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Managing Group Rides

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Managing Group Rides

Old 06-05-14, 07:33 PM
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Managing Group Rides

Hello,

I recently volunteered to lead a D Group ride in my town. The group rides range from A (20+mph) to D (13+/-mph) average.

I started going with my fiancee to help her out and teach her how to ride so we can do something together. I volunteered because it said on their webpage that they were looking for a leader. At the beginning nobody showed up because the word had not gotten out. Today is the 4th time me and my fiancee go. Usually, when nobody wants to be in the D ride I try to push her to do the C ride but we get dropped in the first mile so we then do our own pace once the C group is gone.

Today, some people got dropped by the C group and we swept them in. They were complaining that the C group was too fast, and I do understand because 15-17mph average in 75ft/mile terrain is not easy at all if you are starting off or have some years on you. We picked them up and rode off for about 8 or 9 more miles with them. Then some issues arose.

My fiancee basically started riding a month ago and rides 1 time a week. Our average speed is about 13mph and she has to put some effort in to get there. For these people we picked up 13mph seemed like too little yet they probably couldn't exceed 14.5mph ave therefore got dropped by the C group. They were also asking for more mileage and I don't think my fiancee could have done much more. They were very happy I was there to teach them, I even helped with a flat and I think we had a good paceline for about 20 minutes. They said they were coming next week so I am very happy and pleased.

Here are my issues though:

* The people we picked up seemed to be wanting more juice. I kept it as fast as I could without dropping my fiancee who was turning purple. The average speed was around 13mph which I do not consider bad at all. Should I roll then wait or should I hold on to everybody as long as I can?

* Length of the ride - The official ride is about 14 miles total. They thought we were gonna do the same as the C (21 miles) just a little bit slower. In reality I don't think my fiancee or anybody who is really new would be able to tackle 21 hard miles (hills). Should I try to add maybe a hill or two and do 17-18 miles instead as a happy medium?

* Regrouping: This is not really an issue but just thinking that regrouping should be done at least two times at key areas. I don't have anybody to sweep the back so sometimes I lose track of the tail. Need to get a mirror for the helmet I guess.

I also have a cool idea. There is one tough hill on the Group D ride and I'd like to bring some sort of gift card from some bike shop or something to offer as a prize for KOM on that hill. It is 1 mile long and about 4% average but it is the only real hill. I was thinking that whoever makes it first to the top wins the gift card. THat way they'll have some fun and I don't think it will be harmful since the group is very small and going uphill you aren't really going too fast.

So what do you guys think? Do I use the D group ride as something for real beginners or just for those who can't keep up with the C? below is the group description per the website.

"D Group 10-14 mph average – 12 miles partial road mostly trail 6:30 pm"

Thanks,
Luis

PS: My fiancee grinding the HILL!

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Old 06-05-14, 07:51 PM
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It's great that your SO is willing to suffer with you. My wife laughs at me when I even hint at her throwing a leg over a bike. I think she has seen me suffer too many times to get excited about the idea...

I have been in your situation. It can be tough. The good news is that the improvement will be rapid and this may sort itself out. Is a quick trainer ride one evening a week (or two...) something your SO might agree to?

My suggestions would be to make it clear to the group what the ride will be. If there is an appetite for more then an optional climb, as you suggested, might sort that out. This only works if you have the roads to make it work.

In terms of a prize, I ran a Tuesday night ITT thing here for a while. We kept track of times and gave two prizes: The first prize was for the best time in each cat (A and B groups). The second prize was for the most improvement. This meant that whomever had shown the greatest percent of time reduction, regardless of their group or placing, also won a prize. I felt that this rewarded effort and not just results. With a beginning group this might spread it around a bit more and be a little less A-Type about the whole thing.

Good luck.
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Old 06-05-14, 07:58 PM
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It is important for the group to know the important points of the ride. Before the start, get your group together, tell them about the route, the speed, the distance, and that the ride will regroup twice. Keep it short, sweet, simple, and loud, so every hears what you said. Make sure they all know that the ride is for fun, and the goal is to get a little workout while enjoying themselves. Your fiancé will get better soon enough, but if she is feeling challenged, she can keep the stragglers together and encourage them.
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Old 06-05-14, 08:02 PM
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You need to buy her some Zipp 404s
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Old 06-05-14, 08:10 PM
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Thanks for the input guys!

The hard part is being unable to really give a briefing before the ride. Everybody thinks they are a C at the worst so nobody starts with the D. They get swept in and once the ride is at that point it is hard to debrief. Good thing is we have two people coming next week to repeat the ride. I'll be letting them know about the ride from the beginning and probably be open to some suggestions on whether they want the extra miles or not.

I want them to learn as well. Other than the obvious health benefits and improved performance, I want them to learn. I am not a great racer, but a racer nonetheless and I can teach them and hopefully inspire them to become better riders. My goal is to help them graduate to the next level. I just want to make sure everybody is having fun as well.

Hopefully we will develop a strong base and a solid group.

I wonder how can I deal with not having a second guy on command. It is hard having such a big gap in strength and dividing myself between the lead and the sweep.
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Old 06-05-14, 08:10 PM
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IMO, if there are rides that have multiple groups going out of different abilities, the lowest group that goes out should be a no-drop group, suitable for beginners, and stays at a slow enough pace so that a reasonably fit beginner can do the entire ride. If that is too slow for some people, or they have to wait around, it is up to them to try to get fast enough to join the "C" group -- or deal with hanging with the "D" group. I wouldn't push the pace just for them, and have it be too much for the beginners (especially your fiance! priority #1 ). There will always be people who's speed and skills are between group levels, all the way up to A/B or even A+. They just need to decide what group they can hang with
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Old 06-05-14, 08:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Homebrew01
You need to buy her some Zipp 404s
I'm sure that will make her 26# lotus fly! Maybe if we threw it from a plane.

Actually, I was thinking of getting her a new bike but we already have 7 bikes in the house and I can't justify another one. I think a bike that better suits her with Brifters instead of DT may help her tons. She has a really tough time reaching to the DT shifters when the speed goes up.
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Old 06-05-14, 08:14 PM
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Originally Posted by BenPS
IMO, if there are rides that have multiple groups going out of different abilities, the lowest group that goes out should be a no-drop group, suitable for beginners, and stays at a slow enough pace so that a reasonably fit beginner can do the entire ride. If that is too slow for some people, or they have to wait around, it is up to them to try to get fast enough to join the "C" group -- or deal with hanging with the "D" group. I wouldn't push the pace just for them, and have it be too much for the beginners (especially your fiance! priority #1 ). There will always be people who's speed and skills are between group levels, all the way up to A/B or even A+. They just need to decide what group they can hang with
Makes sense. It seems like it should be kept at a "real beginners" level. I want people to get into the sport and feel comfortable, not die from a stroke their first time on a bicycle! At the moment since we are only 4-5 riders there is a little bit of flexibility but as the group grows I want to make sure we are sitting on a well defined group.
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Old 06-05-14, 08:15 PM
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Get her some nicer wheels, with an 8 speed cassette and chain, new rear derailleur, and some budget shifters. It will feel like a new bike.

Check that her stem is in far enough. Looks a bit wrong from here.

My girlfriend at the time was riding some old Ross clunker or something and wanted to try a race for a lark, I managed to fit my tubulars on there with a little brake pad adjustment. Probably knocked 4 pounds off the bike.
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Old 06-05-14, 08:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Homebrew01
Check that her stem is in far enough. Looks a bit wrong from here.
The bike is quite big for her I think, TT is 57cm. The geometry is really for touring. It is supposed to be Rando bike. I'll take a look at it though since you may be right.
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Old 06-05-14, 08:23 PM
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I don't think the lowest group (D) should have to speed up or ride further to accommodate the better riders. Maybe the C Group need to break into two groups (C- and C+) -- it really seems important to maintain a group that doesn't overwhelm new riders. If you do end up speeding up the Ds, it may be necessary to add some E rides.

You are being a real sport leading the D riders. When I am first starting, it was wonderful to have better riders who were willing to show me the ropes.

I agree with Bob D that, with beginning riders, it's important to reward improvement as well as who's fastest. But I'm not at all opposed to the "first up the bastard hill wins" idea -- we all can use the motivation.

As your beautiful young lady becomes a stronger rider, maybe you can lead those "C-" rides and a new leader can take over the D rides. But I hope they don't disappear.
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Old 06-05-14, 08:26 PM
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What's the bolt circle on her chainring ? Looks like she's got 52/48 or something crazy.
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Old 06-05-14, 08:37 PM
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Originally Posted by mcmoose
I don't think the lowest group (D) should have to speed up or ride further to accommodate the better riders. Maybe the C Group need to break into two groups (C- and C+) -- it really seems important to maintain a group that doesn't overwhelm new riders. If you do end up speeding up the Ds, it may be necessary to add some E rides.

You are being a real sport leading the D riders. When I am first starting, it was wonderful to have better riders who were willing to show me the ropes.

I agree with Bob D that, with beginning riders, it's important to reward improvement as well as who's fastest. But I'm not at all opposed to the "first up the bastard hill wins" idea -- we all can use the motivation.

As your beautiful young lady becomes a stronger rider, maybe you can lead those "C-" rides and a new leader can take over the D rides. But I hope they don't disappear.
Thank you for your input. I am having difficulties seeing how I could reward improvement but I guess I'll figure it out once I get more experience and I see how the crowd moves on. I am very excited about the KOM contest. The climb is at the beginning of the ride so maybe it can wear out the faster riders if I push them then the group will be more even. The 1st regroup is right at the top of that climb so it makes it perfect.

My idea is that one day my fiancee and I can act as a team to lead the group, she can take the back and I take the front. I am very proud of her for trying so hard!

Originally Posted by Homebrew01
What's the bolt circle on her chainring ? Looks like she's got 52/48 or something crazy.
50/42 with climb cog being 32. 170mm crank arm. I think BCD is 110??? Sugino GT spider with Shimano Rings. How would that compare to a 34-28 combination? I really need to learn my gear inches.
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Old 06-05-14, 08:42 PM
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Plenty of gear charts on the web. Looks like a smaller chainring would fit on there (assuming she needs a lower gear)
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Old 06-05-14, 08:43 PM
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It sounds like you want a few more riders.

Are your rides posted on a calendar or an email list? Make your "D" group a separate ride, not just the "D" group--give the ride it's own name. Include both your fiancee's first name and your first name as ride leaders, having a woman ride leader will help. Mention that you wait at the top and the bottom of the hills, with nobody left behind. This may bring out some riders that felt that the usual rides were just way too much to handle.

That "10-14" average speed is way too broad a range. Choose something more definite, like "Flat road speeds of 14-15 mph; hills and stops will make the whole ride average about 12-13 mph", and post the ride distance too. (New riders get in over their heads when they only see average speeds posted.) I've led rides that ended up being faster than the posted speeds, because everyone who showed seemed comfortable going that fast. But keep an eye on the last few riders and back off to the posted speeds if needed.

Make sure you don't lose any riders. (It's sooo easy for groups to get spread out!) Either count them at every turn onto a different road if the group is under 10 riders, or ask/appoint one of the riders that tends to be near the back to be the sweeper, and wait until they roll up to the group and get a chance to take a short break before you take off again. The sweeper's role is to make sure that nobody gets behind them.

(I've led some fairly slow group rides. I do manage to get some sprints in because I'll drop back to cruise with the last few riders, then have to blast up to the front to keep riders at the front from missing the next turn. It's interesting to ride slow, take in the sights and sounds, instead of watching the riders right ahead in the pack all the time.)

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Old 06-05-14, 08:50 PM
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Originally Posted by rm -rf
It sounds like you want a few more riders.

Are your rides posted on a calendar or an email list? Make your "D" group a separate ride, not just the "D" group--give the ride it's own name. Include both your fiancee's first name and your first name as ride leaders. Mention what your typical flat road speeds are, and that you wait at the top and the bottom of the hills, with nobody left behind. This may bring out some riders that felt that the usual rides were just way too much to handle.

Make sure you don't lose any riders. Either count them at every turn if the group is under 10 riders, or ask one of the riders that tends to be near the back to be the sweeper, and wait until they roll up to the group and get a chance to take a short break before you take off again.
I'd love to get a few more riders! I think we are also getting a friend of my fiancee's next weekend but she'll be riding a hybrid.

The separate group ride sounds like a great idea. As I get more confident as a lead I'll try to put that into action. I want to make sure that I can handle small groups first before jumping the *** and being overwhelmed. Thanks for the idea. I'll definitely try to get the word out there. Hopefully they will see that I'm serious about this and put my name up on the website. It says at the moment that they are looking for leaders so that may be the reason people won't attend specifically for that. They have been announcing a D group on the spot since I let them know every time I am available.
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Old 06-05-14, 08:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Homebrew01
Plenty of gear charts on the web. Looks like a smaller chainring would fit on there (assuming she needs a lower gear)
I think she does surprisingly well with the current gearing. Her biggest issue is the DT shifters. The bike also has 27in wheels so that may affect her gearing too but again I think brifters and a few pounds less may go far for her.
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Old 06-05-14, 08:53 PM
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The ride leaders in my club go through keeping rides together constantly. My gf and I usually do the B ride which always includes some significant hills, lasts about 35 mi. on a Weds afternoon or 40-50 miles on a Sat. morning. Our rides tend to be anywhere from 14-18 riders and we average 14.5-15 mph. Although we don't have a lot of issues the ones most likely to arise are keeping the group together and not letting the racer wannabes destroy the group by riding off the front. One ride leader who is an ex-racer (about 50 yrs old) solves the riding off the front problem by warning people that if they take off he will turn the group at the next road and they will find themselves riding alone. The ride leader has to ride from the front and really needs a lieutenant for larger groups.
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Old 06-05-14, 09:08 PM
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The local cycle club has a few rides that accommodate just about any rider. One is out and back on the same road, another is a loop ride that's been doing the same route for years. There's a Saturday ride that has all the turns marked with spraypaint once or twice a year.

So regular riders get familiar with the route, and can self-navigate, usually in small groups of 2 to maybe 10 riders.
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Old 06-05-14, 09:14 PM
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Originally Posted by lsberrios1
I'd love to get a few more riders! I think we are also getting a friend of my fiancee's next weekend but she'll be riding a hybrid.

The separate group ride sounds like a great idea. As I get more confident as a lead I'll try to put that into action. I want to make sure that I can handle small groups first before jumping the *** and being overwhelmed. Thanks for the idea. I'll definitely try to get the word out there. Hopefully they will see that I'm serious about this and put my name up on the website. It says at the moment that they are looking for leaders so that may be the reason people won't attend specifically for that. They have been announcing a D group on the spot since I let them know every time I am available.
My club would love to have more slow ride leaders. Those are the hardest to find, since many regular riders get fast enough to move up to a faster speed group. It sounds like you are doing fine already--and leading is much easier when you aren't having to go full blast to keep up. A slow group of a dozen or less is pretty easy to lead. You just need to know the route and be able to count the riders! ( I do find a mirror is very useful in leading, to see if the following riders are keeping up, or if anyone got cut off at the stop light.)

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Old 06-05-14, 09:14 PM
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Originally Posted by bruce19
The ride leaders in my club go through keeping rides together constantly. My gf and I usually do the B ride which always includes some significant hills, lasts about 35 mi. on a Weds afternoon or 40-50 miles on a Sat. morning. Our rides tend to be anywhere from 14-18 riders and we average 14.5-15 mph. Although we don't have a lot of issues the ones most likely to arise are keeping the group together and not letting the racer wannabes destroy the group by riding off the front. One ride leader who is an ex-racer (about 50 yrs old) solves the riding off the front problem by warning people that if they take off he will turn the group at the next road and they will find themselves riding alone. The ride leader has to ride from the front and really needs a lieutenant for larger groups.
lol I like his technique. I wish I could use it but so far I don't think I have the street cred to be that exigent. Need to be a little nicer so they keep coming back .
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Old 06-05-14, 09:20 PM
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Originally Posted by rm -rf
My club would love to have more slow ride leaders. Those are the hardest to find, since many regular riders get fast enough to move up to a faster speed group. It sounds like you are doing fine already--and leading is much easier when you aren't having to go full blast to keep up. A slow group of a dozen or less is pretty easy to lead. You just need to know the route and be able to count the riders!
I like teaching others the ways of cycling Sometimes I get tempted to go after the A Group but in the end I enjoy seeing my GF working hard and sharing one of my passions with me. I take my Race bike so they can learn about race bikes and teams, I wear tour jerseys in case they want to learn about the polkadots, yellow, pink etc. I use power readings most of the time so I can base the ride on power and not only speed. That way I can keep a constant effort even when the road goes up.

I am super happy and excited to see this grow. Need to get a mirror so I don't have to look back.
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Old 06-05-14, 09:44 PM
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Originally Posted by lsberrios1
I think she does surprisingly well with the current gearing. Her biggest issue is the DT shifters. The bike also has 27in wheels so that may affect her gearing too but again I think brifters and a few pounds less may go far for her.
My Univega is a very similar setup to your fiancee's Lotus. Speaking as a girl who also doesn't like to go ungodly fast, I recently upgraded to an entry level modern endurance bike with integrated shifting and it has made a WORLD of difference. I always hated the DT shifters and I find climbing much less daunting with the lighter weight of the bike. Integrated shifters will allow her to focus on climbs/descents without worrying about losing control by reaching down when she is already pushing hard. Nevertheless it's awesome that she is willing to work so hard! I would be proud of her too.
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Old 06-05-14, 11:06 PM
  #24  
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Keep your fiancee happy, ride her speed when she is with you. Let the others do what they will.
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Old 06-05-14, 11:20 PM
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Id honestly be nervous leading a C and D ride than an A or B ride.

Goodluck.
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