GLC: Pre-ride Briefing

CyclingSavvy instructor briefs a class on what to expect in the next segment of the group ride.

A pre-ride briefing is the single most important tool in leading a cohesive and predictable group.

In the simplest circumstance  — a guided social ride — riders need to know about lane changes and in-group communication, that they won’t be dropped if they are slower, or left behind at a red light if the group is split. 

Club riders need to know those protocols as well as the pace of the ride, what is expected of a rider in the middle of the group and at the front and rear. They need to know the club’s signaling protocols for turns, pointing out hazards, and rotating off the front of the pace line.

It’s also a good idea to establish with riders that all interactions with motorists — regardless of the motorist’s behavior — must be civil. One hothead in a group can create a major incident from a situation that would otherwise blow over and be forgotten, just by responding in kind and flipping off an uncivil motorist.

Staging

For easy group management, stage your riders in riding order (2-by-2, unless your state prohibits riding double) before the briefing. This makes it easier to get everyone’s attention and gives them a visual context for how the group will be traveling.

Sample Pre-ride Briefing

The following is a list of things a ride leader may need to communicate to participants.

Introduction: [Introduce the purpose/destination of your ride. Introduce the ride leaders and sweeps.] 

Stay together. We’re going to ride together as a unit. Ride in a straight line, next to your partner (when double) and do not leave a gap of more than a bike length between yourself and the rider in front of you. NOTE: If your ride includes ebikes, riders will need to leave more space between bikes to avoid potential lurching collisions.

Road Hazards. If we encounter a road hazard, such as a hole or debris, the front riders will move as far away from it as possible, point and call it out. Follow that movement and echo the communication so the riders behind you can see and avoid the object. If a road has bad pavement, we may single up to ensure everyone has space to avoid hazards.

Slowing and Stopping. Sudden moves cause crashes. If there is a need to slow down, call it out loudly. Never grab your brakes in a group, that could cause the person behind you to crash.

Two abreast. On most roads we will ride 2 abreast. In a few places we will ride single file. We’ll let you know when we need to single up. (Demonstrate holding up your index fingers so students know to look for that.) Riding double is social and enjoyable, but if you can’t talk and pay attention to what’s going on around you, don’t talk.

Red lights. The lead instructor will watch countdown clocks and slow the group, if necessary to keep us from getting split by a red light. We want to avoid running red lights, but do not slam on your brakes if a light changes as the group is passing through it. If you can stop gradually, announce it and do so. If the group is split, the front riders will slow or pull over for the rest of the group to catch up when they have a green light. You will not be dropped.

Lane changes. We change lanes from the rear of the group. When we need to make a lane change to the left lane, the leader will signal.  Students should also signal, but do not move until you hear the rear leader tell you the lane is clear. When you hear the rear instructor call the lane clear, move to the new lane AND call it forward so the riders in front of you can hear it.

Interacting with motorists. It is very rare for us to experience incivility from motorists. If it happens, do not react with anger. You may offer a friendly wave WITH ALL FIVE FINGERS. If you can’t manage all five fingers keep your hands on the handlebars. Never shout back. Never escalate. Let uncivil people have their bad karma all to themselves.

Stop signs. For most stop signs, we will behave as a single unit. Stopping as a unit, yielding to any vehicles that have the right of way and then proceeding as a unit. There are a few places where this cannot be done. Crossing [busy road at 2-way stop] is one of them. We can’t get a big enough gap in traffic for the whole group, so we will go 2-by-2. Each pair will stop and clear the intersection for themselves. Then the group will collect [at a sensible spot].

Situational items

Control & Release. This stretch of road has only one lane in each direction but the lane is not wide enough for a single line of cyclists to share with overtaking cars. So, we will ride 2 abreast and control the lane.  Since we will collect some cars behind us well before we reach our destination, we will use [feature like empty parking spaces] to pull aside and release traffic. Once collected traffic has passed, we’ll ride the next few blocks to the end of our trip.

Door Zone. Remember the door zone when we are riding double. If you are on the right, stay out of it. If you are on the left, don’t crowd your partner into it.

Bike Path. We will be riding slower than our normal speed and single file on the bike path. If we encounter other users, we will announce ourselves and give them as much space as possible when passing. Be aware of bollards (or other furniture, as applicable) at the path entrance and intersections. Point out these and hazards for the riders behind you.

Bike lane. [For this stretch of road with a bike lane] we will single up and ride in the bike lane. Due to the regularity of conflicts, we cannot manage this part of the ride as a group. A group must make lane changes from the rear. But in this case, it is not possible for the front rider to communicate a conflict to the rear rider in order to get the group out of the bike lane. So each rider must assess the environment and make individual decisions about where to be. NOTE: This generally applies to narrow bike lanes with a lot of crossing conflicts.

Ebikes

Ebike with torque-sensing drive. Keep your power level appropriate for the speed of the group. Avoid abrupt hard pedal strokes when you are close to the wheel of another rider. Remember to reduce power as the group slows.

Ebike with cadence-sensing drive. Assist level should be kept at the lowest setting when riding close to others and especially at low and variable speeds. If you use a higher assistance setting to keep up with the group at a higher speed, it’s essential to reduce power as the group slows. You cannot soft-pedal a cadence drive, as it will accelerate to whatever speed your assist level is set for. This makes it difficult to modulate your speed.