IDEAS: Welcoming new members + first time riders

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Dawn Piech

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Apr 10, 2024, 10:24:46 AMApr 10
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Randonneurs USA Hive Minds

I would love to get everyone's thoughts on what they do for a first time rider at an event who just joined our wonderful "Big Tent" in randonneuring?  

Background:  I was at a Quad City Randonneurs event last Saturday hosted by RBA Greg Smith and we had a new rider from my local club who joined.  It was his first RUSA/ACP event.  It was so exciting to have him there too.  

I printed out a brevet card for him to give him at the beginning and went over that with him and explained proof of passage, controls, getting receipts/time stamped photo, etc..Obviously, Greg Smith, RBA, went through as well at the ride start too.  Additionally, I also asked fellow bike club member and RUSA member Eric Peterson (#2812) to take him and guide him as they rode the ACP 200k together as I thought they would be compatible in riding speeds.  The new member also rode with Randy Anderson (#11199) who developed the route.  I think the "RUSA Buddy System" may have worked well.  

Whatcha got and what do you do in cases of brand new members that you meet or what does your RBA do to welcome them?  And what do you do to keep them coming back to rides/events?  

Thanks for any advice and ideas. It sure is fun to welcome a brand new member to our wonderful world of randonneuring!  

Dawn Piech
#10146


Greg Merritt

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Apr 11, 2024, 12:22:04 AMApr 11
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Great stuff, Dawn! A very nice welcome. :)

For some of our rides, First Encounters of the Rando Kind can happen on the train en route to the event. Below is kind of my approach, from a recent discussion in another forum -- and this goes for me whether on the train en route to the start, on the road during the event, or if I'm working a finish control:

screenshot_19.png

-Greg

jpeterd...@gmail.com

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Apr 11, 2024, 11:21:57 AMApr 11
to Greg Merritt, Randonneurs USA
I agree with Greg. Thanks, Dawn. A little bit of well-earned, buyer beware thinking is always helpful, also, for newcomers; ie, the longer the ride, the longer the problems become. And, fortunately, when you need help or encouragement, there are Randos who have been there and can do both for you. 
Jan # 3835
Sent from my iPhone

On Apr 11, 2024, at 12:22 AM, Greg Merritt <greg.m...@gmail.com> wrote:

Great stuff, Dawn! A very nice welcome. :)

For some of our rides, First Encounters of the Rando Kind can happen on the train en route to the event. Below is kind of my approach, from a recent discussion in another forum -- and this goes for me whether on the train en route to the start, on the road during the event, or if I'm working a finish control:

<screenshot_19.png>


-Greg

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<screenshot_19.png>

jpeterd...@gmail.com

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Apr 11, 2024, 12:02:43 PMApr 11
to Greg Merritt, Randonneurs USA
Also, from my experience in our cycling community, on the longest rides expect help to come to you as advice only!
Cheers!

Sent from my iPhone

On Apr 11, 2024, at 12:22 AM, Greg Merritt <greg.m...@gmail.com> wrote:

Great stuff, Dawn! A very nice welcome. :)

For some of our rides, First Encounters of the Rando Kind can happen on the train en route to the event. Below is kind of my approach, from a recent discussion in another forum -- and this goes for me whether on the train en route to the start, on the road during the event, or if I'm working a finish control:

Jake Kassen

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Apr 12, 2024, 2:15:57 PMApr 12
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I'm a big proponent of having an informal gathering at the finish and encourage riders to stick around and have some snacks, drinks etc. Or even an invite to dinner if it's a small group.

It's not always feasible to do this but I think everyone enjoys the opportunity to chat with other people off-bike who they might have not have ridden with. (Real food always helps too.) New people tend to have more questions at the finish than they did at the start. Just listening to two experienced riders talk about their upcoming plans is often enough to get a new person motivated to return.

Generally, if a rider sticks around for 30-45+ minutes after a ride, they'll come back. If they rush off, it's probably not the sport for them.

Jake
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Dawn Piech

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Apr 12, 2024, 2:58:02 PMApr 12
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Thank you Greg Merritt, Jan Dembinski and Jake Kassen for your input and thoughts.  All very valuable and resourceful information to think outside of the box and/or reminders of things one could do in welcoming new riders to our sport.  

I like your ideas Jake about a gathering post ride.  I have a great memories when I started too and a recent memory:
- Greg Smith, RBA of the Driftless Randonneurs, held a BBQ in the summer of 2017 after a 100k team event as his house.  It was so nice to be among some experienced members from the midwest to ask questions and hear about their plans.  In fact, that is when I learned of "talk" of the inaugural Coulee Challenge in 2018.  
- In most recent memory, I headed to ride with Indiana Randonneurs and Bill Watts (RBA), Lydia and Steve Trott held such a nice post ride get together that always builds community and camaraderie.  In the fall of 2021 they hosted a picnic and chill cookoff after their Tri-State 100k with a meet up of IN, OH, WI and IL members.   

FWIW:  In my local bike club in Illinois, we've had some new members join RUSA, which we are so dang excited about.  The 100k routes have been perfect to get those new to our sport to come out + come back.  I also have been sharing with the new members about the Rouleur series, which is a great way to build up their distance over the summer-fall season with maybe a 1x/month Rouleur ride from April to August or September...and then a post ride meeting over coffee/tea/dinner to share experiences of that particular ride.  Another thing that has been helpful is to get the new member emails to start a group email to invite them to some rides and also provide carpool there/back to reduce any barrier to returning or coming out a first time.  I also recognize there are other ways to communication other than a list-serve and keep people in touch (ie. use of SLACK, Instagram, etc..) which is nice to have various methods to keep people engaged.  

Dawn Piech
#10146

George Swain

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Apr 13, 2024, 9:39:24 AMApr 13
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I've always found randos to be a pretty welcoming group. When I was first starting, I don't remember feeling like more needed to be done to welcome me specifically as a newbie, but I do remember enjoying the ways that the RBA at the club where I started organized things including:
  • Before the event: welcoming all riders with clear communication that gave everyone equal access to the information to use to be successful (pre-ride report, reminders, etc.)
  • The morning of the event: the pre-start rider meeting - reminders about rules and safety issues; mention that there might be some first-time randos on the event 
  • During the event: volunteers at controls providing water, helping point folks in the right direction, signing control cards, etc. 
  • After the event: I particularly enjoyed the detailed post-ride report we all received 24-48 hours after the event which recounted some of the unique things that had taken place for riders and groups during the ride.
Randonneuring is filled with a rich history and culture. Learning and working through the mystery seems to me to be part of the appeal for new riders. Removing the challenge of learning isn't the point, but maybe removing barriers to access and reminding ourselves that we always want to welcome the new rider (to the sport or to the region) so that we don't come off as too "clubby."

Great question! You're doing a fantastic job, Dawn!

George

Jeff Loomis

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Apr 13, 2024, 5:59:25 PMApr 13
to Dawn Piech, Randonneurs USA
There have been some good suggestions but making sure the ride experience itself is good seems like a really important way to get a rider to come back.  I'm thinking specifically of routes that are safe and well thought out and properly vetted route sheets.  It seems all too common these days to be riding a route with egregious errors on the cue sheet, like a turn labeled right when it is actually left.  As a veteran this is frustrating, for a first time rider this is much worse.  Long time riders tend to shrug these off, since they typically know the routes and/or are following the GPS breadcrumb trail.  George's comment also emphasizes that just running a fundamentally good ride is welcoming to everyone, but may impact newcomers more.

Jeff

Dawn Piech

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Apr 15, 2024, 8:35:28 AMApr 15
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Thanks George and Jeff for adding to this dialogue, super helpful.  All points/ideas most welcome.  

It does go back to the overall experience, I completely agree.  We have such great resources for all members, established and newbie members at our fingertips. I agree about the overall route experience with correct cues Jeff.  That is frustrating if a route has errors in it.  And we have to also recognize that not everyone uses RWGPS too, one may have a cat eye/nonGPS computer with a cue sheet.  

Just some other things I have been thinking about, if I was in their shoes as a brand new member:
  • For example, maybe the email out to all riders before an event, could include a hyperlink to our New Member Guide here which is so helpful for them to have to review:  https://rusa.org/pages/new-member-guide.  I believe this is included in the contact from the Membership Committee when one joins for the first time.  
  • I do like the pre-ride meeting before the start and recognizing any first time riders so everyone knows to maybe take a moment to welcome them at the start and/or during the ride.  
  • And after the ride, maybe grabbing an ice-cream or cup of tea or coffee to chat about the overall experience would be nice to offer?  If this may not be an option maybe asking for their email or cell phone to contact them to see how their experience went?  One could connect with them and then invite them to another meet up/event that suits their calendar and interests. Or meet up 1 week after a ride for coffee/tea/lunch to chat about how their event went and any questions they may have?  
Anyways, some really good stuff here from everyone.  I appreciate all of this.  

Dawn 

Phil Fox

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Apr 15, 2024, 10:33:40 AMApr 15
to Dawn Piech, Randonneurs USA
A couple points to add to the pile above.

We have an overwhelming amount of resources that we make available to riders. However an important gap that we need to address is better understanding what these riders are looking for. How did they find us? What kinds of riding have they done in the past? What experiences are they looking for? What is on the calendar this season? etc. Establishing a two-day dialogue is absolutely key here. At both the national and local (regional) level. 

I really enjoy asking these questions when new riders join our new club in Chicago.  Their answers are very instructive as to how we can help them on their rando journey and get them excited for what they can do next.

Phil Fox
#12365

Bill Bryant

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Apr 15, 2024, 11:05:38 AMApr 15
to Phil Fox, Dawn Piech, Randonneurs USA

All good questions, Phil, and hopefully part of forthcoming surveys. I think knowing things like this will help RUSA meet their needs and (hopefully) attract even more riders like them. Lots to discuss but already I like where the conversation is going. Am looking forward to the convo later today. Even if we don’t get full group participating, it will be a good start.

 

Cheers,

Bill

 

Dawn Piech

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Apr 15, 2024, 6:21:00 PMApr 15
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Points well made Phil and Bill.  It makes complete sense to do a needs assessment/survey of our membership at large to begin to understand better what our members want.  As a result, we can all help one another better and move forward on our collective randonneuring journeys.  I do feel that this will allow our organization to continue to build and grow our community at large, possibly even stronger than it is today.  

Dawn Piech

Sean Keesler

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Apr 15, 2024, 10:51:03 PMApr 15
to Dawn Piech, Randonneurs USA
At the completion of my first brevet, Pete (our RBA) had a medal ready for me.
I don't know if he handed down one of his own or what. But I guess I developed an interest in feathering my nest with shiny things, so I came back and did the rest of the series.

I've tried to meet a few new local riders for training rides, talk rando with them, and encourage them to join me on the next one.
Follow each other on Strava (or whatever) and acknowledge their efforts.

I'm often impressed by the PA Rando group, which does a fantastic job of reaching out to new and regular riders to encourage participation in upcoming events.


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Iwan Barankay

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Apr 15, 2024, 10:51:09 PMApr 15
to George Swain, Randonneurs USA
From my PA/Philly perspective a key thing to do is to listen to their questions and concerns. I learned a lot that way and when I did not fully understand all subtleties of it, I asked more questions, texted, and met. Hanging out at the online forums where new riders discuss things (instagram, slack bike counterculture, etc.) also helps a lot in removing barriers and bottlenecks.  They are often about travel to the start, finding affordable accomodations, gear). Another important thing is food and dietary restrictions and to cater to them at controls!

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Mark Wilson

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Apr 15, 2024, 10:51:15 PMApr 15
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Maybe I can help as a first time participant on the PA Covered Bridges event ride last month.
Some feedback for everyone. The communication from Iwan Barankay was amazing! There was a major storm which came through the day planned for the event. Word went out of a push back for 24 hours. This made sense and provided a much safer experience and higher participant count ride for Sunday. There were mechanical problems, not mine (although I did stop to help a few). I was confused about the paper brevet even after reading the first time guide numerous times. Chris Nadovich provided me a quick training on the ebrevet. Hats off to the developers. After this logistical understanding I also realized what is meant by banking time. My bank was overdrawn and I had to up the pace. I finished in time, met many great people, was welcomed by all and look forward to the next event I can join. Hanging out after the event was over was very enjoyable and I really appreciated the food before, during and after the event. To all who volunteered consider this a big THANK YOU!

Recommendations: 
  • A video of someone explaining how the Brevet system is developed. 
    • I had to ask a few people what the rules were during the event and they were helpful. 
  • Since so much of the terminology is French having a one page definitions document would help. 
  • I have been on this group for a few years, paying my dues waiting for when my schedule would match the event date(s). 
    • Glad this worked out. 
  • For those who have experience and talk about longer than 200k events. 
    • Having an explanation of what to expect would be helpful.     
  • Is there a progression of events required to get from one tier of distance to another? 
  • Continue to be as inclusive as possible. 
Yours in cycling, 
Mark Wilson
#15152

RBA of DBC

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Apr 15, 2024, 10:51:20 PMApr 15
to Jake Kassen, Randonneurs USA
New riders and I chat back and forth over email prior to the ride, and I always ask riders to welcome each other and to ”look after each other” - meaning, point out potholes or debris etc on the ride in my “talk” before we launch the ride.

Like Jake, we almost always have a post ride hang out, typically in the parking lot by Vanna White - chairs, a cooler, snax, an awning for shade or at a local venue for relationship building. We’ve had first time riders jump in with a 400k, and others with a populaire.

I’m also organizing a long weekend of gravel routes this fall, so people can come and hang out for 3 days & 2 nights. They can pick their pleasure and adventure, and we’ll be at a small motel as a basecamp. Gonna be fun!
deb
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