groups also have this in common: a leader.

      NPR remains the gold standard. 6:40 or you chase, which is nice because you can almost always predict when the group will be at certain place along the route.

    2. LaGrange Sunday used to be 8:30 am sharp. Back in the day where the restaurant staff rode it. Any earlier was not very good as they worked late the night before. It did go off once a bit later when Daniel Morelon and the others from the French National team rode it. Their coach rode it too. I thought that was impressive at the time.

      But in general, when the Walrus of a ride shows up and saddles up, that is when the ride goes off.

  3. Yup. Those are the rules. You need a leader to lead. And the leader gets to make the ride decisions. The other dynamic that makes rides interesting is the “uninvited”. Some rides are private. Ride with friends kinds of rides. Some rides are public because they are filled with so many people it’s like Facebag friends. The uninvited can join the public ride because wtf knows who those people are. But when the uninvited try and join the private “ride with friends” ride it gets awkward. Let’s get some suggestions to solve that.

    1. Build a fence around the ride and keep away those unwanted cyclists. Or better yet, meet in your garage, padlock the door, and ride free from those intruders who dare to think the roads are free.


  4. It”s like an airline. Show up late and you miss it. Catch the next one….maybe.

  5. The leader concept is important. Of course with some groups there is a hierarchy of leadership. If so and so shows up, he leads, if not I lead. When I am not leading, I fall back to keep a handle on the stragglers. No Dropish. When I lead, I still drop back ;).

    It is also good to state flat out what your ride will be, or if you can stand the whining inputs ask “What do people feel like doing?” and then try to satisfy amap. Actually the question would be “Does anyone have time restrictions?” so you can figure out where to turn them home, or split the group.

    I suppose also if you lead, you better know where you are going. I am surprised at how many times we have been in so many places, and people that have been there before still do not have any idea where they are.

    1. We had a great little ride this morning. It left at the advertised time, 8:00:00, and only a couple of people missed the start. We regrouped at the coffee stop, drank, and rode home.

  6. The Tour of the Neighborhoods East always left Peet’s Sundays at 7:00 AM and folks either made it or skipped the ride. I tend to be punctual so I am a believer in leaving on time. After the first time where the ride leaves when it’s supposed to, people will be prompt, or they’ll do another ride. Then again, if I do Nichols, I need a head start….

    1. Yep. It’s as close to binary as we get these days.

      Get there on time and leave with the group.

      Or don’t.

  7. In the Air Force if you weren’t 5 minutes early you were late. The NPR is great because if you don’t remember you can always look at your kit right shoulder and see the time, 6:40 and see COTKU on the left in case you forgot where to go. I wonder who came up with that? Today, so many devices have GPS time such as cycle computers and mobile phones so you can’t say my watch is wrong or my clock stopped. That all being said, LA is LA and people are really LAX on promptness. Sorry about the aviation pun.

    1. Ha, ha!

      They are lax just because they haven’t been potty trained yet. Show up once or twice and realize that you’ve missed the train and somehow they become prompt.

  8. If you ride with the Hummer group their ain’t no waitin’ for no one (that even includes Hummer). This, I know quite well…..

  9. David Huntsman

    Velo605 in Corona del Mar rides at, well, 6:05am. Not really any room for confusion there! The train leaves on time.

  10. Steve Labansky used to be the “leader” of the Montrose ride. He was a great leader and helped keep the ride safe. 8:10 departure, but also he would go to the front and stop traffic at testy points and generally keep people riding more safely. But when someone once ploughed into the back of a pick up truck bc they had their head down and were flying down Huntington, the rider chose to sue Labansky as ride leader. And Labansky had to pay him off meaningful $ to make the suit go away, for fear of losing his shop. So leaders are good, but there’s a downside to being the leader too.

  11. I have heard if you want the ride to leave at 9am sharp set the ride for 845am when Enough people that said they were coming arrive which is usually around 850am and get their bikes off their car by 855am you roll out. Problem is if you set it for 9am sharp and no one shows up to 9:05am. You can leave on time but then youj aren’t leading a ride but going on a solo ride.

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