How to lead a group cycle ride by Steve Robinson
How do you ride a group cycle? Steve has been taking out group cyclists for over five years. Read his advice on leading a group of beginner cyclists.
Only a Few weeks ago at a recent Cycling Time Trial i was speaking to a member from another club and we were talking about how membership was going.
This Chap was telling me that the membership of his club had declined in recent years and there were hardly any women or younger riders joining.
Well despite the fact that cycling has took off in the last few years and i can honestly say there’s more women than in the past cycling now than when i joined my local club over 25 years ago. The thing is a lot of new cyclists do find it a bit intimidating when thinking of joining a cycling club.
Taking out Beginners
I’ve been taking out Beginners on a Saturday Mornings Every week for the last 5 years and to be honest it been great fun and great to see the progress these beginners have made, and it’s been a great boost to our membership numbers in fact i think we have just about a 50/50 amount of Men and Women now in the club which is fantastic.
Things i get asked when newbies ask about joining our club is –
How Far do you Ride?
Will i be able to Keep up?
What sort of Bike do i need?
Will there be others like Me etc.
I always tell them the Beginners Group does around an hour to an hour and half of riding which is no more than what most people do in a gym or Some sort of Fitness Class.
I tell them we will do a nice steady flat route for a start if a complete beginner comes along one week and see how they go, no Pressure.
Our Club usually has 3 or 4 Groups on a Saturday Morning going from our local Sports Club at 9.30am. I take the beginners/improvers then there’s a group that will do around 15 to 17mph and another Group or two that will be a bit quicker. All our Saturday Rides are kind of a Social Ride Encouraging each other.
Cycling Clubs are constantly saying that they want to get more people on to bikes and one of the best ways to do this is to offer beginner friendly rides that are actually beginner friendly rides.
The difficulty is having someone who will do this in a club. My experience of this is it doesn’t happen often enough, cycling clubs I’ve been with in the past seem to have the idea that a Club Ride has got to be a 20mph average ride because for some reason from the past i think that’s the bog-standard pace you need to do for your race training?
Well, I’ve been on those rides and seen beginners come along 1 week get dropped after a few miles and you never see them again, and Cycling Clubs wonder why they don’t get new members
Cycling Clubs will benefit if they Offer Beginner Friendly Rides
A lot of times a ride says it’s beginner-friendly but the distance or pace are not really for beginners. Even if a beginner is fairly fit, he/she may feel nervous about riding a longer distance on their first ride in a group. Read about steves passion for cycling.
Tips And Techniques
Here’s a few of my tips and observations from taking part in group rides with different cycling clubs, and casual groups over the years:
To every new person that comes along and ask their name etc, introduce them to other members, put them at ease. As the Group leader it’s your job to welcome new people into the groups.
Always have a Planned Route or Routes, plan it a day or so before, use Apps Like Strava or ride with gps or some other route planner so you know where your groups are going and riders can download it to various devices they may have.
Have an option to make your beginners loop shorter than the other groups ride at a more relaxed pace, have a beginner ride leader. If no newbies show up, then everyone just rides the original route at the stated groups pace if you have a few groups.
I try to make the shorter beginner’s group cross paths with the other groups at various points where possible, just so we can still see how others are getting on, and i try to get routes that do finish at the same time so we can have a tea or coffee etc at the club house or a cafe after the ride. This helps riders socialise and get to know each other better.
Make sure you are communicating with other riders when on a ride. A Group ride leader is probably best to lead the group from the back, that way you can see how everyone’s doing, if you’re on the front you could be leaving people behind or they may have had a puncture and you may not know if there’s not good communication.
If your ride is a 13-15 mph no drop ride, then make sure it is that. Also keep in mind that pace doesn’t mean a lot to a new cyclist. There’s a good chance that they don’t know the difference between a 12 mph and 22 mph pace.
Keep an eye on the new person and make sure they are enjoying the ride. Slow down if needed. Again, this is where having a designated Group ride leader for beginners helps.
Be Encouraging We all start somewhere. Give them an idea of the route. Tell them things like, this routes fairly flat let them know If there’s a hill coming soon and help them choose the correct gear to use before you approach it, ride alongside them up a hill if possible, so to encourage them up it, if other riders in the group are a bit quicker up the hill tell them we will regroup at the top
I usually tell beginners to stay in the small front chain ring for a few months as a rider could easily ride up to 20mph in that as they improve over time. Beginners do tend to think that you should use the biggest gears they have, but in reality, that’s not the way to go.
Ask questions to find out why they are wanting to get into cycling. Questions will help you get to know the person and determine what they need. Make sure they have everything they need for the ride, such as a Pump, Spare Inner Tube, Drinks Bottle etc.
As a Group ride leader, it’s always a good idea to carry a few extra spare inner tubes if you can, and also, it’s a good idea to get one of those 1st Aid kits that come in a drinks bottle type of container that fits in a bottle cage on your bike. You Never Know you may need it one day, hopefully not.
Anyway, just have fun taking people out and enjoy watching them progress. Some of the ones I’ve taken out in the past have got so quick i can’t keep up with them myself now.
share your opinion – I’d love to hear your thoughts!