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To Lead or Not to Lead?

Old 12-30-19, 11:46 AM
  #1  
indyfabz
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To Lead or Not to Lead?

https://www.outsideonline.com/2407239...-job-nightmare

I found this article fascinating. My first tour was an unsupported, group tour across the U.S., likely with the same organization the author led for. Our group had a couple of the same personalities she encountered, although not as extreme. Our leader was also trouble and had to be replaced.

During our 93 days on the road I started to wonder whether I would like to lead tours in the future. I certainly had my doubts, but another part of me thought I would enjoy it. A few days after the trip ended I started my three-week solo ride home. Experiencing group touring and solo touring back to back convinced me that leading is not for me.
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Old 12-30-19, 12:03 PM
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I have no doubt that I would never tour in a group or even with another person. If I meet someone along the way who happens to be riding at the same pace, I may see them later or never again, and that’s fine by me.
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Old 12-30-19, 12:10 PM
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If there's one thing I've learned in all my years and over multiple disciplines is to never make a definitive decision before you've tried it. Provided its something you're curious about and at least have some interest in.
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Old 12-30-19, 12:11 PM
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Been a leader, now pretty much solo.
Solo cuts down on arguments
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Old 12-30-19, 12:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Pratt View Post
Been a leader, now pretty much solo.
Solo cuts down on arguments
Somewhat... I've been know to be by the side of the road swearing my head off at "someone" a few times while solo

Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
https://www.outsideonline.com/2407239...-job-nightmare

I found this article fascinating. My first tour was an unsupported, group tour across the U.S., likely with the same organization the author led for. Our group had a couple of the same personalities she encountered, although not as extreme. Our leader was also trouble and had to be replaced.

During our 93 days on the road I started to wonder whether I would like to lead tours in the future. I certainly had my doubts, but another part of me thought I would enjoy it. A few days after the trip ended I started my three-week solo ride home. Experiencing group touring and solo touring back to back convinced me that leading is not for me.
I used to lead wilderness backpacking trips and was a Scout leader for seven years and enjoyed that, mostly from the feeling of exposing kids to the outdoors and passing on skills. What I liked about Scouts was the emphasis on self reliance that short circuited expectations of doing it for them.

I also belong to a dive club and loath organizing functions for adults. While we complain about millennials a lot I find boomers to be horrible to coordinate. It's like herding cats. We are old enough and usually wealthy enough to want what we want when we want it and tend to lack the "give and take' group activities require. Being somewhat raised by the military, I naturally organize myself to fit the schedule while it seems many peers try to rearrange the schedule to keep from being organized (rant over!).

As a result, I solo dive and mostly solo ride but will join in if something is happening. Rarely will I inflict myself with the desire to organize though sometimes I think of doing so to take some friends through the Icefield Parkway from Jasper to Banff. So far, two summers in a row without anyone being able to agree on a time for booking holidays.

I would say if you want to enjoy the ride don't lead. If you want to help others enjoy the ride and don't mind the grief, lead... at your peril

Last edited by Happy Feet; 12-30-19 at 12:54 PM.
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Old 12-30-19, 12:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Happy Feet View Post
Somewhat... I've been know to be by the side of the road swearing my head off at "someone" a few times while solo
I think many of us have.

Last edited by indyfabz; 12-30-19 at 01:13 PM.
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Old 12-30-19, 01:13 PM
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Originally Posted by KraneXL View Post
If there's one thing I've learned in all my years and over multiple disciplines is to never make a definitive decision before you've tried it. Provided its something you're curious about and at least have some interest in.
I have led plenty of club day rides. I know I would not be a good multi-day tour leader. It takes a certain temperament, especially in the area of resolving conflicts, that I don't think I possess. As the author describes, a lot of crazy stuff can go on during trips like the ones she led (and like the one I went on).

Personally, I get somewhat pissed off when I see someone repeatedly and intentionally being selfish. I know it would show as a leader. When our group had to carry groceries a ways to camp the work shirker would rush to the cart(s) when the shoppers emerged from the store and grab the lightest things he could get his hands on. I don't know if he knew that everyone else knew his game, but we did. On the day when he and someone else were responsible for cleaning group cooking gear after breakfast he would toss a bag of trash in the dumpster and sneak out of camp as if he had done his fair share, leaving his partner with the rest of the chores. Not only was that unfair to his partner, it delayed everyone who carried any of the group gear that was used for breakfast. We usually pitched in and did his work for him. I always wondered if he thought doing dishes was beneath him or a "women's work." (He was in his 60s back then.) Near the end of the trip he confessed that his girlfriend, who was a psychologist, suggested going on the trip in order to learn to get along better with people. Didn't work.
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Old 12-30-19, 01:21 PM
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Thanks for the link indy. I actually met the writer Caitlin briefly during my 2009 TransAm tour. She had concluded her ill fated Southern Tier tour and she and her mom stopped on their way back to Portland to visit a member of our westbound group in Farmington MO. The previous summer Caitlin had led the TransAm with a very small group of men, one of whom was riding it again with our group. I only chatted with her briefly before she went out to dinner with her friend but I could sense that her Southern Tier was stressful and she was glad it was over.

Three of the four TransAm tours I led were rewarding. Should have stopped while I was ahead as the fourth trip included four participants who were stressful for me. No death threats or alcoholics, but two participants who would literally run around camp in the dark to get on the road at the crack of dawn, skip their leftovers clean up duty then arrive at the destination at noon. Another rider was quite needy and required mechanical and psychological support daily, and another (Caitlin's friend) who resented me from Day 1. He had a been there, done that attitude from last year's tour. That said, I'm still receiving friendly emails 10 years later from two of that group.

I don't think I would lead another tour even if I were younger.
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Old 12-30-19, 01:58 PM
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Old 12-30-19, 03:01 PM
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I've never lead a multi-day bicycle trip, but have done a few hiking/backpacking trips. I gave up on it, too frustrating trying to 'heard the cats'. Some great folks, but most did not heed any of the preparation advice I gave them that would make their trip enjoyable. I can't imagine what a group of bicycle riders would be like.
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Old 12-30-19, 05:25 PM
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Originally Posted by BobG View Post
Thanks for the link indy. I actually met the writer Caitlin briefly during my 2009 TransAm tour. She had concluded her ill fated Southern Tier tour and she and her mom stopped on their way back to Portland to visit a member of our westbound group in Farmington MO. The previous summer Caitlin had led the TransAm with a very small group of men, one of whom was riding it again with our group. I only chatted with her briefly before she went out to dinner with her friend but I could sense that her Southern Tier was stressful and she was glad it was over.
I was going to "tag" you but I figured you would find this thread. And I was wondering whether you ever met her.
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Old 12-30-19, 05:35 PM
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Originally Posted by skidder View Post
I've never lead a multi-day bicycle trip, but have done a few hiking/backpacking trips. I gave up on it, too frustrating trying to 'heard the cats'. Some great folks, but most did not heed any of the preparation advice I gave them that would make their trip enjoyable. I can't imagine what a group of bicycle riders would be like.
I went on a week-long, guided backcountry, backpack trip in Glacier National Park. Went with that option because I had never done any backpacking. Turned out I was the only one who signed up for that week. At the end of the trip the guide told me that I would have hated it if we had the full complement of 8 people basically because it would have been like herding cats of varying physical abilities. On trips like that, you cannot say "Ok. We are going to walk 5 miles up this trail to the pass. We'll regroup there." The group has to be kept close together in case of an injury, etc. The guide told me we would have been constantly stopping and waiting for the slowest person. Because it was just the two of us we got to go off the trails and do walk-up peaks and hang out above the tree (and bug) line for hours.

My guide was an animal. He started out with 78 lbs. to my 54. I offered to carry more of the food, but he wouldn't let me.


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Old 12-30-19, 05:53 PM
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I can't imagine being a trip leader, but some enjoy it. I was on two ACA trips. On one of them the leaders worked really hard. On the other the leaders appeared to be enjoying their paid vacation, although they did have to spend a few hours here and there checking the budgets.

I have done two longer tours solo, several other tours with a former co-worker. The ones I did solo, I am glad I did solo as there was no argument about how far to go each day, etc. But I do enjoy traveling with someone so the ones I did with the former co-worker, I enjoyed those too. This summer I am planning on another with the former co-worker.
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Old 12-30-19, 06:30 PM
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Organized and lead a weekly ride for over 20 years. Small potatoes when compared to leading a long distance tour, but enough of an experience to know that like some who drink, I ride alone.
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Old 12-30-19, 06:36 PM
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Just doing club rides locally convinced me I would not want to be the leader of those, let alone an extended tour. I surely take my turn at the front, but being the lead person for the ride and the group, no thanks.
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Old 12-30-19, 06:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Pratt View Post
Been a leader, now pretty much solo.
Solo cuts down on arguments
As it does on camaraderie. Kinda sidestepping the point, don't you think?
Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
I have led plenty of club day rides. I know I would not be a good multi-day tour leader. It takes a certain temperament, especially in the area of resolving conflicts, that I don't think I possess. As the author describes, a lot of crazy stuff can go on during trips like the ones she led (and like the one I went on).

Personally, I get somewhat pissed off when I see someone repeatedly and intentionally being selfish. I know it would show as a leader. When our group had to carry groceries a ways to camp the work shirker would rush to the cart(s) when the shoppers emerged from the store and grab the lightest things he could get his hands on. I don't know if he knew that everyone else knew his game, but we did. On the day when he and someone else were responsible for cleaning group cooking gear after breakfast he would toss a bag of trash in the dumpster and sneak out of camp as if he had done his fair share, leaving his partner with the rest of the chores. Not only was that unfair to his partner, it delayed everyone who carried any of the group gear that was used for breakfast. We usually pitched in and did his work for him. I always wondered if he thought doing dishes was beneath him or a "women's work." (He was in his 60s back then.) Near the end of the trip he confessed that his girlfriend, who was a psychologist, suggested going on the trip in order to learn to get along better with people. Didn't work.
Are leaders born or made? Leadership comes with its set of burdens. but it also has many benefits. For one, you should keep in mind that there are no new problems in human behavior, only new people performing them. Which is to say that for every problem you'll encounter there is a solution. Finding them are the burdens of leadership.

Having problems and issue with those around you is a part of life, and leaning how to adapt to and overcome them is an invaluable asset that serves to make YOU a better leader.

My solutions as a leader (oftentimes resistant) is to nip those problems in the bud. Address them immediately when you encounter them, and before they get out of control.
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Old 12-30-19, 07:25 PM
  #17  
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Indy-What the shirker was really saying was 'please add a few rocks to my panniers while I'm not looking'
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Old 12-30-19, 08:25 PM
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Helmets off to those who lead these cross-country trips. I've led club rides and a few multi-day rides with friends... but also have a sense leading/staffing an extended trip like this with paying customers is also a bit different.

I've also done a few extended rides as a customer (e.g. three TDA rides, two Spice Roads, a BikeChina,...) and the group dynamics were surprisingly varied between them - so I also get a sense of a bit of "luck of the draw" involved even with some common client types.

I wouldn't expressly go work for a company staffing trips with strangers. However, also wouldn't shy away from organizing for friends.
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Old 12-30-19, 09:49 PM
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A good friend led for a few years, each year ratcheting up the intensity, also designing a few tours for a couple of companies. A couple of years ago he hit his peter principle point and now he rides for his self. It was the clients that did in his motivation. Seems that paying a lot gets one a very high amount of entitlement, lost on these clients is that it takes a village to do a group tour thing. Andy
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Old 12-31-19, 12:19 AM
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I ran across a tour group in Montana. We couldn't help but talk to each other for a couple days.
I immediately sensed the animosity toward the two guys that were in great shape.
They complained that the group was going too slow.
It seems like an impossible task to get strangers together that have equal riding strength.
It's straining for everyone involved.
They seemed jealous of me by myself.
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Old 12-31-19, 10:02 AM
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What would be worst than an unbalanced person on a group bike tour would be that same unbalanced person on a sailing voyage where there is no escape beyond the confines of the boat. I've been fortunate in my long distance sailing as it has been with friends I had a high regard for. The close confines on a boat with civilized people you like is as fine an experience we social animals can have. I have heard of difficult voyages made more so by difficult people. There are people who do not do well in adversity and others, sociopaths, who view a group as a new set of victims.
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Old 12-31-19, 01:43 PM
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Berner- I was always pretty particular about who I sailed with. A bike trip would be the same. The flip side is a voyage/trip, easy or difficult is enhanced by good company.
PS: Used to live in Wickford
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Old 12-31-19, 03:18 PM
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Originally Posted by TiHabanero View Post
Organized and lead a weekly ride for over 20 years. Small potatoes when compared to leading a long distance tour, but enough of an experience to know that like some who drink, I ride alone.

Riding alone is how I most like to ride.
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Old 12-31-19, 03:52 PM
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I once witnessed an incident that resulted in a cyclist being kicked off a trip (not me, and I was a fellow client not staff).

It happened on the first TDA Istanbul to Beijing "Silk Route" ride in 2007. I had ridden my own cross-Asia trip earlier in 2007 (Amsterdam to Vladivostok) and then flew to western China to join the TDA trip in Turpan for the last 4000km of the ride.

It was interesting joining this ride 2/3 of the way along when social interactions/cliques and patterns had sorted themselves out. It had been a challenging trip and western China is a sparsely populated desert. In October it was starting to get cold camping at night. Take a set of challenged/frustrated by conditions and add a new discovery of fireworks available in these western towns - along with a 4 am setting off of such fireworks and some were a bit pissed off.

So we had a day not long after the fireworks wake-up when we had a long days ride. A construction traffic blockade prevented our support vehicles from reaching the hotel until later and it was a long and dirty ride with coal dust on the road and everywhere. So much of the group was waiting by the hotel for staff/gear to show up when suddenly another round of fireworks was set off. This was followed shortly thereafter by one of the Americans, "Big Dave" walking away from the scene of the crime with a big smirk on his face. That set off one of the more volatile Canadians, "JJ" who decided to give Big Dave a piece of his mind. It escalated from there. Neither Big Dave nor JJ were best at the "plays well with others" categories as they were at hurling verbal insults - and at some point JJ came over yelling to Big Dave who then pushed him back and onto the ground. JJ would have come up swinging, except for others quickly constraining him.

That evening we learned that Big Dave was officially kicked off the trip. Escalating to physical violence violated his rider agreement and TDA kicked him out. A chastened JJ lay low after that.

What made things more awkward was that while Big Dave was kicked off the trip, we were still several weeks from the end of the trip in Beijing. Rather than go home, Big Dave put a rucksack on and decided to "shadow" the group. Each evening when we came into a town, Big Dave would show up again in the same town. There was some speculation that some group members from his clique were helping to carry some of his gear - though I don't know if that was true. This made things a bit awkward because it was a reminder of him being kicked off the trip, but also sort of being around at the various stops we made. He kept this up through the last day - showing up at our finish point in Tienanmen Square roughly same time as the rest of the group, but not being part of official photos or celebration dinner.

In my observation, TDA handled things as well as they could have. I went on subsequent TDA rides with Africa 2013 and part of South America in 2017 and both the people and the dynamics were rather different - so also think it is sometimes the particular personality mixes. Perhaps also contributing was the 2007 Silk Route hadn't been done by TDA previously and hence there were perhaps a few who didn't have as good expectations.

Last edited by mev; 12-31-19 at 04:02 PM.
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Old 12-31-19, 05:43 PM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by Pratt View Post
Berner- I was always pretty particular about who I sailed with. A bike trip would be the same. The flip side is a voyage/trip, easy or difficult is enhanced by good company.
PS: Used to live in Wickford
Two of my favorite people, on or off a boat are women I've worked with in boat building and who have sailed thousands of miles across the Pacific or N. Atlantic. I've known them both about 35 years. They are very experienced sailors but more importantly, are good company. One of the highlights of my sailing years was a delivery trip we did from the US Virgin Islands to New York. The weather was perfect, blue skies and puffy white clouds day after day while we worked on all over tans. Sorry, no photos.
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