You’ve been thinking that you’d like to give back to the cycling community by helping others become involved in the sport too. You have fond memories of group rides and plan on organizing one.
Here are useful tips to help you organize and lead a group ride.
Before the Ride
Publish the ride details
Publish the basic details of where and when to meet. It will help interested riders to determine if the ride is for them.
They can decide if their bicycle is set up for the terrain, how much food, water, and other provisions they need to bring along.
Make sure to include the estimated group speed, completion time, fitness level required, and specific details such as a no-drop or women-only ride.
Share the route file
Today’s technology makes sharing the route an effortless task, especially if you have everyone’s phone number. A WhatsApp group is simple to create and will make communicating with riders easier. Other sharing options include personal, bike shop, or cycling club Facebook pages or Instagram accounts.
Popular applications such as Strava, Ride With GPS, and Komoot is great for creating and sharing the route with a group. Riders can then pre-load the course into their bike computers in case they lose their way.
Conduct a pre-ride briefing
Despite publishing the route and details ahead of time, there will be riders who would turn up at the last minute without any preparation. Use the pre-ride briefing to remind the riders about what to expect on the ride.
Take a headcount
You need to know how many riders are in your charge, and the pre-ride briefing is the perfect opportunity to count heads.
If the number is even, it’s ideal for paired, side-by-side riding (check if it’s permitted in your area) or creating a buddy system for safety.
If a ride has hills in it, I usually let riders climb at their own pace, but ask them to wait at the top. Count your group from time to time and at every stop and summit to verify that everyone is there before continuing on your route.
Appoint co-leaders and assistants
The number of co-leaders and assistants needed will depend on the number of riders present. At least one is necessary, but two or three would be ideal.
In the event of an accident or injury, one can stay with the riders involved. Having a dedicated sweeper at the tail of the group will avoid any riders falling off the back.
Assistants and co-leaders with some mechanical knowledge and/or first aid training are a big plus.
Bring everything you need
Every rider has different needs, but each one should come with a helmet, adequate food, at least one water bottle, and if possible a bell and lights. In the event of colder temps or foul weather, extra clothing for layering such as a windbreaker, vest, gloves, leg, and arm warmers are also a good idea.
At least one spare tube, a patch kit, pump or CO2 inflator, and some emergency tools are necessities for roadside repairs. Something not to bring on a group ride is headphones of any kind. Safe cycling requires a rider’s full and unimpeded attention.
A good ride leader will bring extra food and an extra jacket or vest. Someone will need a final gel to get them home or forget to bring something warm to put on for the big downhill.
Keep emergency contact details
The ride leader, co-leaders, and assistants should have an emergency contact for each rider. Riders may need to sign an insurance waiver if the ride is organized by a bike shop or cycling club.
Identify any riders with special needs, allergies, or pre-existing conditions. This information is vital in case of injury and may prevent further harm and avoid grievances later.
During the Ride
Keep the pace consistent
Maintaining an even pace on the flats and rollers will keep the group together.
Speeds will vary on hills, so try to target a pace equal to the middle of the group. Instruct riders to wait and regroup at the top of the climbs.
Obey traffic laws
It’s important to respect all traffic laws and signals, especially red lights and pedestrian crossings. Some roads and urban areas may require riding in a single-file while others permit two or more abreast.
Large groups may not clear a traffic light, intersection, or roundabout in one go. So, those at the front should not try to up the pace, go on yellow or force priority.
Use hand signals
Cyclists use hand signals to indicate directions and point out obstacles such as parked cars, road debris, broken glass, speed bumps, and potholes. It’s the responsibility of the person riding in front of you to help you avoid accidents and prevent flats.
During the pre-ride briefing, take a moment to demonstrate and explain the basic hand signals and best riding practices. If hands aren’t free, call it out for the safety and well-being of others.
Regroup from time to time
Despite efforts to ride at one pace and stay together, the group will break up. Schedule a series of rest and water stops along the route. Wait for the last rider at confusing intersections.
Summits make perfect for regrouping. Waiting for others will build a sense of teamwork and help everyone finish as a group.
Call out aggressive or abusive riding behaviors
Riders not following good bunch etiquette, respecting the ride guidelines, traffic signals, or riding aggressively, constantly half-wheeling others, pushing the pace, or exhibiting abusive behavior have no place in a group ride. Their conduct puts everyone at risk and does little to improve the image of cyclists.
When safe to do so, take the rider aside or to the back of the bunch and speak to them. A warning or two should suffice. If the behavior continues, politely invite them to leave the group.
Have a great time!
The idea of a group ride is to have fun and share the joy of cycling in a positive atmosphere. The looks and smiles on the rider’s faces should show how things are going. Group rides are also a fantastic way of promoting cycling and introducing new riders to this beautiful sport.
Riding in a group is an excellent motivator for beginners or those who wouldn’t get out to ride on their own. Cycling is not only a wonderful pastime but an amazing social activity.
Take group ride photos
Taking photos at water or coffee stops or when waiting to regroup is a way to chronicle the ride. Photos serve as memories and souvenirs. When posted on the personal, club, or shop social media pages, they can inspire new cyclists to join in a safe and welcoming environment.
Promote your favorite shop or club by wearing their jersey during the ride. You’ll be giving something back to the cycling community that supports your favorite pastime and helps it to thrive.
After the Ride
Ask for feedback
Once the ride is over, take a final headcount to verify everyone is present. Ask for feedback.
- What did they like or dislike?
- What would they improve?
- Did they find the pace and terrain to be appropriate for their skill level?
Experienced riders can judge the riding skills of others and find that delicate balance of terrain, speed, and effort for the group.
If they feel exhausted or beat up after a ride, they may keep a negative impression. When riders leave smiling, happy, and motivated, they’ll be back for more.
Enjoy the coffee and cake!
Perhaps the best part of any ride, enjoying a delicious beverage of your choice with a favorite pastry or cake. Sit and chat with your fellow riders on a beautiful outside terrace under the warm sun, or inside a cozy and toasty cafe.
And the best part of all, the calories are free!