So Saturday my club had its New Member Ride. A nice opportunity to get large numbers of club members together with newer members. As usual, I swept the D ride (11-12mph). We meet at a local train station parking lot (this is important later on) and park there because parking is free on weekends.
One guy shows up with a newish low-end Trek (probably 3 yrs old, but it looks unused). He's wearing a snow bike helmet. Think full head-coverage football helmet (or maybe even motorcycle helmet), but with even more padding, a full layer of insulation, and no ventilation (but technically legal since it does have all the appropriate SNELL certifications). He's also wearing a long-sleeve black technical tee and a black fleece vest. On a day forecasted to be 82-85 degrees with no clouds and a strong sun. When I suggest that he might not be very comfortable he assures me that he'll be just fine and that he's "... in very good shape ...". Hokay.
Club president gives the usual safety speech and says a couple of words to the new members -- especially the words about how to ride in a group and if you're not really familiar with the bike/experienced with the bike, this is not a good ride for you. I ask this guy if he's okay with all that and he says that he's "... in very good shape ...". Hokay.
About a mile from the start we hit open road (a nicely maintained bike lane running next to a busy road) and start picking up the pace, but he's falling further and further behind. I close the distance to him and see that he's in the lowest possible gear and pedaling furiously (had to have been 120 or 130 rpm). So I suggest that he might want to shift to a higher gear. He nods and immediately hits the brakes -- almost a panic stop -- without any warning. My choices are (1) hit him, (2) swerve out into the traffic that's doing 40mph, or (3) go up on the curb. I go up on the curb, get unclipped just in time but fall and gash my right ankle.
"Why the !#^@*!! did you stop", I ask. "Oh, so I could change gears", he answers. In other words, he hasn't the foggiest notion how to change gears. I'm not at ALL interested in teaching him, but two other long-standing club members circle back, hear the problem, and give him a Cliff-Notes version of how to change gears while I stop my ankle from bleeding.
Yes, I probably shouldn't have been that close to him, but I WAS trying to talk to him at the time.
Anyway, we eventually proceed, with him and three others falling further and further behind to the point where I'm now leading a very slow group instead of sweeping the normally slow group. At the next light, one of the women in this very slow group is complaining about how hard it is to pedal, even on the flats and downhills. I look at her bike and see two things: (1) the front wheel is on reversed (the quick release lever is on the right instead of the left and is tightened WAAAY too tight, and (b) the front brake cable is so taut that the front brake is fully engage while she's riding. It's amazing that she didn't go over the handlebars but because the brake was fully engaged she couldn't get up enough speed to go over the handlebars. Turns out it's a new bike that she picked up that morning from her LBS. I do NOT want to mess with the brake cable (what if I make them too loose and her brake stops working?), so I tell her to walk back to the start.
Meanwhile, the Mr. Helmet is also struggling up hills. His wheels are turning freely, but now I notice that he's in one of the higher gearings possible. "Well, I thought I was in good shape", is the only reply he gives when I suggest that he might want to downshift for hills. His face is literally beet red and I've never seen someone sweating that badly. When I suggest that he might want to take off the fleece vest, he tells me that he's "... in very good shape ...". Hokay.
I do drop back about 500 yards every time I see him reach for a shift lever.
We inch our way forward to the turnaround point. At one point, I notice Mr. Helmet take something out of his backpack and start holding it against his handlebar while he's riding. I move in and see that it's a !@#%!^^* Blackberry, and he's busy texting. I tell him to put it away before I take it away from him. I'm not sure that I can take it away from him, but fate intervenes in the form of a pothole that he doesn't see until too late, and his Blackberry is now a nice jigsaw puzzle spread out across the road. The tires of an oncoming car administer the coup de grace to the thing.
On the way back, we have to take this steep hill (it WAS fun going down the hill). I'm in the lead, followed by a woman (who knows what she's doing but is out of shape), followed by another guy (who also knows what he is doing but is out of shape), and then Mr. Helmet. The woman and I make it to the top, but no sign of the other two. I mean, we can't see them from the top of the hill (there are some hidden spots due to trees, dips in the hill, and parked cars). We wait and wait and wait, but nothing. Finally, another rider comes up the hill. "Did you see two riders down there?" I ask. "Nope, nobody", he says. Nothing to do but head down the hill, where we promptly come upon my two riders about half-way down. They're both off their bikes.
The other guy is busy working on Mr. Helmet's bike. It seems that Mr. Helmet's entire rear wheel simply came off the bike. Best guess is that the quick release wasn't clamped down. In coming off, it's done some serious damage to the derailleur (sp?). It takes about 20 minutes of work, including some borrowed tools from a nearby homeowner, but the other guy has things put back together enough that we can continue as long as we don't have to take that big hill. By the way, during all of this, Mr. Helmet is sitting under a tree looking like he's going to die and repeating over and over again "I thought I was in good shape".
We have to go about a mile out of our way to avoid the big hill, but eventually we're about 1-1/2 miles from the parking lot where the cars are parked when disaster really strikes. Mr. Helmet's derailleur separates from the frame -- the metal has snapped -- wraps the chain around his frame, and takes out about the half the spokes on his rear wheel. It's probably a result of the damage done in the first incident, and he ain't going anywhere. So I ride back to the parking lot with the others, get my car, drive back to this guy (who is sprawled out in the shade looking like death warmed over), put his bike on my rack, and drive back to the parking lot.
Only his car isn't in the parking lot where we were supposed to park. "Oh, it's over there" he says, pointing to the parking lot of a Chinese restaurant across the street from the train station parking lot. Except it's not. Because the Chinese restaurant, being awfully sensitive to commuters who park in their lot, has a towing policy (and lots of big signs warning about it). And they've had his car towed.
Once again, I'm not feeling terriby charitable towards this guy, so I leave his bike, the phone number of a local cab company, and let him deal with getting his car from the towing company.