Leading a Group Ride

Thursday, December 19, 2013

At some point you'll find yourself leading a ride. Whether it's just you and a couple of friends out for a fun ride, or something more formal, like an advertised NEMBA chapter ride, there are a few things to keep in mind to insure that your ride is a success.

The first and most important thing to remember when leading a ride is that - It Is Not My Ride! Any ride that you lead really belongs to the people riding with you. And this is especially true when the people following behind you have never ridden with you before.

When you're leading it's your responsibility to try to make sure that everyone with you is having a good time. More importantly, you want to make sure that they'll want to do it again. That means that you don't ride your favorite trail if you sense that someone on the ride isn't ready for it. That means that you don't lead at a pace that knocks the people behind you out of their fun zone.

Before the ride starts it's always good to make sure that no one has a time constraint. You never want to find out when you're 45 minutes from your vehicles that someone has to leave now. It's also a good idea to tell everyone how long you expect to be out and about how many miles you intend to cover.

When you're riding with people you've never ridden with before make sure that everyone understands how you're going to prevent anyone from getting lost. IE: We'll wait at intersections, or we expect you to look behind you to make sure that the person behind you sees which way we go, or, describe the method you use.

Pace: Really, your ride is led by the slowest person. If you go more than just a little bit faster than the slowest person there, not only will they have a bad experience, but everyone else will spend an extended amount of time waiting around at intersections. One caution, it's almost impossible to resist going faster when someone is riding on your rear wheel. But you need to resist that temptation when some of your fellow riders can't maintain that faster pace.

Training: If you're going to lead a ride at race pace, make sure that everyone is aware of that, and OK with it. The same is true if you plan to "session" on technical terrain features.

Skill: You don't have to be the best rider to lead. You just have to know where you're going.

Stuff: As a ride leader it's your responsibility to insure that there are enough tools and inner tubes along on the ride to get everyone out of the woods when there's a mechanical emergency. You'd be surprised how many people, especially newer riders, don't bring anything with them.

Distance: Ask people to tell you when they think the ride is about half over. When someone does, bring the ride to a close as soon as you can. People always underestimate the level of their exhaustion.

Route: Don't get lost! Nothing is more frustrating for people or for a ride leader than to all of a sudden realize that they don't know where they are. Or, that they went the wrong way at that last intersection and now have to re-ride the last few miles. When you're leading a ride, don't go exploring.

Cheer: Be friendly and upbeat. When you seem to be enjoying yourself, everyone else will enjoy themselves more too.

Community: Have positive encounters. Slow down or even stop when you see people out on the trails. Greet every person that you see with a friendly "Hello!" Remember, they're out there trying to have a good time too, and you riding by with a group of stragglers may seem a little disruptive to them, especially if they've got unleashed dogs or small kids.

Send off: After the ride is over tell everyone that you had a great ride, that you hope they did too and that you enjoyed riding with them. Make plans for the next ride

Think about the best rides that you've ever been on. If you do, you'll realize that it wasn't the terrain or the speed or the technical challenges that made it great. It was the people that you shared the ride with.
Group riding can and should be more fun than anything else that you'll do on a bike and with a little effort on the part of the leader everyone else will feel that way too.

--By Bill Boles