Monday, August 25, 2014

A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit. (Arnold H. Glasow)

 We rolled the bikes to the elevator, down to our garage level, and over to the car. Then we drove south to the start of the Everglades Bicycle Club Tour de Redland. A morning of riding with friends in the open Redland agricultural district of Miami-Dade.

We had a great time. Musing about the ride as we drove home, my mind drifted to thoughts of border collies. (Stay with me here.) When you ride in a group, you have to have leaders. Someone has to make the calls. Different cycling groups call them different names, but Everglades Bicycle Club calls them "ride leaders."

Sunday I had the bad luck of getting caught up in a multi-bike crash. If you've ever been in one of these things, you know that it all happens so fast, you really only see what is right in front of you. In my case it was a friend that I was certain I was going to kill because I was definitely going to run over her. Seconds later, as I looked around from my position on the pavement, relief surged over me when I saw my friend stand up, dazed but not looking badly hurt. Friends helped me to my feet, righted my bike, and got me to the side of the road, kindly handing me items (cell phone, helmet mirror, etc.) that had scattered when I fell. A quick check assured me that I was OK with only minor scrapes. Only then did I have a chance to look around. To my amazement, the group had all been moved off the road and bike checks and people checks were rapidly being done. We were a big group. But the ride leaders were moving quickly around, creating order from chaos. No hysteria. No soap opera dramatics. Just quick (and may I say polite as well) action.

Well done, ride leaders.

Okay. So now you are wondering how this ties in with border collies. Well, first, I just happen to think border collies are great, great dogs. But, second, I've seen border collies in action. We often traveled in areas where these dogs earn their kibble by herding on ranches and farms. Once, somewhere in Arkansas as I recall, we took a shortcut on a ranch road between two rural highways. As we were enjoying the lovely route, we got an up-close and personal experience with one of these amazing dogs. As we passed an entrance to a ranch, a border collie darted out and cut us off. He never threatened us. He never made us think he might do us any real harm. But he firmly made his wants known. He was dead set on herding us to the ranch. Finally we just got off our bikes. We were laughing. The border collie, tail wagging, ears alert, and eyes firmly fixed on us, had won. We got away the only way we could, by slowly walking our bikes past the dog and down the road.

The ride leaders are a lot like that border collie. Good leaders, they're friendly but firm. They keep the group heading where they need to go, at a consistent speed. They set the rules for the group, and (again, friendly but firm) let you know if you are doing something you shouldn't. It's not an easy job. Depending on the day and the group of riders, we can be undisciplined and skittish, more interested in the next sprint area than the next intersection. But somehow the ride leaders manage and make us look fairly good out there as we wheel down the road.

Thanks, guys. Well done.