Grease Rag friend Lauren Haun wrote this guide to leading group rides! Thank you for the knowledge, Lauren!
Ever been sitting on a patio, sipping an icy beverage and then all of a sudden a noisy, joyful herd of bicyclists whiz by, bells ringing and smiles flashing? Or scroll through the social media feeds and see tagged photos of friends in their underpants biking around a lake on the 4th of July and you can’t help but wonder: WHY AREN’T I DOING THIS?
Group rides are a great way to get a bunch of riders together for a bit of fun. Most of the time, you come away from a social cruise with new route ideas, places to visit or dance partners. These rides help keep the bike community vibrant by scooping up different types of riders and mixing them together. Hosting a ride can seem intimidating for those who haven’t done it before, but I really recommend it. It is very similar to throwing a party except on two wheels. You provide a welcoming atmosphere and maybe a theme and then all the people fill in the gaps. It is where chemistry collides and beautiful things happen…
Pre-Babes Wanderabout- Photo by Siege Afidelia
- – A theme and or/purpose (bakery tour! water balloon fight! polka dot outfits!) are a good idea especially if this is your first time since it provides a focus for your creativity and route. It also helps keep the ride casual and lets potential riders know that they don’t need to slide on spandex in order to participate. Anything food or beverage related is usually popular since WE’RE HUNGRY, but I also like costume rides. I still dream of having a “menagerie” ride so that we can all dress up like different zoo animals….but I digress. Don’t afraid to do something a bit different.
- – Simple is always better. More than three stops and it is hard to keep people moving.
- – Don’t plan more than one ride at a time. It’s like planning three or four dates before going on the first one. It’s a bit….forward.
- – Keep in mind the practicality of getting lots of people in and out of a location at once and in a somewhat timely fashion. A doughnut ride wasn’t difficult to pull off since bakeries try to get you in and out the door, but a macaroni and cheese ride might be a bit more tricky since you adding bowls and forks/hot cheese/table seatings into the equation. But if you have a way to work around some of these logistical obstacles, go for it! Prove me wrong!
- – To cultivate a social vibe, I recommend getting some speakers and blast some tunes. Demolish awkward silences with loud Missy Elliott beats. I use a cheapo mini speaker that I stuff it in my bag, pointing it outward towards the dancing masses. It isn’t the most sophisticated system but it works. If you have friends with a more advanced system, it never hurts to try to loop them in.
- – For larger rides that are heading to specific bakeries/restaurants/bars, it is always polite to call a few days ahead and give a heads up to the business owners. It is up to them how to proceed, but it is always nice to not bombard them with helmet clad, sweaty weirdos.
- – Spoke cards: I haven’t even made spoke cards for a ride yet because of the $$$ and design work involved, but many people like ‘em. If you have a creative bent and some extra time, get together with a group of buds and crank some out. Create a design and repeat it 4 or 6 times on a 8 1/2" x 11" sheet of paper. These can be front/back or just single sided. Make copies of the master sheet and then sandwich each one between contact paper and cut them out. TA DAH! Pass them out and people can slide them in between their spokes for a bit of style and a nice momento of your epic ride.
- – A little help from your friends never hurts, especially if you have a larger group (15 or more riders). I recommend assigning one of two people to be ride marshals. Ride marshals are people that block traffic during busy intersections where there isn’t enough time to accommodate all riders through the area. To block traffic they just need to stand politely with their bike in the middle of the lane and waving beauty queen style to the cars with a goofy smile. It is the most effective tactique that I know. The ride marshals can also help deal with broke down bikes or make sure that slower riders aren’t left behind. After leading a few rides lone-wolf style, I have begun to really appreciate having a few people that can back me up. If you don’t know anyone of the top of your head that could help out, feel free to ask on the BIKEFUN/Grease Rag pages or the event page. I’ve always lucked out with having more than a few bike scouts taking the lead at the last minute, but it helps to, ya know, be prepared.
- – Create a ride that you would want to do even if nobody showed up. Be excited about your ride. Talk it up to your roommates, coworkers, the cashier at the grocery store, your date, the neighbor cat. Let it ooze from your pores. Enthusiasm is infectious. GET PUMPED!
CREATE AN EVENT PAGE
- – Invite your friends and if you are a member of any sort of bicycle group/social group on Facebook, share it there as well. Indicate that the ride is social and mellow and extend a warm invitation. There are SO MANY people that lurk on these pages, just waiting for an opportunity to hang out. Don’t forget to be bold and reach out to people on your social media that aren’t the typical bike person. Your event is gonna be so rad, they may just hop on that dusty cruiser in the garage and join in just to see what all the hubbub is about! Threaten them with a good time.
- – Make sure that you have some solid details settled before sending out an invite. You don’t have to have a set route but at least have your stops in mind. I really recommend riding the route a day or so before the ride, because there is always some last minute hiccups like construction or closings that are best to not drag a rolling party into.
- – Feel free to cultivate discussions on the event page about routes or playlists or anything at all. Your guests may have untapped knowledge about where the best pizza slices/chill swimming spot/cheap beers are. Give them a chance to pitch in! People love to contribute and even if they can’t attend the ride, it gives them a nice community vibe so that hopefully next time they’ll make it out.
- – Make sure to define ROLL OUT time because bikers traditionally don’t show up on time (I am guilty of this). Give people 30 minutes to arrive and hang out before heading out. A nice central location is great, especially one that won’t mind loiterers of a bike nature (like parks or bike shops or people’s houses).
DAY BEFORE THE RIDE
- – Keep an eye on the weather and feel free to modify the ride accordingly. If it is pouring rain, you may not want to go through with a karaoke bar crawl. Just make sure to give as much of a notice as possible, so people don’t show up to the meeting spot in their hurricane-proof finest while you’re sitting at home drinking cocoa.
- – Remind people to bring cash if you’re heading to restaurants/bars just because it makes paying a bit speedier. Don’t be afraid to state the obvious and remind everyone on the event page to dress warmly/bring water/lights/helmet etc. These things aren’t as intuitive for some and it will make their ride a lot more comfortable.
DAY OF THE RIDE
- – Greet everyone! Smile, say hi and introduce yourself to each person as they roll up. You are the host! These lovely people are showed up to your ride and that is pretty damn special. Treat them with the enthusiasm that those bike lovelies well deserve. They could have stayed in bed or went to that hot tub/bouncy castle party but instead they are here to ride with you. Incredible! Also, don’t be shy in introducing people to each other as sometimes it is just the little spark needed for a conversation to start.
- – You should be wearing some spectacular outfit or something that at least indicates that you are the leader of the ride. Perhaps a cape/neon helmet/anything “showy”. Not everyone on the ride knows who you are yet!. Shine, baby, shine.
- – Before roll out, stand on a bench, grab a megaphone or just shout and address the attendees. THANK them for their presence and give an overview of the route. If you want to remind everyone about specific rules or tips for how to ride as a group, present these now. But be nice about it. Again, these are your fabulous guests. Now ROLL OUT! Loud bell or booming voice works to get everyone moving. Now is also the time to press play and kick out the jams.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
- – Be prepared for the unexpected! Tires can get punctured, riders can tip over and you could get lost. I’ve have yet to participate in a flawless ride, so don’t let it trip you up. Keep up communication with your marshalls and fellow riders and take things as they come. You won’t be able to plan for everything, but that is the thrilling part!
- – Bring a trash bag, multi tool and some paper towels if you are really going for gold stars.
- – The ride ends when it ends. Sometimes that may be a stop earlier than planned or the party keeps rolling or splits off to different locations. Some people arrive at the second stop or leave early or just crash the party at the end. The social beast has its own ebb and flow and it is best to just feel it out.
Now go forth and make merry on two wheels!