The Bluffer’s Guide To Organising A Ride Out
Southern Section diary
Southern Section diary
So, you’ve enjoyed one or two recent club ride outs and you are thinking of offering to organising and run one yourself to one of your favourite venues, but there’s a little nagging doubt at the back of your mind on how to go about it! Well, rest assured even the now most experienced run leaders had that same doubt at the beginning, so between us, in the Oxford Section of the Club, we have put together the basic organisational points to help you in the task.
The very first point is selecting the end venue / point of interest (point C) to be visited and researching what facilities there are for:
Parking a large group/parking/admission charges, group discounts
Refreshments / catering facilities available
This may be somewhere you have already visited yourself and know well or somewhere you really fancy seeing and experiencing. The internet, Tourist Brochures and the venues own publicity are all valuable sources of information in this respect. Motorcyclists are always hungry and thirsty, thus good refreshment facilities at the venue or close by can make such a difference to the overall success.
Suitable refreshment and meal breaks are essential
Next you have to consider the start point of your ride (point A). Again, sufficient parking for the group to assemble is key and it helps if there is a coffee /tea shop nearby, but non-availability of the latter should not rule out any particular start point if it suits you and the end objective.
Now comes the route planning. There are many ways of achieving this by using a Satnav, Garmin Basecamp, or Ordnance Survey maps, in the first instance to plot out an interesting and scenic route. There is no “stick only to B and C class roads and avoid A roads policy”, but Motorways are best avoided since you cannot legally drop someone off as a marker at the appropriate exit. It is very much a case of knowing or actually riding the roads you have chosen and remembering that the busier the road, the more challenging it will be to keep the group together. In particular, using the drop-off system (more of that later) will be difficult on some primary A roads and, as said, illegal on motorways. Do not be over ambitious on the total distance to be covered as group riding does require a slightly higher degree of concentration for those involved than solo riding with 60-70 miles being a good bench mark. Ideally a coffee and natter stop at the halfway to two thirds point (point B), is again, always much appreciated but this certainly requires prior knowledge or some practical research. While 60-70 miles is only just over an hours’ riding solo, when leading a group on a cleverly selected and scenic route it will take considerably longer. Adding the coffee stop will increase the overall time from start to arrival at the selected destination. So, leaving your start point A via B to C could take 2 ½ - 3 hours, but so what, it is not a race and is meant to be an enjoyable social event.
Once you have worked out your route and any comfort stops, it really is essential to ride it yourself to check its suitability and adjust as and where necessary. It’s a brilliant reason to get out on the bike and enjoy yourself anyway you cut it. This is also the opportunity to check the turn junctions and roundabouts etc for safe and clearly visible safe “drop off” marker points. Once you have satisfied yourself of the route you now need to find a fellow member to act as “Tail End Charlie” to brief and learn the route with you in order to pick up the turn and junction markers from the “drop off system”. There are plenty of experienced Leaders and Tail Enders who will happily assist you in this.
Select your start point (A)
Find a suitable halfway coffee stop (B)
Select your destination (C)
Research what it has to offer and any entry fees involved
Plan your route
Ride your planned route - note timings
Refine as necessary
Pick a Tail Ender
Ride the route together
Once you’ve refined the details it is important to establish your start point arrival and depart times you can let everyone know about the event and details of start, finish points, timings, any venue entry fees and your contact details etc. The sooner you can do this the better and you have available to you the section Facebook, Website and Erica’s regular event emails to achieve this along with the Diary of Events in the Club Journal which would need to be done via the section social secretary and there is a very long lead time of around 2 months for Journal entries.
Finally, it is a good idea to draft a few notes for the pre-departure briefing. It not only helps to put you at ease by working to a script it ensures no important detail is left out. This should include:
A welcome to everybody
An introduction of yourself as leader, possibly even wearing hi-viz vest
The final destination postcode or grid reference
The coffee stop postcode or grid reference, if applicable
A general question to find out if anyone is unfamiliar with the “Drop Off” system.
A brief explanation as necessary on the crucial points of the “Drop Off” system” and of group riding principles (riding in staggered formation with safe distance behind the rider in front. Closing up in pairs when stopped at a junction/traffic lights etc). Introduction of your Tail End rider and his / her role, preferably on a distinctive bike.
By emphasising that this method of marking the route allows everyone to ride at their own speed and within their comfort zone and that there is no need to chase down the rider ahead you will re-assure any newcomers and less experienced riders. It is vital to highlight that once marking a junction / turn that rider must stay there despite the perceived time gap until the designated Tail End rider arrives and signals them to rejoin the group. A couple of minutes on your own at a junction with no other riders visible can seem a very, very long time, have faith they will appear. In the event there are riders that have not experienced the “Drop-Off” system it helps to put them in the group a few riders back from yourself perhaps interspersed with experienced riders so they witness the process early on and gain confidence.
Important to state that you will be riding within all speed limits as appropriate on the route and everyone should maintain position in the group and not overtake the rider ahead.
Last but not least - “Any Questions?”
On The Day
Arrive at the start point in good time to welcome riders and pillions at which point it is worth checking each rider has a full tank to start. Nothing worse than one rider needing to refuel during the ride thus disrupting the rhythm and flow of your carefully planned event. Relax, you’ve done all the hard work, now it is for the fun.
Brief the group as per your notes and at the appointed time when everyone is mounted and ready, lead off at a gentle pace.
At the halfway coffee / lunch stop, take the time to check with your “Tail Ender” for any problems and engage with members of the group paying particular attention to any newcomers and less experienced riders. Such simple courtesy and encouragement will reap huge dividends.
The Drop-Off System of Group Riding.
On today’s busy roads this method of group riding allows riders to maintain progress on a planned route with confidence even if they have lost sight of the rider immediately in front as a result of waiting for traffic to clear a junction in order to make a safe turn or cross.
As the title suggests this technique of riding motorcycles requires the Leader to signal to the rider immediately behind to stop in a safe place at a junction and indicate the turn to the left, right or straight ahead to the whole group of riders following. It does not require the designated rider to park and dismount, merely to wait indicating the turn until the Tail End rider arrives and indicates for them to rejoin the end of the group ahead of him/her.
The group then recycles with each rider alternately arriving directly behind the Leader, stopping and indicating where visibly instructed and eventually once the whole group has gone through rejoining the end of the assembly again when signalled to do so by the designated “Tail End” rider.
It is the simplest and most effective way of maintaining order and getting a group of riders safely between start and finish. There is absolutely no pressure for a rider to charge off in pursuit of the rider ahead simply because they have temporarily lost sight of that rider they just need to continue as instructed at each change of direction until they make contact again.
Safety, your safety, and that of other roads users is paramount. If for any reason the leader finds they have no one immediately behind he/she must slow down until there is, in order to successfully mark the next change of direction.
Riders in the group will be able to ride at their own pace and there should be no overtaking of other riders within the chain this allows each rider to adjust to the riding style of the person in front and be able to easily identify that rider if temporarily gapped