Gary’s Tips on How to be an effective Ride Leader

My philosophy for being a great ride leader begins with a simple statement: “being a ride leader is not about you!”   The best ride leaders make certain that everyone who attends their ride has a safe and enjoyable experience.  A ride leader is making a non-monetary contribution  by "giving back" to the bicycle club they belong to and a commitment to the riders to promote the positive aspects of safe cycling as well as a positive impression of the bicycle club with which they are associated.

That said, here are some guidelines, which may assist in achieving this success.   A ride leader’s role is multi-factorial:

Scheduling the Ride

Every BBC sanctioned group ride must be scheduled into the BBC web site,  Rides can be entered through the Rides & Events Calendar tab on the home page.  Once there the instructions and required forms may be selected under the Rides & Events Menu located on the left side of your screen.  Please read the instructions carefully.  If you have any questions contact your ride coordinator.   Their information is located BBC home page under Contacts.  

A ride may be added any time up to the day before the scheduled ride.  Ideally you should post your ride to the BBC schedule at least two (2) weeks in advance to give adequate notice to potential riders.  Advance scheduling also allows for route updates and last minute changes and insures it will be posted in the daily email announcement.  Put a contact number where questions about the ride can be directed.

Waiting until the last minute to schedule a ride is acceptable but not without consequences. Visitors to the web site who are looking ahead for a weekend ride could see a blank schedule.  This could be perceived as a club that doesn’t offer many rides.   Booking your ride in advance also reduces potential conflicts with other rides, first come first served.  So book early, book often.

The Route

·      I recommend the ride leader choose a route appropriate to the skill levels of the expected participants.  This may range from very flat, short rides to a grueling, hilly odyssey.  Give an honest description of the expected amount of effort required to comfortably (or barely) complete the ride.  Typical descriptions are:

·      Flat

·      Rolling Hills – small hills that repeat.  Usually allowing momentum to carry the rider from one hill to another with minimal exertion.

·      Moderately hilly – overall flat to rolling but with several climbs of hard exertion

·      Hilly – Many climbs requiring hard exertion, granny gear may be advisable for average riders

·      Very Hilly – Not for the faint of heart.   Granny gear recommended for the average rider.  Grueling odysseys often found here in the faster categories.

·      Distance should also match the level of effort required.   The BBC descriptions are:

·      Casual –  Average speed for overall ride will fall between 8-10 miles per hour over a distance of 10-20 miles of relatively flat terrain

·      10/12 – average speed for overall ride will fall between 10-12 miles per hour over a distance of 20-35 miles with mild, but varied terrain..

·      13/15 – average speed for overall ride will fall between 13-15 miles per hour over a distance of 35-65 miles, usually rolling to hilly.

·      16+ – average speed for overall over a distance of 40-130 miles. 100+ mile rides are not unusual.  This category is for very fast recreational riders or entry level riders of racing caliber.  Frequently matched with very hilly terrain.

·      As ride leader you may select a route from the cue sheet library or develop one of your own.  I recommend the ride leader choose a route that is convenient to their home, one they are familiar with and one that they enjoy.   After all, the leader is committing their time for the group, so why not make it convenient and fun?

·      Finally, it is OK to schedule multiple rides of the same average speed on the same day.   However, do not schedule a ride of the same average pace from the same or nearby (20-30 miles) start location as the other.  Be considerate of other ride leaders in your category. For instance a 10-12 and 13-15 ride are both starting at 10am from Oregon Ridge.  That’s OK.  A 13-15 ride is starting at Oregon Ridge and another at Sparks Elementary would not be recommended since it would dilute the number of riders at each.  The Ride Coordinator has the right to remove a ride from the schedule to eliminate significant conflicts.  When in doubt, call the Ride Cooordinator for the advice .


·      Before the Ride:

·      Make sure the cue sheet is accurate and up-to-date.                      Next to the ride leader leaving everyone behind this is probably the largest source of dissatisfaction.  Pre-ride or drive the route for changes unless you have knowledge that the route was recently used.  Look for missing signs, closed roads, bridges or rest stops.  Check the BBC website Forum for Road Problems.   Familiarity is NOT your friend in this instance.  The more familiar you are with the route the less likely you will notice missing signs…..believe me, I know from experience.

·      Plan for food and rest stops. Make certain the rest stop has not closed (a frequent occurrence.)

·      Most club cue sheets have already been vetted for parking access.  When choosing a new starting location, ask permission, if necessary, for car parking.

·      Include the ride leader name and cell phone number on the cue sheet

·      Invite several friends to help make your ride a success.

·      Make sure the cue sheet is accurate and up-to-date


·      The day of the Ride:

·      Show up at least 15 minutes before the start time, 30 minutes is better.  BBC rides generally leave the starting location at the scheduled time.

·      Don’t forget your cue sheets.  15-20 sheets is usually adequate.  Don’t depend on pre-ride GPS downloads.  Some of us are still in the stone age…..

·      Identify yourself as the ride leader

·      Have the cyclists sign a club or organization waiver (mandatory for BBC club ride and important for secondary insurance coverage!)

·      Make certain everyone wears a helmet

·      Emphasize hydration, sunscreen, eye protection appropriate to the time of year

·      Be friendly – welcome new or less experienced riders – after all, you represent your organization

·      Explain the route and identify potential problems – discuss regrouping, rest, and meal stops

·      Encourage cycling etiquette and safety techniques.

·      Hand signals:

·      Left and Right turns

·      Slowing or braking

·      Road hazards

·      Verbal signals

·      Car Back – to alert the front riders of a vehicle approaching from the rear

·      Car Up – to alert the rear riders of an oncoming vehicle, usually used on roads that do not have painted dividing lines or when the group is riding two abreast.

·      Braking – to alert of a sudden stop

·      Riding single file when being approached by traffic from the rear

·      Proper and safe distance between cyclists

·      Courtesy toward motorists

·      Leaving space for vehicles to pass

·      Maintaining a steady predictable line

·      Occupying the proper position on the roadway

·      Best – Bike lane

·      Necessary – 6-12 inches to the LEFT of the painted shoulder line


·      STOP at all stop signs.

During the Ride

·      Keep track of the riders in the back or that get dropped.  It is not required that the leader stays at the back of the group but it is an appreciated courtesy.  ALWAYS RIDE AT THE ADVERTISED PACE!   Do not try to be first at every stop. A ride should not be a race.  If you want to race contact Aaron Mongeau.

·      Engage in conversation with the riders.  Learn their names, ask about their riding goals.

·      Be available to help with mechanical problems.  A truly great ride leader will:

·      Have a spare tube and know how to change a tire

·      Know how to replace a dropped chain

·      Know how to adjust brakes and derailleur’s (not a mechanical overhaul, just minor adjustments.)

·      At the end of the ride make certain everyone is back or accounted for before you leave the start/finish location.  Depending upon skill level and cycling knowledge of the riders the leader may leave before the last rider arrives if the leader has ensured lagging riders are capable of self sufficiency and have alternate ways to get help.

     After the Ride

·      Report injuries or other significant events to the ride coordinator or organization leaders.

Send a copy of the cue sheet and the waiver form via email to: include the ride date and ride leaders name in the subject line of the email.  Or mail to 232 Garnett Rd,    Joppatowne, MD 21085

·      Email the coordinator with the # of riders, # of non-BBC riders, weather conditions, satisfaction of the ride with A= superb, would do again to F=horrible, never again.

·      Description of any variances encountered, accidents, etc.

·      If possible send the coordinator a picture of you or your group with a caption

·      Think about things that you could improve on the next ride.



Cue sheets are simply directions to your destination from a cyclists perspective.

The BBC has a cue sheet library available to members who need assistance when choosing which ride to lead.   These can be found on the club web site.  The ride coordinators also have access to an older version of the library.  Please note that some of these cue sheets have not been updated for years.  Blindly use them at your own peril.

Make sure the cue sheet is accurate and up-to-date!

Great ride leaders also design cycling routes to enhance their enjoyment of the sport.  Designing a route and making a cue sheet is easier than you think but it does require a significant time commitment.

1.     Decide on the pace and distance that you want the group to do.

2.     Choose a starting location of your choice

3.     Frequent methods of designing routes are by theme (covered bridge ride, hills and valleys, points of interest), distance, terrain (flat and easy, mountainous elevation), or destination (favorite restaurant, park, view, etc)

4.     Use an ADC map book or MapMy Ride/Google/Mapquest/gmaps or the like to lay out your route.

5.     Once you have determined the route, write down the road names, turns and other pertinent information, go out and ride the route, by yourself or with a friend.  A small group pre-ride is great since others may see or interpret things differently than you intended on your cue sheet.

6.     During the ride document the correct mileage points for each turn, the correct road names, stop signs, railroad tracks, hazards, etc.  Don’t worry if everyone does not end up with exactly the same mileage.  If you are within a half mile variance on a 30 mile ride you’re OK.   BEWARE!  There is always one or two that will grumble because their device showed a 0.1 mile variance.  Ignore them.

7.     If satisfied with the results type the route into an Excel or Word type file that will be used as the cue sheet.  The sheet should, at a minimum, contain the following information:


Cumulative Distance

Distance to next turn


Road Name




Right or R

York Road at T



Left or L

Stewartstown Rd. at SS




X  Route216, Beware RR Tracks!


Common abbreviations:


L= Left

R= Right

S= Straight

BL= Bear Left

BR= Bear Right

TRO= To Remain On

X= Cross

SS= Stop Sign

RR= Railroad tracks

T= Dead end intersection with only Left or Right alternatives

TL= Traffic Light

8.     The more information the better.  Be creative!

9.     Include the ride leader name and cell phone number in case of accident or misdirection

Effective ride leaders should have a sense of satisfaction once the ride has been successfully completed.   They have given back to the club through volunteer service, they have provided club members and visitors an enjoyable experience and they have represented the club in a positive way which in turn may encourage guest riders to join the club.

Remember, the core product that the club offers is a full and varied schedule of rides throughout the cycling season.  This can only be accomplished with YOUR help.

If you have any questions, concerns or would like assistance with your first ride please contact me and we will make this a painless experience.

Gary Brandon
13-15 Ride Coordinator
(717) 235-3893