Riding a bike is such a perfect way to exercise, socialize, and enjoy some scenery, but not all bike rides are equal. Trust me when I say that a little bit of planning can go a long way when it comes to getting the most out of your ride.
Are you ready to create your own perfect group bike rides and get more out of your adventure? If the answer is yes, then check out my four tips below.
I go on family bike rides a few times a month and I admit that although we have been getting out regularly for the past two years, up until recently it was quite possibly the most stressful few hours of my week. Imagine four little athletic riders excited to explore – that’s eight tires, four helmets and a whole lot of competitive spirit. Let’s just say that our leisurely family ride could more accurately be described as a mini Tour de France. Dangerous maneuvers to get to the front of the pack, multiple wipeouts because of the racing tactics, all resulting in scraped knees, broken equipment, short-lived but hysterical sobs—and need I say more? What was supposed to be active family fun felt more like torture.
The day that I got caught up in the wipeout of the century is the day that I decided to turn our family bike rides into the perfect ride. I finally realized that we couldn’t just get on the bikes and go and expect it to work out perfectly. A light bulb went off in my mind as I patched myself up with sticking plasters at the side of the path that day. Everything in my life that is successful started with a goal, was executed with a plan and ended with a smile. It was obviously time to take this bike-riding situation more seriously.
I was ready to create the perfect plan for group bike rides. My goal for our group ride was pretty simple: to get through a full ride without blood, tears, a catastrophe or losing sight of a rider. The last goal is critical if your bike team consists of three 7-year-olds and a rambunctious 9-year-old.
Now, if you are about to stop reading because you don’t have kids and feel this post is not relevant for adult riders, then let me reassure you that if you ride in a group my five tips may just help you to get more out of your future group bike rides, whether they’re with kids or young-at-heart adults.
Riding etiquette is so important, and it is something that should be discussed before you go out. Simply letting your group know what is and isn’t comfortable for you can make a huge difference. Discuss what you feel is comfortable spacing, passing rules and things that you think are obvious but that might need saying—like how you indicate and how soon. Simple common-sense manners in the saddle are at the top of my priority list.
The strongest rider should not always be at the front of the pack, especially on a fun ride. This can make weaker riders feel left behind and miserable. Switch up the order so that your ride is enjoyable for the entire group.
Before starting on your ride go over the route and set stopping points every so many miles. On a family ride we obviously stop a lot, but on my road bike days without kids I ride with a very athletic group and we have set stopping points every 5 miles. I’m slow down hill but very strong up hill. Our group tends to rest at the bottom of steep hills to wait for me and will have me lead up steep hills. Remember that group rides are supposed to be fun, so if you have a new rider in your group simply asking a few questions—and discussing your group’s etiquette before setting off can help keep things moving smoothly.
Lack of fluid can ruin the greatest ride. Make sure you bring more that you think you will need. If someone in your group is always running out, then play the role of mother hen and carry extra with you.
It goes without saying that you need the essential tire repair kit, a snack, adequate clothing, etc. But let me add a few family necessities to put in your backpack if you’re riding with kids: sun block, bandages, wet wipes and duct tape. Why the duct tape you ask? I have fixed a pair of handlebars with duct tape, repaired a ripped shoe and fixed a helmet strap. It may seem like an odd accessory for a bike ride, but trust me—with kids it’s essential.
Our new approach to riding as a group has taught my kids that being active is not always about winning or racing. Sometimes it’s OK to let someone else lead the way. It has reinforced their manners, their caring attitude and their team spirit. Showing me that being active is more than just about getting fit. Who knew that a simple scraped knee could elicit such positive change?
I hope you can use some of my tips to help you plan the perfect bike ride and get more out of your rides in future. Getting outside and being active with friends or family should be fun and not torture. So set a goal, make a plan and smile with your success when you see that everyone, including you, is enjoying the ride.