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Leading my first group ride. Suggestions appreciated(20 posts)

Leading my first group ride. Suggestions appreciatedheckman
Feb 24, 2003 6:45 PM
I've been lurking for a long time and have gained a lot of valuable information from the folks here. I'd appreciate your suggestions/advice on the topic above.

A bunch of folks from my workplace will be riding a century at the end of April, and I have volunteered to organize some group rides, with the first one this coming Sunday. If all goes well, we will continue riding together thru the summer, in preparation for the MS150 ride in September.

Most of the group rides I've done have pretty experienced riders in them, and the rules and etiquette are pretty much understood. Because of this, when riding with a new group, I've always made a point of telling the other members that I have not ridden much in groups and would appreciate from them any pointers that they see, especially if I am doing something incorrectly. I've found that most riders are very helpful in letting me know what is expected.

What I would like to know is what are your thoughts for organizing and conducting the ride. As the ride leader, what are my responsibilities? I have done a search and gotten some ideas from the results, also.

Thank you for all of your help and thoughts with this.

I lead training rides for my MS150 team tooScot_Gore
Feb 24, 2003 7:56 PM
1) Don't expect a workout. My team is large and abilities are diverse. I generally got the whole spectrum on all my rides last year. From accomplished riders that could drop me when desired to first time on the bike in years newbies. As ride leader, your agreeing with the fast group what the next way point is and keeping track of the slow group to make sure they get to it. Your personal pace is closer to the slow group than the fast, expect it, live with it.

2) Pick way points along the way to re-group.

3) Know the route. Scout all or most of it in advance so you know where the high traffic areas are, know that there's a steep curve at the bottom of the hill, etc and be ready to warn your charges to be alert.

4) Be clear that the ride will leave on time and stick to it.

5) Ask eveyone to introduce themselves and thank everyone who shows up.

my two cents.

Thanks for your thoughts (nm)heckman
Feb 25, 2003 10:26 AM
I would sprint the entire century, cuz I'm a sprinter. NMPODIUMBOOB_DOT_CA
Feb 24, 2003 8:03 PM
I would sprint the entire century, cuz I'm a sprinter. NMrussw19
Feb 24, 2003 9:09 PM
Then you aren't a sprinter at all. You would be a time trialist, and a silly one at that. If you really were a sprinter you would do what I do, sit in the front 20 of the pack until about 800 meter mark, then I would pick the 2nd fastest guy in the pack's wheel (of course my wheel is the fastest) and let him lead me out to the 150 meter mark, then I would bust out a sprint and raise my hands in stupid glory at having just sprinted to the finish of a freaking charity ride.
Your allowed to do that??? :) (nm)PODIUMBOUNDdotCA
Feb 25, 2003 2:10 PM
re: Leading my first group ride. Suggestions appreciatedpa rider
Feb 25, 2003 3:50 AM
I would have to agree with Scott on expecting to lead the ride with the slow group. Check to see if any of the riders will help you out. We usually ride with a large group, before we do a century ride in the fall, and learn what each rider's abilities.

I'm saying if you have to lead the whole ride, expect those to break off with the fast crew and fly ahead of you. If you give cue sheets to everybody make some references to places were your going to stop to get water or bathroom breaks.

I learned form riding with touring people you can do an 14 to 15 average on a century and the whole group can finish together well. The fast guys will complain it's too slow, but the last 20 miles they're the ones dragging butt to finish. It's a 6 to 7 hour ride that everybody rather remember it as a fun event, not the ride from hell.

I only lead some evening rides and a few on one or two saturdays. I found the touring minded riders got the long distance down for making rides fun not a major work out when distances are over 50 miles long. How fast you finish a ride doesn't help much when you are wasted. Not everybody makes a ride into a training ride.

I'm teaching a mtb club how to road ride properly this winter (YAMBA), by doing road rides with their club. They been road riding for two years, but as a group they don't use much hand signals or yell commands or paceline.

I pulled this one girl in a 25 mph head wind two weeks ago teaching her that if we keep our average around 14mph sucking my wheel we'll pass all these fast guys who broke away from us at the begining of the ride. We passed four riders in that windy section of the road. My point is if I left her ride by herself, as her fellow biking friends would have done, we would been waiting all day for her.

Since your the ride leader for this 100 mile ride should help those who are having a hard time and not worry about the fast riders. If you get the group to work together at a reasonable pace then everybody should have a good time. I hope you don't get any riders on the ride who just did one ride or "this is my first ride for the year".

If you have a chance before the event see if everybody is doing some riding. The ones who just show up and hardly have any riding time make it a long day for the whole group.

Just my 2 cents.

list of suggestionsbigrider
Feb 25, 2003 5:11 AM
Leader must define the ride(speed, one group or splits, etc.)

Insist on safety (no aerobar use, helmets, follow laws)

Instruct with kindness ( Correct mistakes or errors in judgement with a positive approach-don't yell or embarrass

Recruit helpers (Prior to ride talk with strong riders and get their committment to stay in the pack, get their extra miles alternating from pushing to the front and then riding to the back.)

Make the ride fun (talk, laugh and joke. the miles will go quick)

Don't let another rider lead the ride (This can be difficult but you will get someone wanting to change the route, change the designated speed, change the mood, etc. BE THE LEADER

Flat routes keep the ride closer together. Insist weaker people don't pull at all and the sronger ones pull and set a reasonable pace.

Hilly rides tear the pack apart. Make stronger riders ride the big climb twice, race to the top and turn around and go down the hill and ride back up with those at the back of the pack. They get extra work and the slow riders get encouragement.
Thank you for your suggestionsheckman
Feb 25, 2003 10:31 AM
I had not thought about the effect of hills, although it's pretty flat where we will be riding.
#1 thing that will make or break a group ride...biknben
Feb 25, 2003 5:56 AM
Communication!!! With it, you always have a chance. Without it, your ride is doomed. Personally, there is nothing more annoying, boring, stressfull, etc. than riding with strangers who say nothing. You don't need to be Chatty Kathy the whole ride but it's nice to have a conversation while warming up at least.

I'd recommend keeping the first ride short and add miles each week. Is it safe to assume everyone knows each other (since they work together)? If not, do some introductions before the first ride. That opens the communication right from the start.
every group and group ride is/are differentJS Haiku Shop
Feb 25, 2003 6:18 AM
last year i lead about 80 group rides--my first year doing so. although every ride is different, they are all the same in that they're made up of the abilities and personalities of the riders that show for the ride (duh!). our particpants are either "fast recreational" or "aspiring" (to be fast recreational), and all working on gaining comfort for distance. some of the things that have worked for me:

1) be assertive about show-up versus rollout time. ask riders to be at the ride start in enough time to *rollout* at the stated ride time. this may mean asking them to get there 15-20 minutes early. some inconsiderate people pump tires (or even fix punctures), change clothes, have to pee, and generally poke around until 10 minutes past ride start time. they are the ones riding hard to catch the group that left on time. :)

2) maps and/or cues. and, state in advance that riders must be able to read and follow them.

3) be clear about the average speed, distance, topography, stops, and environment. for instance, our saturday ride will travel 70-100 miles at 16-18 mph over flat to rolling terrain with a stop at convenience stores every 30-40 miles. the stops will not last more than 10 minutes.

4) ask for "qualified" riders, if applicable. if this is not a beginner's ride, ask that riders carry the bare minimum (tool, tube, patch kit, pump, water, money), and be able to change a puncture "in a reasonable amount of time". nobody wants to stand around for 25 minutes watching a botched tube change.

5) ask that riders' use equipment in good condition.

6) either ride mid-pack and drop back or backtrack to sweep (this *will* give you a good workout), set places to regroup (as has been said already, though this can make stops unbearable for the faster in the group), or advise riders that you stop for mechanicals, but riders should be able to maintain the minimum posted average speed over the noted terrain, or be able to read a map and find their way back. the latter option is my favorite.

7) after saying all that, i bring extra tubes, co2, and a cellphone. on the saturday rides in summer, people are always diving into the deep end and needing a lifeguard at the midway point, or have "forgotten" to bring a pump, tube, or overlooked the cords showing through their 4-year-old tires. especially around TdF time.

8) IMHO, a "ride leader" polices the pack. a "ride shepherd" leads by example, provides help when needed, and to coin a phrase from a good friend, is a "cycling ambassidor".


Your comment #5 hits homeheckman
Feb 25, 2003 10:40 AM
as on the MS150 ride last year, I ended up leading a group that spent several hours in rest stops, as folks waited to get their bikes fixed (wheels out of true, cables that needed adjusting, etc.). It made the day a very long one, as ut took us 9 hours to do the 80 miles.

I'm hoping that the 2 months of riding will flesh these issues out before the ride in April. Thank you for your feedback and experiences.
Greet everyone, be nice and have a really good route sheet.MB1
Feb 25, 2003 7:23 AM
I always make sure the route sheet is correct by riding the route with the sheet before I lead a ride. Then you don't have to worry about the faster riders who are going to take off anyway.
Make the rules/expecations clear. Such as, everyone is expectedbill
Feb 25, 2003 8:14 AM
to stop at lights, stop signs. Front half through the light, back half stuck, what will do? If someone gets dropped, we'll wait/won't wait but we'll send someone with you/regroup at x point/see you next time. Will the group try to stay together or break up? Fast group does x extra loop, regroup at y point? We'll be riding single file/two abreast/[other]. We'll be pacelining, take your turn, or, A group will rotate the lead, B group sits in, etc., etc.
Make sure that you set the tone and assert some authority. Just letting a group know that someone is taking the lead helps rein in some of the nutsiness that tends to devolve in group situations. And appoint a couple of deputies and stick to it. Most people just want to ride and are happy to have someone else make these decisions for them.
Had not thought about the situations you describeheckman
Feb 25, 2003 10:42 AM
but I definitely need to. I think that I'll make up a cue card for myself to orient the other riders at the beginning of the ride, so I don't forget any of this information. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

ditto the clear expectations, and furthermorelonefrontranger
Feb 25, 2003 11:05 AM
Stick to them.

We have a big mix of folks on our Monday night club rides, everyone from Cat I guys who are looking for a true recovery ride (and probably don't mind the idea of riding with a women's club either) to newbies who've never group ridden before. The ride is amazingly mellow and social for all that, because everyone who shows up knows what's expected. The experienced riders will often take the back to mentor the beginners. The release waiver / sign-up sheet we use has a list of ride expectations on it, and everyone must sign before we begin the ride.

If this is your first time doing this, you might obtain a list of folks interested in the ride, then draft a quick list of expectations you prefer from the above responses and suggestions and forward it to them. I don't see this as being harsh or removing the fun at all.

Then on your ride,if someone hammers off the front and takes the wrong turn, let 'em go - you set clear expectations and are now absolved of their irresponsibility. If someone comes on the ride, flats and didn't bring supplies, then I'd offer to make a cell phone call for a pickup, but IMO you'd have every right after that to leave them standing by the side of the road.

My .02
Verbal abuse and snap judgement is the only way to go.Spoiler
Feb 25, 2003 8:16 AM
At the very first sign of some clown getting out of line, make an example out of him. Put the fear of God into the rest of the pack.
And if during the ride, ANYBODY questions your authority, adjust their attitude with a pump in their spokes.
Remember, this is YOUR ride and YOUR responsibilty. Everything that happens is a reflection on YOUR character. Once people start thinking it's a fun ride, that's when they get themselves and their buddies killed.
You got that right. Whew. All fun must be drained from a ridebill
Feb 25, 2003 10:54 AM
for it to be safe. Of course, I'm assuming you mean that each person is to have fun by behaving as if the ride is a solo ride that happens to sometimes involve the presence of other people, who sometimes are in your way, sometimes not, and damn them if they are. Which is the way that some people seem to approach group rides.
Most decisions about a group ride are arbitrary. Somebody has to make them, and it all goes better if everyone knows what they are. In a group of about a half dozen, no problem -- democracy works just fine. If the group is larger, however, and these arbitrary decisions are not made, and a group of twenty or thirty or forty try to figure them out on the fly, strung out along the road, well, you may think that's fun, but I don't. It ain't much of a group ride at that point, and it becomes every man for himself. The cars get pissed off, because everyone is all over the the road, the riders who are trying to ride in a group and actually mind others get pissed off, and I can do without feigning to worry about a group ride at that point, thank you very much.
Some More...Gregory Taylor
Feb 25, 2003 3:10 PM
1. Be A Real Leader: It is often said that "Leaders always lead from the front." As Ride Leader, "leading from the front" translates into "riding off the front" of the pack as often as is humanly possible. That way, you are able to scout out the route ahead of the group, making sure that it is safe for them before they arrive. Safety is always a priority when you are Ride Leader.

2. Equipment Check: As one poster has noted, make sure that your equipment is in fine fettle BEFORE the ride. As ride leader, you are authorized to conduct spot inspections on the group, even as you ride along. For example, it is considered good practice to go to the front of the paceline and conduct a "brake check" every so often to see how well everyone's binders are working. Good brakes = safe riders.

3. Enforce Local Dress Codes: Ugly jersey? Goofy shorts? Not in my paceline, buddy! As Ride Leader, it is up to you to enforce rigid conformity to your own personal standards of dress and grooming. Banish those who lack the social skills/disposable income to recognize the innate moral superiority of such things as Assos clothing or fancy italian bicycles. Avoid fashion tragedies - "just say no" to Primal Wear jerseys or anything on close-out at Nashbar.

4. Communicate: As Ride Leader, it is up to you to inform the group of road hazards, turns, amusing stripper bars, and other dangerous wildlife that you may encounter along the route. Complicated hand signals are the norm here, the more arcane the better. If it looks like you are suffering from some sort of siezure when you signal "gravel ahead - slowing", then you have a good set of hand signals.
That is too funny!! nmbigrider
Feb 26, 2003 5:44 AM