Our posts about group rides nearly always draw comments like “I wish we had one of these in my city” or “I’ve been wanting to organize something like this, but . . . [insert excuse here].” I used to be one of those commenters, until the Garden Party Ride here in Nashville showed me that yes, Virginia, we could host our own cycling event.
You can, too! And you should. Group rides like these are a lot of fun, and in my opinion they’re even better than Critical Mass for raising community awareness of city cycling. Here’s how to get started.
- Pick a theme and a date. Tweed Rides are always popular this time of year, but you can try any theme that might go over well in your community (SlowBikeMiami is batting around the idea of a Miami Vice Ride–talk about a fun theme). As for times, I like early evening in case some people are uncomfortable with nighttime riding or don’t have lights. In winter, of course, riding in the dark is unavoidable.
- Where are we going? Pick spots that fit with your theme. Pick spots that will have room for your group, and if possible, call ahead. Decide how long you want to stay at each place and let your group know when it’s “last call.” It’s best to put at least a mile between stops; otherwise you won’t feel like you’ve had a real ride. This is especially important if your ride is for drinks only, since people will need a chance to burn off those cocktails. And if you think you’ll have people driving to the starting point, ending your ride where it began is a necessity.
- How do we get there? Keep the skill level of your riders in mind. If you’re going to have a lot of newbies, try to stick to calm streets or bike lanes (this is also a good idea if it’s your first time leading a ride). A normal distance for a fun ride is 8-12 miles. Depending on the size of the group, you may want to print out a map for your participants. If you end up selecting a route you don’t ride regularly, TEST IT OUT before the big day. The last thing you want is to get lost or end up on a road that is under construction, etc.
- Fearless leader wanted. Decide who will lead the ride. You’ll also need someone to sweep the back and holler if people get too far behind or stuck at a light. Ideally, you’ll have a leader, a sweep and someone in the middle (this depends on the number of riders, of course). If any part of your ride will take place after dark, the leader and sweep must have lights.
- Advertise. If you have a blog, that may be all you need, but a Facebook event page or an evite can work just as well. Or design a flyer and put it up at your LBS. Consider mentioning whether the ride will be rain or shine, or rescheduled in case of rain. Of course, tell your friends and family.
- Have fun! I guarantee you’ll be wondering why you waited so long to host your own ride.
Questions? Leave them in the comments. And if you organize a cycling event in your city, let us know!