Riding alone or with one or two close friends is fun, and definitely a valid way to enjoy our sport, but group rides are also a great option. Group rides provide a potentially larger pool of “better” riders against whom you can hone your own skills, and getting to see a bunch of different bikes and components first-hand can be helpful the next time you make your own purchase.
On the flip side, group rides can be annoying when it takes 40 minutes to get organized and start pedaling. Egos of the hardcore racers can be off-putting to noobs, and there is nothing worse than getting dropped by the group, especially if you factor in a mechanical or injury.
Here are 10 ways to make any group ride the successful event that it should be.
- Make someone the leader, not a dictator… more like a facilitator.
- Using as much input as possible, define a schedule. Nothing will work for everyone, but be as inclusive as possible.
- Use an established service like Meetup, Strava Groups, or MailChimp to communicate with your group.
- Last minute changes due to weather or other factors should be sent out ASAP. In addition to the above, there are also services based on SMS text messages for even more immediate dissemination of info.
- If your group is established enough, consider setting up a website with an off-the-shelf service like WordPress or Google Sites.
3. Have Variety
- Some riders like shredding the gnar every single ride, some like to bang out 50 miles of flowy XC singletrack, some like it all. Make sure to include a variety of trails, and accurately describe them in your group announcement. Group riders can pick and choose, or make an effort to stretch out of their comfort zone… but they’ll be armed with the knowledge to do so.
4. Define the route
- Some trail networks can be pretty confusing. Make sure to define a route, but it’s also okay to provide options for more or less technical sections. Just make sure everyone knows the plan, and define junction points where everyone can regroup.
- If your group is large enough, it’s ok to divide into sub-groups like Expert, Intermediate, and Beginner.
So now that you have a group of riders, some rides are planned, and people have committed to show up, here are some ideas for individuals riders to use to make the actual ride go down without a hitch.
5. Be on time
- Seriously, get to the ride early enough to be dressed and ready to roll at the established time. If something comes up and being late is unavoidable, text or email the leader to let him or her know. If you’re going to be really late, tell them to head out without you, and enjoy a solo ride that day.
6. Tune up your bike before ride day
- Don’t be that guy, you know, mounting tires, replacing the chain, swapping out a drivetrain… all while the group is waiting. We know you’re good at working on your ride, we don’t need to see it first-hand while daylight is fading.
7. Bring what you need
- There are numerous threads on the forum with ideas of what to pack, but basically, cover your own clothing, nutrition, hydration, trailside repair, and flat repair needs. Stuff happens, people forget stuff, but it’s nice being the guy who has it and can lend it to the guy who forgot it.
8. Group rides should be no drop rides
- I’m looking at you, Strava junkie. You’re fast, we get it. Be fast on solo training rides and in races. Group rides are about fun and camaraderie.
- Take some time to help out noobies. Offer some friendly guidance on technical features, body position, bike fit, etc. Be nice. Be encouraging.
- You slow guys: the best way to get faster is to ride with faster riders. Don’t kill yourself, but don’t be afraid to push it a little. You’ll be surprised how much you can improve.
- Define a leader. This shouldn’t be the fastest rider in the group, and he or she will be responsible for setting a realistic pace.
- Define a sweeper. This rider shouldn’t be the slowest, and will be responsible for herding any stragglers. The sweeper should also be the best equipped for mechanical and first aid needs, for obvious reasons.
9. Stay with the group
- Group rides are not the proper venue for full-blown photo shoots, “sessioning,” or extended wildlife viewing. It’s ok to snap a pic or two, try an obstacle 2 or 3 times, or waive at Bambi, but don’t make a day of it.
Congratulations! you’ve successfully planned a group ride and managed a record turn-out! Everyone had a great ride. No egos got bruised. Minor mechanicals and first aid issues were dealt with, and cool things along the trail were experienced by all.
10. Grab some food and beer after
Nothing caps off a successful group event like food and beverages. Depending on the venue, throw some dogs on a portable grill and break out some recovery drinks, soda, or beer (if it’s legal where you are). Alternatively, if your ride is in or near town, maybe drop by a local burger joint or pizza place. Not everyone will be able to stick around, which is cool, but those who can will have a great time recounting the ride, discussing bike setups or component choices, and just hanging out. Remember to keep it respectful. Encourage the noob who slogged through on his Walmart bike. Congratulate the semi-pro who finally cleaned that insane section. Offer up used parts to the dude who smashed his derailleur.
That’s pretty much it. A super fun group ride is possible, but so is a super-annoying one, so hopefully these ideas can tip the scale in favor of fun!
If you have any other ideas or tricks that have worked for you in the past, feel free to drop them in the comments below!