On Sunday, we rode with Ken's friend, Brendan. He'd never been on a snowboard before, but is an expert kite surfer, so we expected him to manage all right. Still, Ken and I were blown away when, on the first run down, he started linking turns consistently. It never even occurred to him to just stay on his heel side and plow down the mountain, the standard newbie approach.
Anyway, Ken and I would end up waiting a couple of minutes at the bottom of the run for him. He'd show up, and without fuss we'd just get in the line and ride up. No whining, apologies, or excuses. Even when he was getting his ass kicked on harder runs, he never once complained, and seemed willing to try out anything. At one point, he told us we should just do some runs without him, and so we did. No big deal. He was, in fact, the ideal newbie.
This made me think about how to ride bikes with people who are significantly slower or faster than you. Being the most mediocre cyclist I know, I can speak to both.
On Riding with Faster Riders
1. Don't make excuses or offer apologies. Nobody cares that you were sick all week or lost a leg in a bus accident. Really, it doesn't matter. Nothing worse than having to constantly affirm the slow rider. To this day, I am impressed by my friend Jasper, who, SEVERELY hungover, got up early the morning after my wedding to help set up the BBQ tent and play bride vs. groom ultimate with us. He just went to a corner of the field, threw up, and kept going. Not a peep out of the guy.
2. Offer the fast guys the option of taking off. Do this once, and only once. If they say "no," don't make them keep reassuring you it's ok if they wait.
3. Accept the pull. Let the strong guys do the work. No shame in this. Make a little effort here and there, and that will be appreciated.
4. Stay within your limits and take care of yourself. As the most crampy person around, I know that if I cramp up, it's all over. You thought I was slow before? Watch this, motherfucker. So I eat, drink, take my salt pills, and go at a brisk, but sustainable pace.
5. Have fun. In most cases, the fast guys are prepared to wait. What they're not prepared to do is play emotional babysitter. Waiting is fine if the waitee is having a good time.
On Riding with Slower Riders
1. Don't make a big deal of it. In fact, don't mention it even once. The slower rider doesn't want to feel like you're doing them a favor.
2. Wait for a second at the regroup. It's kind of demoralizing to stagger to the top of a climb, see everyone else happily hanging out, then scatter when you roll up. "That was the funniest story ever! Oh, look who's here! Wow, look at the time! I gotta go."
3. Pull more. Just take it easy, Hercules.
4. Avoid the urge to jump on faster groups when they go by. Your ego will heal. If you want, you can immediately start launching into a long involved story at the top of your lungs, so it's clear you're on a recovery ride with your newbie friend.
5. You are allowed to offer one brief piece of advice to a newbie, so choose wisely. However, if the slow rider is your spouse, don't even bother. You might as well be speaking Esperanto. Also, I know the pros do it, but NEVER push, unless asked, especially if the slow person is of the opposite sex. I was on the AIDS Ride in 2001, and someone told me that a total stranger just reached over and started pushing her up the hill. She was so pissed that she turned around and rode the hill again. If you're a woman and start pushing a guy up the hill, he will be either turned on or totally emasculated. Unless these are your goals, it's probably a bad move. Plus, men are sweaty. Yuck.