Y'know there's always been an old skewl tendency on XC rides to have every person fend for themself. Regardless of if you know the area or not, you're not going to screw up my ride, we'll just leave you behind... Yah sure there are many people who've been up and down the trail enough to be self sufficient. Drop me just about anywhere with enough food, drink, and stable weather, and i can get out of almost anywhere. But there is such an intangable for most people for getting lost, and in certain areas where temperatures can drop below freezing overnight, a crash or mechanical failure can prove life threatening. Beyond all of this, just out of pure comraderie shouldn't mountain bikers attempt to gravitate towards a more unified feel within a group ride? i mean is it really important to beat the clock, or get the added stretch of trail in at the expense of possibly discouraging someone from our sport/recreation? Personally when i lead a ride i seperate "the pack" within the trail, but at junctions the group waits for everyone. Many times if there is someone i know and i believe can fend for themself, i'll draw an arrow in the dirt, showing which way to go. Or a radio goes along way in communication. But if someone just disappears i never just leave to resume the trail. Nobody gets left behind. If someone is used to being dropped and tries to fend for themself, this can make my life pretty difficult since i will stop and backtrack to find the person. Just as in the case of someone getting lost it's always easier for a search and rescue unit to find you if you squat in one place, and stay to be found. Leading a ride is a responsibility i personally find enjoying. There are a few necessary qualifications i feel that make you a better leader. And much of that comes from ride experience. While i don't feel you should get to a point of holding someones hand on a ride, i think it's a great benefit to bring someone in and make their experience a positive one.