On saturday the 7th of November 50 cycle enthusiasts came together to learn something about leading a group ride. The Strongher organization had set up a workshop for anyone with aspirations to lead a group of cyclists (potential Sheroes!), regardless of your level of experience. And so Olympia cycle club in Amsterdam was filled with women of all ages, shapes and backgrounds, happily chatting and sharing cycle stories. I was glad to find out I wasn’t the only complete novice to ride leading there!
The theory of ride leading
After a round of introductions we settled into two groups to run through the theory of leading a group ride.
There are 15 elements to take into account when you are setting up a group ride you will be leading. It seems like a whole heap of theory, and it is. But you’ll soon find out that many of these elements are commonsense you would also engage when you go out with friends. I’ll present a quick run through of these 15 elements of group ride leading.
15 elements of ride leading
- Who are you leading?
Think about the level of experience of your group and your preferred cycle style. Cycling together is at its best when everyone has the same mindset.
- The leader role
As the leader you take responsibility for the route and the rules. And making sure the group sticks to them.
- Where to start?
Find out about your riders beforehand. You need to know about their experience and background (injuries, medicines, etc.). Your riders should always be insured and know that cycling in the group is at their own risk.
- Be prepared
Choose your departure location wisely, check the weather and have a plan B for dropouts.
- The practicalities
Send out a mail with a list of what to bring, where to meet and how long the ride will take.
- Group dynamics
You’re the boss. You set the rules and remind your riders of them if necessary. You are also the one that sets the tone. Group dynamics can be influenced by: the tone of voice in all your communication, how you define the rules, which pair’s you make and the roles you give to individual riders.
Practice your presentation skills prior to the ride. Think of Obama 😉
Be an active, self-confident, open and enthusiastic leader.
- Safety first
Thrill seekers and showoffs are not welcome in a group ride. Safety comes first, at all times.
All riders should be insured and are responsible for their own behavior. Do take into account that as a ride leader you also hold responsibility for the group, because you set out the route and the rules. Think things through properly to avoid nasty situations.
Leading a group is lot easier if you don’t have to think about the route. So choose a route your know (and stick to it!), especially when you are just starting out as a group leader.
Technical failures happen. To reduce the possibility of a bike breakdown on your group ride your can send the riders this video on bike maintenance. Punctures also happen. In that case keep the group going and ask someone to stay behind to help replace the tube and cycle back.
Advise your group on the right kind of clothing, taking into account the weather conditions and ride distance.
Make sure everyone has 1 or 2 full water bottles and an energy bar with them. Not everyone will remember to eat and drink, so you’ll need to remind them.
- Bike position
Having the right position on your bike is very important. If you notice someone looking uncomfortable or complaining about an aching back, neck or knee, send him or her to a proper bike fitter.
- How to promote your ride
First, choose a catchy team name. Then use the Strongher platform, a Facebook group page, your local bike store and newspaper to promote your group ride.
Video: Group riding skills
To add a little visual input to the theory I found this friendly video on how to master basic group riding. It’s great for those who will be cycling in a group for the first time. But it’s also a good practical video to send to the riders in your group prior to the ride. It gives a really nice visual of how smooth group riding is done.
Group leading in practice
To put all this theory into practice, we got our slightly stiff legs into our tights and went cycling around Haarlemmermeer. Before setting out we were given a role to play that would disrupt the group ride. Mine was to sag behind the rider in front of me, creating a big gap. Other roles were pretending to have a tire puncture or picking up speed when riding up front.
We took turns in our ride leaders role, and got a chance to shape the group and give orders and support. It was nice to see how every leader had their own style, and how big the influence of the ride leader is on the group’s cycling experience.
To be a great group ride leader you must constantly be aware of your rider’s state of mind, and anticipate every minute of the ride. To do this you need to (get to) know your group and prepare every ride thoroughly.
We rounded off the day with a shout out to join the Strongher movement by sharing cycle stories and adventures with women all over the world. And of course, to set up your own group if you haven’t got one yet. Riding together is very motivating, and you can cycle so much faster!
My plan is to set up a weekly group ride starting in Amersfoort and heading towards the Veluwe. My favorite bike store Mechanieker has a convenient location just outside of Amersfoort’s center. Plenty parking there, and they serve amazing coffee.
I just need a catchy name.
This article and many more inspirational content can be found on www.strongher.cc, the stage for women who ride.