"Hmm. Looks like it's going to be a nice day tomorrow. I think I'll do a bike ride. Let's see what the Out-Spokin' Wheelmen ride schedule has lined up. Let's see, here it is... "NOTHING??? How can that be? Not a single scheduled ride on such a pretty day?"
Folks, we need more ride leaders! We need members who are willing to commit a day to the club, to do their part to keep the club going. Without lots of rides, it's not much of a bike club!
There are always people who think about leading a ride, but aren't sure they can pull it off. But it's easy, once you have a few tips. So, as former Ride Captain and current Safety Chairman, here are my thoughts on how to lead a ride.
First, where will you go? Easy! Almost any route will do. I've led rides over 100 miles, and as short as 7 miles. We've done country roads, and we've toured the inner city. We've ridden morning, afternoon, evening and night. Fast or slow, on-road or off... if you like a ride, others will probably like it, so just do it! Put it in the ride schedule!
But give some thought to the details. Safety-wise, some riders may not be ready for a 50-mph downhill, or a narrow, high-traffic road, or a left turn from Rt. 224 in Boardman. Those things can be safely ridden, but they're more difficult with a group, and they might make a new rider nervous. So for the first few rides you lead, pick easy, relaxing roads.
Make it fun! Consider a gimmick or a point of interest. "Let's See The Alligator" may be better than "Ho Hum, Another Country Ride." At least consider a snack stop. Pick a good starting point, and check out the ride by cycling it yourself or with a friend. Checking it in a car isn't good enough!
Now comes the "homework." Write a short ride description, accurately describe the starting time, location, distance, pace, and hills. Then send your info to our Ride Captain so it gets in the newsletter. (And please start early - our editor has a deadline!)
Once ride day is approaching, make sure your bike is in perfect shape, then be at your starting point at least five or ten minutes ahead of time. Bring pencil and paper to record your riders' club miles. As you get everyone's name, be sure to make friends with anyone new. Keep in mind, this is a social event, and the OSW is a friendly club. Remember how nervous you were on your first club ride? Take care of the new folks!
While you're at it, pick a "sweep." That's a volunteer who agrees to ride last. The ideal sweep is a strong rider who can fix a flat and wears a bright, ugly jersey. When you're riding, you should look back frequently. As long as you see that ugly jersey, you know you haven't lost anyone. (A couple volunteers can trade off the sweep. Trading ugly jerseys is up to them!)
Time to start the ride? It’s up to you whether to wait a few minutes for latecomers. (Of course, riders should make an effort to arrive a little early!) Then give a warning ("Ready to roll?") and pedal out - but watch to be sure nobody had a last-second problem.
On the ride itself, you're naturally going to ride safely and legally, obeying traffic laws. You don't want to ruin our reputation. But riding in a group adds some slight complication. So watch these safety things:
Traffic lights: We don't have parade permits, so we do respect all lights. If the front of the group makes it through but the rear doesn't, the leader should immediately find a safe place well off the road, to wait for the others. And the "others" should not run the light to catch up!
Stop signs: Every rider for himself! Yell "Car left" or "Car right" as appropriate, but don't yell "Clear." Why? Because cars can pop out of nowhere, and you don't want to tempt someone to run a stop sign and get creamed. Each person must respect the sign and make his or her own decision about when to go. Same for making left turns: every rider is in charge of himself.
Major turns: Before the turn, look for the sweep. If people have spread out too far, post another volunteer at the corner to show the way. After a major turn, it's good to stop well off the road and wait for the sweep. It's better than having to search for the folks you lost! Besides, your riders will need a drink of water every once in a while.
Road hazards: Call out "Glass!" or "Gravel!" or "Pothole!" or "Car Back." We're good at this.
Maintain your pace: If you said "Moderate" then don't ride "Brisk." But - what if you said "moderate," but someone else wants "brisk?" Well, some ride leaders are OK with giving directions and letting Speed Racer go off the front. Others figure, if you're not behind the leader, you're not on the ride, so you can get lost on your own. But no matter what, the ride leader has to give the group what he advertised. Do NOT let others run away with the ride!
Mechanical problems: If someone flats or has some other bike problem, everyone should stop to help. We all have different tools and different knowledge.
Tricky spots: If the route includes a complicated traffic move or other tricky spot, stop well off the road to explain what's coming up. And be sure everyone makes it through!
Finally, at rides' end, double check the mileage to send in. Thank your old friends and new friends for showing up, and promise to show up on their rides!
That's it. It may look like a lot, but it's all easy and common sense. The main thing, I think, is to take care of your riders and make it fun for them.
Remember, you won't be working alone. The OSW is a good group of people. We pitch in and help out. So do your part to help out our ride schedule!
- Frank Krygowski, OSW Safety Chairman