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.

1. Organize

  1. Make someone the leader, not a dictator… more like a facilitator.
  2. Using as much input as possible, define a schedule. Nothing will work for everyone, but be as inclusive as possible.

2. Communicate

  1. Use an established service like Meetup, Strava Groups, or MailChimp to communicate with your group.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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 dropΒ rides

  1. 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.
  2. Take some time to help out noobies. Offer some friendly guidance on technical features, body position, bike fit, etc. Be nice. Be encouraging.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!

# Comments

  • delphinide

    Dude, I think you covered it all. Great article. I think I have witnessed every one of these ‘rules’ go awry and it sucks. It’s hard to keep all of these in mind with a big group, but it really makes a difference when you don’t spend half of the ride waiting for someone to show up, fix a bike that was in bad shape before you started, or repair tubes or tires when people are trying to get the most mileage out of them. I see you’ve been on a few BOMB rides πŸ™‚

    • maddslacker

      and ICCC, for the opposite viewpoint. πŸ˜‰

    • mtbmike509

      Great article. So you are saying ICCC are perfect group rides and BOMB is the example of all things wrong about group rides?

    • maddslacker

      You know my official position on that, from IRL discussion. πŸ˜€

  • Jeff Barber

    I go to a weekly group ride on Tuesday nights that hits most of these points but we’re able to skip the first two (organizing and communicating) by holding the ride at the same place, same time all year long. The ground rules are well established (no drop, ride no matter the weather) so people are free to show up or not from week to week. It’s been working for several years and the cast of regulars has shifted over time but it’s nice to know it’s always an option during the week.

  • mtbikerchick

    I have experienced all of the above “no-nos” and for that reason I really don’t go on many group rides…It seems like every time I do someone hasn’t checked their shocks in ages or forgot to fix that faulty brake lever…or, “hey so and so? Can you check this disc brake? I think it’s rubbing…” or people take off and it’s a mad rush to keep up…When group rides work though, they can be awesome! The next time I plan one (and there’s always a next time…) I’m keeping all of these tips in mind.

    • delphinide

      I ride with BOMB Denver and there are sometimes 20 of us. I love riding with those guys but it is an exercise in patience for all of us. No matter how much you think you think you have your shizzle together, the chances of a mechanical problem multiply by the number of riders in your group. Even with a new bike last year, with meticulous maintenance, I had a couple of ‘uh-ohs’ and held the group up, which helped me abstain from rolling my eyes when it happened to someone else. I think that is one of the take homes from this article: you can learn a lot on a group ride. You learn patience. You build community. You make friends. You can learn new tricks about riding, or fixing your bike. You learn new lines, follow others and boost your confidence. You may take a new trail or ride it another direction that you don’t normally do. Even with the occasional headaches, riding with a big group is usually more fun than trouble…an more memorable. I rarely remember much from a solo ride unless it’s somewhere I’ve never been, but even on local trails I have great memories of riding with a few buddies. If it wasn’t for group rides, I probably wouldn’t even mountain bike anymore (which is saying something)…in fact I hate to go snowboarding by myself. It’s pretty boring.

      We often do epic rides/trips (Fruita/Moab/Crested Butte) and those are the trips that are just amazing. I find that no one cares if I try to tell them about how awesome I was on Porcupine Rim or how beautiful the scenery was on 401 trail…unless someone is there with you, no one gets it. So, group rides allow you to bask in the amazing scenery of God’s canvas and have someone to share it with you come back.

      But I hear ya…sometimes, some people you ride with are a pain… πŸ™‚

    • maddslacker

      You also learn to carry multiple co2 cartridges. πŸ˜€

  • MTI

    Great timely article Mad thanks! We are in the process getting a group ride in. Due to our work schedules and family so many of us just go solo when time permits but we are finally going to do an epic and this is some great information. These particular guys are all Strava Junkies or Stravaholes:) (including me) so I don’t think rule #8.1 is going to apply…at least for certain segments but hey that will be agreed on before we start.

  • brianW

    Group rides are what introduced me to some of the lesser used trails in my area. Great way to introduce yourself to these new trails and meet a wide range of riders.

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