I suppose you could add many governments

That would be your Indoor Cycling Class and Outdoor Group Rides.

The concept of a democracy; social groups where everyone works together, contributes equally and respects the needs of others sounds good... but rarely works out well in the real world. I can't think of better places to demonstrate this than in your class or on an outdoor group ride. Both these collections of people require a leader... or chaos ensues. I suppose we could actually include any type of class with students. Many of us have memories of grade school or high school substitute teachers that couldn't keep control and the resulting mayhem when one, six or all the students decided that they were in charge.

Democracies don't work in either of these situations. Well functioning groups, be it your class or out on the road, require a leader. If there's no one obviously in charge, one or more of the participants will typically try to fill the vacuum.

You may have experienced this at some point in your teaching career. Maybe it was some participant in the back row holding court with those sitting around him. The effect is disrupting to your class and it may have irritated, if not angered you. I view a large part of this as simple disrespect, but sometimes it's not. It may be helpful to look at it a different way; the disruptive student may be trying to assert themselves as leader of your class. The next time you experience this situation, consider whether or not you asserted your leadership at the very beginning. Master trainer from ICG, Jim Karanas frequently talks about centering your class as part of the warm up. Beyond getting their attention and explaining what's coming next, centering is also asserting your position as the leader of the class.

I have a confession to make, I'm a big dog 🙂

For those of you who don't know me personally, your only experiences of me are listening to the podcast or reading things I've written here, you may have the impression that I'm this easy going, can't we all get along? kind of fellow. Please don't get this wrong, I really am easy to get along with. But put me in a group setting and I'm looking for the leader. If I don't see (or sense one), my personality is to assume leadership. I feel people who do know me will tell you that; "yes, John naturally becomes the leader." "But it isn't because he has to be the leader and control everything." "Its because he recognizes that the enjoyment of everyone in his Indoor Cycling class, and the safety of those riding outdoors with him depend on it."

Many of us are moving outdoors.

I can't think about better marker of success, for you as an indoor cycling instructor, than seeing your students begin riding outdoors. The natural transition for a new rider is to begin solo and then ride as part of a group. A big part of cycling can be the same social interaction found indoors. Then there's the appeal of participating in a large event fundraiser event like the MS150, a local century or some other fun ride. Groups riding outdoors, require leaders to be successful and safe.

Jim Karanas and I recorded a new Podcast episode that will be published this weekend. In it Jim describes the horror of what happens when things go wrong, while riding outdoors. And I share my experience where I needed to be the big dog, during day one of a brand-new cycling club connected to a local bike shop. The purpose isn't to create a bunch of drama, rather our interest is in helping you understand the responsibilities you may have leading your own group rides. I'm also working on a number of suggestions that I feel will help you be successful, as the leader (dare I say The Big Dog) of an outdoor ride.




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