We get asked all the time, from readers and friends alike, how to effectively work rookies into a group ride. Questioners usually already have a position on the topic: Newbies either ride in front of the group so they can be monitored or at the back so they don't hold up the group too much and cause consternation. After all, you're all there to ride, right?
Either can work.
Keeping newbies up front may indeed limit the group's pace and generate frustration among veterans, but it can be a good method for the following reason: Rookies-at least those who don't feel the need to prove how fast/talented/brave they are-are more likely to ride at their own speed when they're out front. Up front, these types usually have less of an incentive to "keep up" or ride faster than they're capable of. And if they do have a problem, a handful of more experienced riders are immediately on the scene to dish out help-or in the case of an accident, call for it.
Over the years at Motorcyclist, we've typically had rookies ride at the back of the pack-though not before posting an experienced sweep rider at the very back (and rotating others through this position so it doesn't become tedious). We've also prepped rookies with what we call The Talk before heading out. We stress the absolute need to ride smart, in control and not over one's head, and to remember that if they crash and no one ahead sees it happen, they may lie there for a long time before help comes-not a good sitch if you're bleeding or have other internal injuries. Obviously, it's a good idea to have at least one cell phone in the group in case someone gets hurt. We also make sure those out front stop at regular intervals, or when the route changes, so those behind can catch up and not feel rushed or lost.
The key thing for the veterans to stress to less-experienced riders is that it's perfectly OK to maintain a less-than-rapid pace while learning the group-ride ropes. Once the pressure to impress is removed from the equation, newer riders can ride at a pace most conducive to learning. And that's a good thing for everyone involved.