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  1. #1
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    I'm leading a group from Greenbelt MD to Washington DC for Bike to Work Day this Friday, May 4. I still don't know who will show up or if this is the first time some of them have ridden in traffic. This is my first time as ride leader, so any tips you might have would be appreciated. I'll be riding my usual commuting bike, a Raleigh 10 speed road bike. The route is about 16 miles, in typical big city traffic.

  2. #2
    Mr. Cellophane RainmanP's Avatar
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    I have not been a ride leader; I am fairly new at this myself. However, if I were doing something like this I would consider the following:

    1. Give a short briefing on the route and riding in traffic.

    2. As great as it would be to be able to chat, tell everyone to ride single file and string out a little so traffic can pass safely. If there are places on the route that are conducive, chatting might be OK.

    3. Set a couple of (relatively) quiet spots or parking lots to pause and regroup. See if everyone is OK.

    4. Maybe have some kind volunteer with a van standing by in the rear somewhere in case of emergency.

    5. Besides your usual spare tube/patch kit, consider spending a few bucks to have a couple of additional tubes to cover wider 700cm tires and maybe a 26" for mtb. also and extra couple of cartridges for your CO2 inflator if that is what you have. People not used to commuting may have neither tubes nor pump, and the cost would be small. Replacing a tube real quick could make a difference between someone seeing it as a minor annoyance vs a major deterrent if there is no help.

    6. If you know anyone who is willing, try to get a second leader and take turns being rear guard in case of flats, etc. I think this would be an extra comfort to the others.

    7. If it is not too late, perhaps set an intermediate stop for others to join the group. 16 miles is a long way for someone who doesn't ride regularly. There is no way I could have ridden that far when I started.

    I think it is admirable of you to do this hope these suggestion help.
    Regards,
    Raymond
    If it ain't broke, mess with it anyway!

  3. #3
    Sumanitu taka owaci LittleBigMan's Avatar
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    I would find out about each person who will be riding with you: what is their cycling experience, etc. I would try to make it as pleasant as possible for the weakest among the group. I would try to map out (and test) alternative routes to the busy ones you mentioned. Also, if the route is 16 miles one way, I would consider shortening it. You want to encourage the newbies, yet the veteran riders won't need any encouragement, so they can suffer through a short, slower ride. As Raymond said, you might want a co-captain in the rear of the group, if there will be many. I think it will be a fun challenge if you try to make it as pleasant as possible.

  4. #4
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    Even as an experienced cyclist, if Im starting to commute in a strange city, I will take a Sunday morning to go exploring, and figure out the roads. DC on a Sunday morning could be fun.

    16 miles does seem like a long distance for newbies. It does no favours to take someone on a 16 miler who has not pedalled in years. You get that charity ride syndrome, "Cycling hurts so it must be good for me/the environment/my chosen charity". It hurts so they dont do it again.

  5. #5
    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    Ya, a 16 mile commute in traffic for newbies is a sure way to turn a group of people away from bicycle commuting.

    You will be lucky if the average newbie can average 10 miles per hour in traffic. That gives you a commute of AT LEAST one and a half hours.

    I say abandon the 16 mile plan and go for, say five to eight miles for the newbies. An eight mile commute in traffic is about 40 to 45 minutes for a newbie - enough.
    Mike

  6. #6
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    Very good suggestions. Since I'm doing this for a local bike advocacy group as part of their bike to work day, the route and time can't be changed. I've done this twice before, but not as a ride leader. We're meeting other groups along the way, so it's not all up to me the whole way, just 5 miles thereabouts to the next group. I'll be leading from the rear.

  7. #7
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    even though you'll be the sweep, you might want to annouce to the group that it is a no drop ride (if in fact that's what it is, which is what it sounds like). tell those in the group that are faster that they should be prepared to wait at the top of long hills, etc. and that the goal is to maintain the group.

    also i'd annouce whatever rules you think will work best at the start. i think a double paceline formation is a casual and social way to ride, and one doesn't need to draft close. that way they could chat with their neighbor. then when you yell "single up" they can go into single file. it also offers them some structure. also you might want to tell them to annouce any breaking or coasting with "slowing," and to annouce or point to obstacles if they are in the front. and that when you call out "car back" it means a car is approaching and they need to hold their line or come in a little closer. sometimes normally safe cyclists forget some of the safety basics in the excitement of a group ride.

    16 miles is a lot for someone who hasn't ridden much, but i'm sure if you take it easy, i bet they'll be fine and even enjoy themselves! annoucing that the ride will be at "recovery" pace may help the warriors chill and put your newbies at ease. also, newbies on mtb or hybrids are slower than newbies on roadbikes - so that might set your pace.

    sounds v cool!
    -jb

  8. #8
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    Let me tell you what happened. About 7 riders showed up, plus a photographer from a local weekly newspaper. After getting everyone to sign the waiver form, we set out at 6:35 AM. We picked up two riders near the subway station, 2 others who started 20 miles farther out came from behind, and we met up with another group near a local park. 6 riders left with me to meet another group meeting at a bike shop in College Park, MD; the rest went on the direct route with the group at the park. We got to the bike shop too late to join those riders, so we were on our own. I got our group lost once; halfway through I and two other riders got dropped; and I got to the rally about 45 minutes late, but other than that it went well. I rode back with the two riders and coworkers who rode 20 miles to get to Greenbelt. Tomorrow I'll see if we got in the paper. My only regret is wearing sweatpants instead of spandex shorts.

  9. #9
    Mr. Cellophane RainmanP's Avatar
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    Well done, Nitter! Congratulations on what I would call a very successful effort!
    Raymond
    If it ain't broke, mess with it anyway!

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