by Linda Kolko, Carol Linden, and Martine Palmiter
About 40 dedicated club members braved the frosty morning to attend the Third Annual Ride Leader training. Again, we were grateful so many new people showed up wanting to learn about leading rides with the Club, and that we had experienced leaders there as well to share their wisdom. We really valued all the Ride Coordinators who showed up to make this a success, and also Linda Kolko who provided all the great brunch food, and the clean-up crew. We ended the day with rides down Beach Drive, and the sun came out to push away the chilly morning. One thing mentioned by most: Leading Potomac Pedalers rides is a great way to meet other cyclists, and to ride with like-minded company, while choosing your own kind of ride, whether it’s a social ride with a post-ride meal, touring in a new area, or doing training or competitive or endurance rides. And most really enjoy helping others learn to improve their cycling or enjoy the friendly camaraderie of a shared ride experience.
Cue Sheets and Posting Rides
The cue sheets are important, as are Ride With GPS routes, but there is no one way to do it. There are those who feel comfortable with one or the other, but in general, Eric Pilsk, Deborah Turton and Tim Guilford made it clear that the cue sheets need to be readable (large enough size font, clear symbols), accurate (test ride your route for road problems), and have appropriate breaks and rest stops for your ride pace. This makes it possible for a person who gets separated from the group (which we don’t want) also able to make it through the ride. It is also helpful to note whether there are bathrooms or porta-potties at the ride start, and if not, where these can be found. Having the ride leader cell phone on the cue sheet helps riders who may need assistance. A new ride leader may find it easier to start leading by using a ride from the Cue Sheet Library, and even do the same few routes over and over. Riders are just happy to go on a ride, if you lead. Then, if you wish, you can use Ride With GPS, or use other route planning tools to create a new ride. The most important thing is to ride where you want to and feel comfortable with the route!
At the ride start, make sure abbreviations are clearly explained, that the ride is clearly explained and identify who is helping to lead or sweep. Ride leaders can ask for assistance from others to help lead or assist a new rider. Another thing mentioned by many ride leaders is the option to lead from behind. You can direct the more experienced and faster riders to go ahead, and you can stay in the middle or at the back of the group. You may wish to have short cuts available for slower or unprepared riders.
Get your ride posted in the Pedal Patter and the online calendar by submitting it to your Ride Coordinator. Rides are generally due by the second Monday of each month, but the Coordinators send out an email with the specific date around the first of each month. It’s important to include good descriptors in your ride narrative, such as availability of bathroom at the start, or the elevation, if your ride is a “no drop” or not, or if you will periodically regroup. It is also helpful to state the anticipated average pace of the ride. If you also post your ride on the PPTC MeetUp group, use more detailed descriptions and direct the riders to the PPTC website for more detailed information about the club rules and membership. Ride Coordinators can help you find a co-leader or broker a multi-class ride too! (If you would like to post rides on MeetUp, please contact Linda Kolko at email@example.com and she will set you up as a PPTC Ride Organizer. )
Break Out Groups Tackled Specific Issues
The break out groups discussed a number of issues about leading rides. The CC/B group discussed having a sweep, or co-leader, and the option of doing multi-class rides with several ride leaders. Jim Quinn, Monique Sears, Ed Hazelwood and Carol Linden stressed the ease and fun of doing multi-class rides. It’s easier on the ride leaders to lead as a group, and riders can self-select their pace. New people who show up need to be identified by the ride leader so that they can be welcomed to the group, and possibly paired up with regular riders who ride the same pace. Ride leaders need to be ready for an unprepared rider, but posting clear ride descriptions may help new or uncertain riders select appropriate rides for their capabilities. In the long run though, as Ride Leaders, we need to model obeying traffic laws, leadership, and emergency preparedness. After all, we are a Club and we want to ride together, and encourage new riders. This means that leaders should attempt to help new riders to safely complete the ride, or find a ride back to the start. Others riders will usually pitch in to help. We also discussed the importance of sharing with new riders information on how to be responsible for their ride experience by choosing the correct ride pace, and having the right equipment such as helmets and tubes, water and food.
We encouraged C/D ride leaders to assign a sweep to make sure no one gets left behind. We want our C/D social group rides to stay together or at least be organized as a group. Often on D rides, you may get some people who have not been on their bikes for months. Do a quick inspection of the bikes. Ask new riders if they have pumped up their tires before they left home and if not, be ready to provide a pump. Unless the ride is a loop on a trail, provide cue sheets, going over any tricky turns, possible hazards, landmarks, and explain the various abbreviations (e.g. “TRO means to remain on). We recommend that the ride description include the exact, GPS-friendly address and real starting time with the caveat “We leave promptly at (exact time)”. In your welcome speech, go over the basics of safe cycling. Advise riders that we follow all traffic rules, advise others when you are passing, always pass on the left, and ride single file. Don’t follow other cyclists too closely—we are not doing a pace line! Focus on the road even while talking to other riders. Signal when stopping and point out hazards on the road to the other cyclists. We want to enable new riders to enjoy the bike safely!
Become a Ride Leader!
We are always looking for new ride leaders, and happy to help you with suggestions for routes, ride starts and planning!