Ride Leading for Dummies

Posted by Barbara Gravenor on 2015-12-01

Last Sunday I missed James's ride from Masham because I was attending a Ride Leader workshop in York, organised and run by the CTC. The people attending came from CTC groups or affiliated groups like the SOC. The aim of the workshop was to share ideas and knowledge on what makes a good group ride and how to lead one. A lot of useful information can be found on the CTC’s website, although some of it does not apply to our club, or maybe you think it should!!! What about signing in and out of a ride, obtaining the emergency contact details of each rider, carrying out risk assessments before you lead your ride or assessing the riders and their machines for worthiness to undertake the ride?

You will be pleased to hear that we discussed warning calls and it was agreed that car front and car back was the easiest way to communicate, although some older CTC members felt they would be lost without their ups and downs.

Among the qualities deemed to be required by a ride leader were cycling skills and road craft, the ability to be friendly but assertive, adaptable, communicative and PATIENT.  Route planning, map and GPS skills, some mechanical skill and knowledge of the Highway Code were also considered desirable.

The clubs represented had different types of cyclists coming on their rides. None seemed to have as many as 4 categories of ride and some were chain gangs while others were more leisurely riders like us. All shared an interest in café stops. I picked up the idea of including an approximate duration time for the ride as well as our speed and terrain descriptions.

When discussing how to plan a group ride, there was much debate about the size of the group and the need for a second ride leader and/or backmarker. SOC rides have seen 16 to 20 people turn up for a ride and I believe this is too many. We have on occasions divided the group into two and this has worked well as there are often a range of abilities which can be better catered for by having two groups. However this is dependent on a second person willing and able to lead the second group. SOC decided at their annual meeting that a group of more than 7 people should have a back marker. If riding without one, the group should agree that they will wait at the top or bottom of a hill and not cycle past any road junctions.

The workshop covered some road craft, mainly where to position yourself in the road and how to operate in a group at road junctions. Where and when to ride two abreast or in single file is a balance between the road conditions and not causing road rage by holding up drivers behind you. Steve our facilitator made a good point that if you are riding 2 abreast, the driver behind has to make a definite decision as to when it is best to overtake you. If you are single file in the gutter the driver may try to pass without any thought of how much room they are giving you and the possibility of a vehicle coming in the opposite direction, the SQUEEZE past manoeuvre.  

Thankfully the discussion on risk assessment was a short one. Steve from CTC felt the club should have a risk assessment document on file which members could refer to and this was sufficient to show that we are a responsible club. It does help if you have an idea of any hazards on your route but each rider should be responsible for their own safety on the road. Nobody is going to expect the ride leader to know the location of every pothole or control the speed you descend a hill, although they should warn you if there is a sharp bend or road junction at the bottom.

I came away from the workshop feeling SOC cycling section is doing most things correctly. Perhaps we should make a few basic rules covering our rides and ask people to respect the ride leader and any requests they make (apart from missing the café stop!). As nearly all our cyclists also act as ride leaders we are probably more aware of good group riding behaviour than some clubs.

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