Author Topic: Tips for leading a group ride  (Read 2254 times)

Offline wipfel

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Tips for leading a group ride
« on: May 29, 2012, 10:00:50 am »
I've been asked to plan and lead a group ride for a church event.  Can all you group riding pro's give me some tips or advice?  I've been reading the MSF docs and other advice, but I'm still curious as to what you guys have to say.

I have no idea who will be in the group and probably won't until the pre-ride meeting.  I'm especially curious as to how you judge riding experience.  I've been in classes with folks who have been riding for years and aren't very good at all, so it seems hard to establish a criteria.
--If I could be anywhere right now, I'd still be out there, on my bike, in the wilderness.

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Offline sherob

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Re: Tips for leading a group ride
« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2012, 10:51:16 am »
I like to have a "Sweep" rider picked before I leave... I expect that person to be the last rider.  I don't like groups more than 5 to 6 riders... and I don't let anyone ride with me that isn't geared up, helmet/gloves/jacket/jeans at the minumum.

I have the route planned out, stopping points pointed out as well for everyone to regroup(map handed out).  I let everyone know they are to ride their own ride... I ride at a pretty brisk pace, so faster riders may want to ride up front... slower to the rear.  There are stopping points (again, reinforce this!) for everyone to regroup... no need to ride faster or ride anyway you are not comfortable with!  If you are going to bail, let someone know... prefer it is done at a stopping point when we are all together as a group, this way nobody "goes missing".  If someone wants to swap with Sweep, do so at stopping point.

Make sure and plan for hydration and refuels if this is going to be a long ride.  Plan on refueling at every 100 miles or so, depending on bikes that are riding with you... good time to hydrate and potty breaks too.

Yes, I'm a harda$$ when I ride... I like to ride, don't really like to stop... I like at least 300 to 500 miles if I'm going on a ride like this.

Just a few of my thoughts... for others to pick at.  8)
Rob
Brighton, CO... missing Texas!

Offline galaxieman

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Re: Tips for leading a group ride
« Reply #2 on: May 29, 2012, 11:05:32 am »
First off, if you're unsure of riders' ability levels, arrive especially early to the meet-up point.  Position yourself so you have a good vantage point of wherever riders will turn in off the street, and far enough from the entrance so some slow-speed cornering will be required to get to your assembly area.  This gives you an opportunity to watch as they signal, pull in, and navigate the parking area on their way in.  Also, observe how they park (are they comfortable backing a bike into a spot, etc).  Probably not going to be able to sort out the medium to strong riders with this, but you might get a chance to note if any of the group are in that 'less than proficient' category, and hopefully get them in the middle of the group as appropriate. 

Unless you're publishing the route in advance, I would recommend you lead, since you'll know the route.  As riders pull in, ask if anyone has experience with group rides, and if anyone has been a road captain before.  Not meeting anyone beforehand it can be a bit of a crapshoot, but I've usually had decent luck finding someone competent to act as the trail bike.  Make sure they have a cell phone and exchange phone numbers with them in case they need to contact you should someone have a flat, etc, etc.  With a church group, your odds are decent that someone will have some reasonable experience with group rides.  Also, since you're not going to know the group's abilities, I'd recommend a shorter ride (<100 miles)... although I'm with the previous poster about wanting to RIDE, not hang around and talk about it.

Standard pre-ride briefing for groups goes more or less as follows (I assume you'll have a motley assortment of cruisers, sportbikes, etc):

-First off, everybody ride your own ride.  This ride is for fun, and it should stay that way for everyone. If you feel like you're being rushed by someone behind you, move to the right and wave them past.  The trail rider will not pass anyone, so if you're second to last just ride at your pace and the trail will follow up.

-Safety is paramount, so everyone needs to ride courteously and obey all traffic laws.  (At this point being military I usually mention that any military folks not having proper PPE will not be allowed to ride with the group unless they go home and get the right gear.  I usually put that out in any announcements / flyers beforehand so it generally isn't a problem). 

-Explain hand and arm signals that will be used for the ride.  Left and right turns (even with turn signals), Slow down, single file, staggered formation, and "I have an issue and will be pulling over, don't follow me" are usually sufficient.  Also usually throw the 'cop' signal in here for some comic relief (someone inevitably doesn't know what it is).

-Cover procedures for what the group should do if separated at a stoplight.  Whether this means the lead element stops, slows, or whatever, make sure everyone knows what to expect.

-Cover procedures for lane changes (interstate or state highways) if the group is large enough.

Anything beyond those basics (unless I've missed something obvious) would generally fall in the 'advanced group techniques', and require either experienced group riders, multiple road captains, groups that have ridden together on multiple occasions, or some combination of the those. 

Understand that you're going to have to set a constant pace so the group doesn't slinky too much, and you'll need to allocate about 50% of your attention to your mirrors in the twisty stuff to make sure that you're not pushing the group beyond riders' experience levels.  I've been on plenty of group rides where I had to drop down to what I felt was a snail's pace because I realized that the guys behind me were doing okay, but were having to push it to keep up.  While it's not quite as much fun to have to slow down, it's safer for everyone.  However, it does feel rewarding to know that you not only have the skill to ride much faster, but can also recognize that someone is approaching the edge of their performance envelope trying to keep up.

Let us know how it goes!

Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparat bellum.

Offline gpzrocker

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Re: Tips for leading a group ride
« Reply #3 on: May 29, 2012, 06:57:35 pm »
Good points. For me, I do these things:

1) PSL at the most. I have roads around me like Deals Gap, and tell them if they want to fly, fly another day. Anyone hanging off the bike: I slow down. Now when I am alone I get cranking along pretty good, and hang off too, but not on a group ride.

2) Gas on the right hand side of the road. Meet on the right hand side of the road. Stop on the right hand side of the road. Traffic one way is a big enough pain. I don't use marshalls to stop traffic: It makes the locals frisky.

3) I did last ride try to let the fast ones go in front. That got me stopped at a guardrail at the first good turn by an "experienced" rider. At least he was experienced enough to dress like he was going to wreck, with full leathers.

4) Find out if anyone on the ride has medical/first responder experience, in case of #3. Not a good time to find out that that guy or gal is up front, miles ahead of the problem. Ask them to be sweep, they will understand why.

Enjoy, riding in a group can be fun.

Offline gpzrocker

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Re: Tips for leading a group ride
« Reply #4 on: May 29, 2012, 07:03:15 pm »
Oh, and if you have to stop at a sign/light/deer crossing, remember this: the slinky mentioned earlier is very bad on this. From near 3 bikes back they are having to do some serious speed to catch the group. That is when things get sticky.

So when I stop I go a very long distance at BELOW the speed limit, mostly just rolling along. When I am sure that everyone is rolling along too, I bring the pace up steadily so that each can come up to speed. Really, I hate stops, and try to avoid them.

And left turns at lights? Terrible. Yuck. Just pull into a parking lot and regroup. Leave after everyone is in the parking area and ready to go.

Offline Pokey

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Re: Tips for leading a group ride
« Reply #5 on: May 29, 2012, 07:05:48 pm »
Group rides with inexperienced riders is a wreck waiting to happen, I would think again about doing it especially if the group has the potential to be larger than 10 riders. I loathe groups larger than 5 bikes, and those riders had better have similar riding experience and styles. I wish you the very best of luck, but it would be a big "NO" if I was asked to do it. Groups should be split up, need more than 1 leader IMHO.
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Offline ZG

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Re: Tips for leading a group ride
« Reply #6 on: May 29, 2012, 10:15:23 pm »
Well if this is a church ride then start it off with prayer.  ;)
 
Then tell everyone where the ride ends and ride off as fast as you can...  ;D
 
j/k... Sounds like fun bro, I'd say keep it low key and fun, if the group plans on doing other future runs make sure to plan some time for folks to chat and get to know each other, they'll be more motivated to come next time too. Have a good safe ride!

Offline wipfel

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Re: Tips for leading a group ride
« Reply #7 on: May 30, 2012, 10:36:08 am »
Well if this is a church ride then start it off with prayer.  ;)
 
Then tell everyone where the ride ends and ride off as fast as you can...  ;D
 
j/k... Sounds like fun bro, I'd say keep it low key and fun, if the group plans on doing other future runs make sure to plan some time for folks to chat and get to know each other, they'll be more motivated to come next time too. Have a good safe ride!

this actually made me lol.  i agree it's going to be an adventure one way or the other.  i'm keeping it extremely simple and the Trace will, hopefully, help ensure a smooth ride.  it limits so many options.  most of these riders should be pretty familiar with the area and won't have any trouble getting back if the ride falls apart.

i'm going to hand out routes and some simple rules along with a disclaimer that this is an individual ride (the advantage of having the attorney wife ;)).  i might get lucky and have two or three guy that are old pro's at this.  or i might get even more lucky and have it rain.  then it'd just be me and maybe one or two others that are dedicated riders.
--If I could be anywhere right now, I'd still be out there, on my bike, in the wilderness.

2010 Concours 14 ABS

Offline lt1

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Re: Tips for leading a group ride
« Reply #8 on: May 30, 2012, 12:26:44 pm »
Sounds like you have most of it covered, with lots of good suggestions here, but sometimes the details can bite.  Some items for consideration:

Since this is a ride of church members and friends, it might not be a bad idea to have signatures specifically exempting the church as well as the "organizers".  Having a signed off tech checklist on the waiver might be good as well.  Ie:  tires (tread & inflation), fuel, oil, lights, brakes, general mechanical condition. Survey as to rider experience & current year mileage.  Hand signals.  Emergency contacts.  Gear suggestions.  Formation, following & lane discipline guidelines.  EMT training.  Starting w/ full tanks.  Approximate range of the bike to be ridden.

I think starting with prayer is a good idea. 

If no chase vehicle, at least some riders should consider having first aid / trauma kits, tools and tire repair kits including compressors.

Decide ahead of time what action will be taken w/ riders w/o gear, bikes that are unsafe, aggressive riding, following to closely, etc.  Discuss in pre-flight meeting.

It's sometimes hard to balance fun & spontaneity with safety and a large group.  Keep it fun, but if you ride with idiots, sooner or later, it will end poorly.   You might even consider splitting the group after eating - one group to head back home, and the other to take a longer ride.  Lots of time that gives the less prepared or ambitious riders a way to peel off without "losing face".

If you keep the ride fairly short, slow and simple, you s/b able to also keep it safe.

Again, my advice is "don't ride with idiots".  Either cull them from the group, or excuse yourself.

Best wishes.

PS. With waivers, you might want to set up a riding skills practice in the church parking lot.  Something like the PM Cornering Range from David Hough's More Proficient Motorcycling might be very helpful.
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