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Old 09-12-10, 11:37 PM   #1
Noobtastic
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I want to organize a group ride.

I went on one yesterday that had about 35 participating riders moving from house to house across town to see different music shows and while it was fun, it wasn't very well organized. There were riders of all skill levels but no separation so we'd always get a "slow down" yell when climbing a hill or traveling on main roads. The strategy of the leaders to keep anyone from being hit was to ride down the crosswalks and block incoming traffic from crossing an intersection, even if the traffic lights were in their favor. And because the group couldn't keep together, there were a lot of confused people.

I want to organize a casual ride down to a local state park in a few weeks for those who like to ride longer distances than downtown Tallahassee. The ride will be about 21 miles long, with most of the distance on a multi-use trail, with 5 road crossings in town and then a long peaceful ride all the way to the destination(Map here: http://www.mapmyrun.com/route/us/fl/...28435233776108). I'd like to leave in the morning so that people have time to eat, swim, take boat tours, hike, and whatever else they might like to do there and leave in the late afternoon so that we can get back to the starting point without any need of headlights. I have talked to a few people who have emphasized the need for a A and B group so that fast riders don't have an unpleasant ride and slower guys don't feel so left out. I need some advice before I start telling people that this is going to happen though.

1.) How do I control 20-30 cyclists going through an intersection? Or riding on a main road? Most people who ride in Tallahassee don't go more than from home to class. On the ride I went on, conversation and simple showing off had people riding all over the road and being nuisances. I don't want to play daddy but I want to let everyone know that some actions are not appropriate for a safe ride and let them know what we'll be doing at each intersection beforehand so that there's no confusion.
2.) It's still storm season so our weather is really unpredictable sometimes. What happens at a cycling event when the sky is throwing out rain, thunder and lightning? Is the event a bust? Do we just wait for the storm to break or does the show still go on? What if we find out that we'll have serious storms throughout that week?
3.) Are there any precautions to take in case of injury, aside of a biker boo-boo kit?

Please throw in any useful advice that you have, I'm excited about this but I don't want to start making flyers and e-mailing facebookers till I'm confident about taking a group of people I don't know out on an epic ride.
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Old 09-13-10, 03:01 AM   #2
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1. Get insurance. Most cycle clubs who run rides have insurance ... talk to your local cycle clubs to see who they get their insurance from.

2. If you are going to clog up any roads with cyclists, get an event licence/permit from your local city hall and/or the police. You need permission from the officials to hold up traffic or you can be ticketed and fined.

3. Go ride other group rides and see how they do it. That one group ride you did sounds odd ... go on some others with other clubs and see how they run their events.

4. When you go on other rides, you will likely discover that many clubs require you to sign an event waiver prior to riding with them. Talk to the club officials about those waivers.

There is a lot of legal stuff involved in organising a ride.


Once you've got your insurance, done up your waiver, got your licence/permits etc., then consider the route.

Pick a route with the least amount of traffic as possible. Go ride the route on the day of the week you're considering at at the time of day you're considering. Some routes can be very busy during the week, but light on the weekend or just the opposite. Some can be busier at certain times of the day and not at others. Find out.

Do up a cue sheet and map for the route so that riders can find their own way there, and indicate that they can ride at their own pace. Don't require riders to stay together in a bunch ... that's just asking for an accident.

Incidentally ... 10.5 miles to a park and 10.5 miles back is not an epic ride. It's a very short ride that would not likely appeal to "A" riders. The type of event you're talking about would most likely appeal only to very casual recreational cyclists. I doubt you'd have a problem with fast riders showing up to something like that.

One of the unfortunate things of a ride that short is that riders won't have a chance to spread out. However, maybe if you have a start time of 8:30 to 9:00, and allow riders to go when they are ready between that time they'll spread out on their own. When riders are spread out, you don't have to worry about intersections etc. ... it'll be no different than when you and the other riders are out riding on your own. Just follow the rules of the road like you normally would (and put that comment on the cue sheet and map).

And if you have in mind that riders will park their bicycles at a park and go off and do other things during the day, you'll need to ensure security for the bicycles ... more than just locks. Something like, perhaps, a designated bicycle watcher. The last thing you need to deal with is stolen bicycle(s).

Last edited by Machka; 09-13-10 at 03:24 AM.
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Old 09-13-10, 07:34 AM   #3
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1.) How do I control 20-30 cyclists going through an intersection? Or riding on a main road? Most people who ride in Tallahassee don't go more than from home to class. On the ride I went on, conversation and simple showing off had people riding all over the road and being nuisances. I don't want to play daddy but I want to let everyone know that some actions are not appropriate for a safe ride and let them know what we'll be doing at each intersection beforehand so that there's no confusion.
2.) It's still storm season so our weather is really unpredictable sometimes. What happens at a cycling event when the sky is throwing out rain, thunder and lightning? Is the event a bust? Do we just wait for the storm to break or does the show still go on? What if we find out that we'll have serious storms throughout that week?
3.) Are there any precautions to take in case of injury, aside of a biker boo-boo kit?

Please throw in any useful advice that you have, I'm excited about this but I don't want to start making flyers and e-mailing facebookers till I'm confident about taking a group of people I don't know out on an epic ride.
Here in New York where I am where there are PLENTY of stop lights, the bike clubs I ride with (5-Borough Bicycle Club and the Massapequa Park Bicycle Club) deals with traffic-light intersections in the following manner:

- Riders MUST obey traffic lights. If you hit a traffic light, you STOP and wait for it to turn green before proceeding.

- The ride leaders have compression stops every couple miles to give those riders caught at a signal light to catch up.

- The clubs use the "Point-Drop-Sweep" system. There are TWO ride leaders who know the route, one at the front of the pack, and one at the back. The guy up front leads the way (he is "the point"). Whenever he comes to a turn that the group has to make, he asks the rider behind him to "drop", or stop at the corner and point out the turn for the rest of the group. The "drop" stays at the corner until the second ride leader ("The sweep") escorting the rear of the pack waves to the drop to resume riding. This way, nobody gets lost.

I have been riding with these two clubs for the past three years and the point-drop-sweep system works very nicely. The biggest ride I remember doing with the clubs using this system was one of their early-season training rides for the Montauk Century, where 42 people showed up.

As far as weather goes, the clubs do have a rain cancels policy for safety reasons (decreased visibility, tendency to skid and fall, etc.). I think that's prudent.

Cue sheets given out at the beginning of the ride with cell phone numbers of the point and sweep ride leaders helps with safety too, so they can stay informed if there are any mechanical or medical incidents in the pack.
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Old 09-13-10, 10:36 AM   #4
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Do up a cue sheet and map for the route so that riders can find their own way there, and indicate that they can ride at their own pace. Don't require riders to stay together in a bunch ... that's just asking for an accident.

Incidentally ... 10.5 miles to a park and 10.5 miles back is not an epic ride. It's a very short ride that would not likely appeal to "A" riders. The type of event you're talking about would most likely appeal only to very casual recreational cyclists. I doubt you'd have a problem with fast riders showing up to something like that.
Machka says it all!

If you want to be extra nice teach people howto rig up a route slip holder with a clip and some zip ties.
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Old 09-13-10, 10:45 AM   #5
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The strategy of the leaders to keep anyone from being hit was to ride down the crosswalks and block incoming traffic from crossing an intersection, even if the traffic lights were in their favor. And because the group couldn't keep together, there were a lot of confused people.
Frankly, the "leaders" of the "ride" you went on sound like dangerous idiots. If I ever had the bad fortune to find myself on a ride like that I'd turn around and ride home.

I've been on a fair number of group rides, and I would *never* think of organizing a group ride unless I had been on some well-organized, safe rides led by experienced ride leaders. In fact, I've been considering volunteering to be a ride leader in my local area, and I don't think I'm quite ready for it. At least one of our larger bike clubs in town has a formal ride-leader training program.

If I were you I'd start by attending some good group rides -- try a local bike shop, or bike club, and go on a few. If you don't have time to observe safe group-riding tactics, or learn them, I wouldn't take a "group" or more than 4 or 5 people on the kind of ride you're suggesting.

BTW, I don't know if you care, but there are some legal issues involved with being the "leader" of an organized ride, especially in the USA I have never researched this myself, but I believe that if you organize a group ride it's best to affiliate yourself with an existing club that has the proper insurance, and you follow their rules.
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Old 09-13-10, 11:07 AM   #6
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"Sweeps and Corners"

1. Appoint a rider who is wearing a distinctive jersey as the sweep rider. Their job is to start last and not to pass any other riders.

2. At every turn or place where it's possible to go off route, the leader appoints a corner. The corner's job is to direct the following riders on the route.

3. When the corner sees the sweep rider approaching, they jump back onto their bicycle and continue on the route.

The beauty of this method is how well it acommodates riders of different abillities. The faster riders can volunteer for corner duty and sprint back to the leader for another corner assignment. Slower riders simply ride the route at their own pace without fear of getting off course.
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Old 09-14-10, 01:02 AM   #7
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I forgot the far reach of the law, I also failed to mention that the round-trip would be about 42 miles. I guess the highlights of that group ride like meeting people from school made a big impression on me. I'll stick to riding with just a few friends for now and try to hook up with my old thursday mountain bike group to watch how they handle the huge group that rides now, thanks for the advice.
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Old 09-14-10, 03:58 AM   #8
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If you're looking for "epic" rides, look into riding with these clubs:

http://gainesvillecyclingclub.org/
http://www.floridarandonneurs.com/
http://www.audaxatlanta.com/
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Old 09-14-10, 06:54 PM   #9
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A local cycling club is actually having a century tour of N. Florida and S.Georgia later in October that I'm preparing to ride in. The plan for a cycling meetup came from a discussion I had with a friend of mine after the group ride, we figured that there are hundreds of bikes on FSU campus on any given day and out of the big group of "parking garage to class" riders there are definitely people who love to ride everywhere and it would be cool if we could bring a group of young, like-minded people to ride a long distance to a really cool location. It would be a great way to meet friends and explore a city that's new to many, critical mass is the only casual ride and even that gets pretty disorganized too.
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Old 09-14-10, 07:12 PM   #10
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The Point,Drop Sweep method of dealing with rides is awesome for letting riders of different abilities enjoy the ride.
I love riding sweep. It works really well for me, cause I'm usually the slowest one of the group anyway.
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