With the help of some club members and an idea, it was put forth to create a novice pace (D if you will) grouping for the club rides a couple of nights a week. I have had the privilege of being the ride leader most nights, and it has been a whole lot of fun and largely successful. The idea was to make a group that actually went the speed of the slowest member and stuck together as a group, not only as a teaching tool, but also to allow for that feeling of camaraderie that forms between a bunch of riders. The pace is between 11-15MPH average. 11 allows for the group to be back at the starting point before dark, the ride is 19 miles.
For the months that this ride has been going on, the distance alone has been enough to deter anyone who wasn't capable of doing it. Let me define that a bit. There is no problem with going slow, but the group rides on the presumption that all riders are at least familiar with the bike enough to know how to operate the gears and brakes, and is fit enough to actually go 19 miles at 11 MPH. It certainly is not much to many of the riders here, or even a fit young person, however there are many people who could not do this.
Tonight, I experienced this first hand. I absolutely have to give this person props on the can do attitude. She mentioned never having done a group ride before, we had a bit of a safety briefing and discussed the distance and time requirement, and she assured me she could make it. We took off down the first road and immediately myself and the other participants were well ahead. The first stop is right up that road to collect everyone after a stop sign, asked if all was well, and she stated yes and resumed the ride. It was fairly evident not far in that she was nowhere near prepared to be outside a neighborhood or big parking lot learning how to operate her bicycle. I attempted to give a few "on the fly" instructions, but the result was we turned around and got her safely back to the shop. Afterward the rest of the group resumed a shorter loop in order to get miles in for the afternoon.
Went though all the backstory to get to this.
I want new riders to feel welcome, but at the same time I recognize that there is a certain base level of knowledge and ability on the bike required as to be able to keep up with the group, even at a slow pace, and for safety issues.
How could something like this be avoided, before the ride, without embarrassment to the potential riders, or against the spirit of the ride?