Good tips for ride leaders

by on January 8, 2010
in Riding Tips

Jay’s got a strong list of tips for road captains over at Road Captain USA, and, although I’m not a sanctioned road captain I’ve led a lot of rides so thought I’d make some additions here instead of whole-posting in his comments section. (Jay, hope you don’t mind the link!)

Most notably, two things:

First, there’s another reason to park away from the front door of the convenience store – when you get a little farther away from the entrance, you likely have more room for all the bikes in the group. You then have a better chance of getting parked in some kind of group or even loose formation for making an organized exit.

Second, I disagree that the group leader should “ride their own ride.”  The group leader has to ride within their own skillset and comfort zone, for sure. But part of being the leader is keeping track of the rest of the group. and that’s not possible if you just focus on your own ride.  That’s not to say the leader shouldn’t have the opportunity to enjoy the ride. But it’s important to know what’s going on with the rest of the group. I think the key is really just to find the middle ground.

Beyond these, here are a couple “tips” of my own – well, not really tips, just things I try to do when leading a group that I think make it more enjoyable.

1. I don’t abandon people just because we’ve reached the destination. I know it’s “policy” in some sanctioned riding groups that the ride ends the moment you arrive, and certainly in larger groups that’s because people want to be free to head home as meets their needs. For the kind of small-group rides I’m usually leading, it just feels like common courtesy to lead the ride home too.

2. I try to pick destinations that have food and something interesting to see. Of course, the day is mostly about the ride itself. But it’s nice to have something to explore, if even for a short time, to give everyone a break. As for the food – the logic of that just goes without saying.

If you find yourself leading rides, what are your tips? If you tend to follow, what do good leaders do that make the ride more enjoyable?

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5 Responses to “Good tips for ride leaders”
  1. Jay Green says:

    Thank you for picking up on this topic. I like your new blog format. I agree with you about the middle ground, I need to relax a little and find the middle ground… but that’s probably not possible. I definitely feel the RC’s need to be aware of everything going on in the pack by using their mirrors and eyes in the back of their head that come with the RC patch. Definitely need to find an area big enough to park the bikes together. In addition you need to get everyone in the parking lot quickly by doing a loop around the gas station in order to get the tail end of the pack out of harms way. I hate ridig sweep and being stuck out in the road because the lead bikes stopped at the closest parking spot or gas pump. Ride to eat, eat to ride!

  2. Corn Dog says:

    Jay, thanks for stopping in to read and comment – I really enjoy and respect your blog. Wow, never even thought about some folks getting left out in the road, but that’d be a big one! The groups I lead are small enough that we’ve never had that problem, but it’s a great tip!

  3. Corn Dog says:

    Got this tip in my email from someone who gets site updates in their in-box, so thought I would add it here:

    “Really great article and I would agree with you – you don’t abandon you’re group until the ride/day is over. Another tip I keep in mind when leading a ride before we leave the final stop before heading home is if anyone is dropping from the group because it’s closer to do so before the final stop to speak now and then a friendly beep as you break away.”

    That’s also a good idea because it means that when someone peels off the pack on the way home, it’s not a surprise to the leader – who might think there was a problem. THanks for the tip, GY!

  4. Holly says:

    Good topic to print on! I’ve lead numerous rides and as the lead it is very important to adjust you’re riding to the riding level of the least experienced person in the group. I always have the least experienced person ride right behind me (whether they want to or not!) so I can make sure they are comfortable with the speed and pace of the ride. It is also easier riding up front for them…not having the slingshot effect. Another thing that is important is when waiting at a stop sign, make sure the break in cross traffic is big enough to let all or most of the bikes cross the intersection as one group and then ride slow enough for everyone to catch up with the group. I have been on rides with less experienced leaders and they don’t realize this point and will take off across and intersection leaving everyone else have to ride like a bat out of hell to catch up.

  5. Corn Dog says:

    Reader Extraordinaire Susan sent me this info via email – more great tips for ride leaders!

    I belong to a very good group of women bikers in Long Beach, CA. Our leader is very good. What makes her a good leader is:
    1) She always tells everybody before the ride to ride in staggered formation
    2) She always explains her hand signals
    3) When leading, she exaggerates her hand signals. The reason she does all this before every ride is that we usually get new riders, and she wants to make sure they know her rules.
    4) When leading on the freeway, and she wants to let us know she is changing lanes, she does a double-jabbing finger point down at the lane she wants, even the cars see her and keep out of our way! Now that’s charisma!
    5) And once we reach our destination, she asks if anybody wants her to lead us back, she is always willing to get us home safely.
    We feel so worry-free riding with her, it is always a pleasure! And we tell her “deb, you’re the best!!!”

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