by Ajit Baid
Biking is “fun,” but riding with a group is “entertaining,” not to mention making friends, killing the hills, and going that extra mile.
Starting a group ride can seem intimidating, but it’s easier than you think. When I moved to Rockville in 2011, I was quick to find out about Potomac Pedalers and started riding the Tuesday Rockville Rambler. Although it was a shorter and slower ride, I really liked the group, so I continued riding, but was unable to find something close for a weekend ride. That’s when I decided to start the Wootton H.S. ride on Saturday mornings. Honestly, I didn’t give it much thought. I was happy to see a couple of people on the first ride. Slowly, with consistent effort, the ride took off and now we average about 40-50 riders every week. So, what was it that made the ride so popular?
Here are my top 5 tips to leading a successful ride:
1. You build it & they will come.
Road biking is growing in popularity as people are trying to be more active and ex-runners are taking on biking as their knees are saying, “no thank you.” Therefore, there is a definite need for more diverse biking groups which will appeal to a wide variety of riders. If you are a bike enthusiast and can’t find a group to ride, start one. If you start it, others will come – more than you can think of. Trust me, there are dozens more like you out there and soon you won’t be riding alone. In addition, riding in a group reduces your chances of hit and run accidents.
2. Location, Location, Location.
I started the ride from Wootton H. because it is half a mile from my house and I don’t have to drive to the start location. I did not realize it at that time that it is a central location and just off I-270. People found it very convenient. We have riders coming from around Rockville, VA, and DC. Pretty much all riders can make it to Wootton H.S. in about 30 minutes. In addition, there was no weekend ride that started from the Rockville area. So, if you want to start a ride, find a convenient start location. Make sure there is enough free parking.
3. Start time
I personally did not like the weekend rides that started at 10 or 10.30 AM as it messed up my whole day. Therefore, I decided to start my ride at 8 AM. I did not do any market research, nor did I ask anybody else. I just wanted to start early and get back home by around noon, so that I still had most of the day to spend with the family or do yard work or run errands. Little did I know at that time that dozens of people were looking for an early start ride as well. Many who did not like the idea initially joined the bandwagon after realizing the benefits of “early to start, early to end.”
4. Continuity & Teamwork
One of the things that made this ride so popular is “continuity.” We try to ride pretty much every weekend from spring to fall. I know…it is a big commitment. So how do you do it? Ask for help! Ask a few people and you will be surprised how many are willing to help. Don’t be a loner, get some buddies to help you lead when you can’t. I currently have 2-3 backup ride leaders in each group.
5. Safety & Discipline
I think all ride leaders are different, so there is nothing really right or wrong, except a few ride leader “must do’s & don’ts.” I personally, plan all the rides carefully, send cue sheets in advance of the ride, try to avoid busy roads, emphasize safe riding, and call out chronic defaulters. I try to be welcoming and responsive. I receive quite a few emails, text messages, and phone calls during the week and I try to respond as promptly as I can. Last, but not least, I always start my rides on time, as advertised. If you are a minute or two late, you better rush to catch up, because we will leave on time.
So, in a nutshell, being a ride leader is a fair amount of responsibility and work, but is lot of fun, too. I like riding, and if I can ride with others who love this sport as much as I do, we all win.
Looking forward to seeing more group rides in Potomac Pedalers’ listings. Let’s click and go…
Want to lead a ride but not sure what to do? We can pair you with a Ride Leader Mentor or someone to co-lead a ride with you. Contact Martine Palmiter or Linda Kolko for details.