Guidance for ride leaders

The club rides are the core activity of our club, and we depend on you - our volunteer leaders - for their continuing success. This guide is aimed at new leaders based on a typical ride. But these are just guidelines: experience is the best guide, and each leader and each ride is different.

A longer, more detailed guide is published by Cycling UK's national office: the Ride Leader Handbook (pdf, 30 pages).

You should have already done several similar rides to get a good idea of how the club runs work. You should be comfortable with the distance and the pace of your chosen ride.

All runs leaders need to be Cycling UK members and they need to be registered with Cycling UK HQ in advance for insurance purposes. The runs secretary will normally arrange this automatically when you volunteer to lead.

Step 1: Volunteer - any adult club member can volunteer to lead a ride.

  • Choose a ride from the current lists where the leader is "needed".
  • Contact the runs secretary (email preferred) and volunteer to lead.
  • The runs secretary will usually reply and confirm within a few days.

Step 2: Plan your ride - we recommend that you plan the complete route in advance.

  • The runs list gives you the destination and the stopping points and the expected distance.
  • Plan your route using any suitable route between those stopping points.
  • For more ideas and suggestions see the "Planning your ride" section below.

Step 3: On the day - turn up on the day, meet the other riders, then off and enjoy.

  • Aim to arrive at the start in good time to meet and greet the other riders and to register their names.
  • Welcome any new riders, and collect their forms from guests or children under 18. For more details see the "At the start" section below.
  • Lead away on time, and follow your planned route. For more details see the "During the ride" section below.
  • Contact the stopping places in advance if needed as detailed here (See "Coffee, lunch and tea stop information" below).

Step 4: Ride report – we welcome ride reports from leaders or any other rider.

  • Take a few pictures during the ride and write a short report of the ride – highs and lows.
  • Email your report to the club web officer (contact details), who will post it on the website blog.

Step 5: Last minute issues – If you are unable to lead for any reason, or extreme bad weather is forecast then contact the runs secretary.

  • If you are unable to lead your ride, contact the runs secretary as soon as possible. If possible, please try to find a replacement leader yourself.
  • Contact the runs secretary if you are worried about the weather forecast as the day approaches. We will cancel rides if the weather is clearly too dangerous (icy roads or gales) and announce via the website.

We recommend that you plan the complete route in advance, and carry maps and route notes with you on the ride.

There are many good ways to plan a route: some leaders prefer OS maps; others prefer on-line maps. With practice, you’ll get to know the best roads and byways. Here’s some general suggestions:

  • Use your preferred maps to choose the nicest roads. Avoid main roads and use quieter B-roads or back roads as much as possible.
  • Most routes are planned to be longer on the outbound legs (wiggles, loops etc.), but fairly direct on the inbound leg after tea.
  • A good route has contingencies built-in: a short cut to the destination in case someone has a breakdown, or strong winds; or an extra loop near the end if you go faster than expected.

First decide the approximate distance for each leg. This is calculated using the riding time available (see below) and an average speed of 12 mph.

  • On all-day rides, aim to reach the coffee stop around 11:00 am and the lunch stop around 1 pm.
  • Don't forget to allow enough time for the coffee, lunch and tea stops. This usually leaves about 1½ to 2 hours riding time for each leg.
  • The Sunday tea stop has various set times – check the runs list for the tea time for your ride.

Plan the full route from the start back to Cambridge via all the stopping places; measure the total distance and adjust the route until it fits.

  • If you are finding it difficult to make the route work then contact the runs secretary (we do sometimes make a mistake!).

Avoid longer sections of unsurfaced paths or bridleways.

  • A short off-road section can be OK if it is an important link (e.g. to avoid a long detour or a busy road) and it has a reasonable surface. A good example is the Babraham-Abingdon footbridge: we use this regularly.
  • Most riders will have normal road/touring bikes and tyres, so try to avoid any rocky or very muddy paths altogether.

You can always ask for help from other members when planning your route. Other leaders and the runs secretary are usually happy to help.

General advice to all riders on what to bring can be found in our Riding Guidelines.

You will need to bring details of the route you have planned. Some leaders bring notes and a paper map; other use a Garmin or a similar device. If you're using a Garmin, keep in mind that you might need to change the route as you go along. Some leaders find it helpful to being a paper map as a backup.

Carry a note of the food stops you will be visiting, in particular booking details and phone numbers, so that you can call ahead if needed. The section "Coffee, lunch and tea stop information" below explains what you need to do.

You should carry a mobile phone for use in emergencies and for phoning food stops where required.

It's a good idea to carry a few blank copies of our Guest entry and parental consent form (download and print copies yourself or obtain them from the runs secretary).

Most riders arrive at the start just a few minutes before the start. As leader, aim to arrive early enough to welcome any new riders, introduce yourself and tell them about the ride.

  • Tell any new or inexperienced riders the key details about the planned ride (total distance, route and expected finish time). This is necessary to allow such riders, and especially any adults who are accompanying children, to decide whether they will be capable of completing the ride.
  • You can also introduce new riders to the rest of the group.
  • And check that everyone has lights if needed.

NEW Register the full names of all the riders using the form provided by the membership secretary. Most riders will be adult members: tick their name if they are on the printed list, or add their full name if they are not already listed.

Collect a signed Guest entry and parental consent form from any non-members or from young people under 18. Also add all the guest rider names to the register.

  • Non-members over the age of 18 should complete part 2 of the form.
  • All riders under the age of 18 (whether a member or not) must provide a form with both parts completed. Part 1 is for parental consent and must be signed by the parent or guardian.

NEW We require guest riders to bring their own forms but it can be helpful if the leader brings a few spare copies. The leader must only allow non-members to join the ride if they have completed a guest entry form, and must only allow young people under 18 to join the ride if they have presented a signed parental consent form.

The club has set a minimum age of 16 years for unaccompanied children. Riders under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a responsible adult acting in loco parentis. See the club policy on riders under 18.

NEW Keep the register and the guest forms together during the ride and then hand the full set of completed forms to the membership secretary after the ride, either directly or via another committee member.

The leader's main responsibility is to set both the route and the pace of the ride.

  • We aim for an average speed of 12 mph, but the wind and weather makes a big difference.
  • Pay attention to the slower riders and set a moderate pace - so that everyone can keep up.
  • It’s generally better to start off slowly and speed up later when everyone is warmed up.

The leader is also in charge of the general ride conduct – taking account of other road users.

  • You should normally expect the other riders to behave responsibly without any intervention. You can ask for help from other experienced riders if needed.
  • The group usually rides two abreast, thinning out to single file when called by the leader (“Single out!”) or if needed.
  • Faster riders may overtake on hills or other fast sections. But don’t be rushed: expect them to wait at the top/bottom or at the next junction to regroup.

Consider splitting very large groups (12 or more).

  • In large groups it helps to have an experienced rider as “backmarker” (the last rider on the road) who can stop and help if someone stops without the front of the group being aware.
  • Big groups may work better in two subgroups (with a good sized gap), especially on busier roads.
  • You can fully split the group and appoint an assistant leader if needed. This is a good option if there is a wide range of abilities and the groups want to go at different speeds.

The leader is not responsible for any repairs – but you are expected to keep the group together.

  • Usually the whole group will stop and wait and lend a hand if there is a puncture or other problem.
  • The leader can chose to split the group and continue with some riders if the others are able to catch up independently. This can be a good option if you are close to the next stop.

Try to keep track of everyone - check all are ready before moving off.

  • If riders drop out early, check they are really leaving and have not simply been left behind.
  • Try to ensure that the leaving rider has adequate knowledge and resources to get home.

Q1: How do I volunteer to lead a ride?

Any adult club member can volunteer to lead a ride.  Start by choosing a ride from the current lists where the leader is shown as "needed".  Contact the runs secretary (email or phone) and volunteer to lead the ride.  It’s first-come, first-served so don’t wait too long.

We encourage everyone to lead a ride.  Planning a route is part of the fun for the ride leader, and the runs secretary is always happy to discuss routes and offer route advice.  Ideally, you should have already done some similar club rides to get a good idea of how the runs work.  You should be comfortable with the distance and the pace of your chosen ride.

Note that all runs leaders need to be CTC members.  If you are a new leader, the runs secretary will need your CTC membership number to register you with CTC HQ in advance for insurance purposes.

Q2: Am I expected to help to repair punctures – or to do other repairs?

No - the leader is not responsible for any repairs.  But you are expected to keep the group together.  Usually the whole group will stop and help if there is a puncture or other problem.

Q3: What is the purpose of the Guest Entry form?

The first purpose of the guest entry form (pdf) is to provide emergency contact details for the ride leader during the ride.  Guest riders are expected to bring a completed form with them, and the leader should collect any forms at the start of the ride.  It’s a good idea for leaders to carry a couple of blank forms (just in case a guest forgets).

The forms are also used by the club to record guest names and contact details.  Completed forms should be retained by the leader and handed over to the membership secretary when convenient.

Q4: Do I need to report any accidents?

Yes, all serious accidents MUST be reported (serious accident = any collision with a car or incident requiring hospital treatment).

Minor accidents should also be reported if there are injuries (minor accident = any fall from a bike or collision).

The first priority is obviously for both leaders and other riders to deal with any accident and do what they can to help the injured persons.  But after the ride, the leader should report the accident using the standard CTC incident form (pdf) (original in Microsoft word format here).  Please complete the accident form as soon as possible and pass it immediately to the club secretary (not the address on the form).  The front side of the form is used for a minor accident and the rear of the form should be used in the unfortunate event of a serious accident.

Q5: What should I do if there are slower (or faster) riders in the group?

We aim for an average speed of 12 mph on our typical (moderate) rides, which is intended to make the rides accessible to anyone with a reasonable level of fitness.  As a general rule, leaders should pay attention to the slower riders and set a reasonable pace so that everyone can keep up.

If a rider is much slower than average, we expect leaders to accommodate them on a first ride.  But the leader should also offer some advice, perhaps encourage them to turn back with another rider after coffee, or advise them to try an easier ride next time.

If a group of riders are going too fast, the leader should not try to keep up with them.  The fast riders are expected to either slow down and/or wait for the rest of the group to catch up at the next junction.  If the group dynamic is getting disrupted, the leader should consider formally splitting the group (ideally appoint a second leader) and let the two groups ride separately.

Q6: What should I do about bad ride discipline by riders?

The leader is in charge of the general ride conduct – taking account of all the riders and other road users.  You should expect the riders to behave responsibly without any intervention.  But if needed, the leader is encouraged to talk to a rider and ask them to improve their behaviour.  You can refer to the national CTC cycling guidelines for group leaders (pdf) and CTC guide to cycling with a group (pdf) for general advice.  You can also ask for help from other experienced riders.

In case of any bad discipline problems or any other concerns, you are encouraged to contact the runs secretary after the ride so that the committee are aware of any developing problems.

The runs committee is responsible for:

  • checking that the planned stops are open
  • making advance bookings at the planned stops as needed
  • making the arrangements for booked teas, home teas and home coffees

The ride leader is asked to call ahead with estimated numbers on the day of the ride.

  • Please always call ahead to give an estimate of expected numbers for booked teas, home teas and home coffees as detailed below.
  • Please also call the venue to give advance warning if the number of riders differs from the booking. Contact the runs secretary if you are missing the booking information.
  • Most of the café and pub phone numbers can be found on the website – just click on the link in the run details.
  • If you are going to be very late at a booked stop (e.g. due to punctures) please phone ahead and advise the host/venue of the expected arrival time.

The ride leader is also asked to help to collect money at Booked Teas, Home Teas and Home Coffees as detailed below.

Coffee stops

Cafe coffee

Please call with estimated number of riders if requested by runs secretary or if it is a small venue and there are more than 10 riders.

Riders pay individually.

Home coffee

Please call host from start with estimated number of riders.

Please collect £1 per head and give to the host, and thank them for their hospitality.

Lunch stops

Booked lunch stop

Please call with estimated number of riders if numbers differ from the booking or if requested by runs secretary.

Riders pay individually.

Other lunch stop

Please call with estimated number of riders if requested by runs secretary or if it is a small venue and there are more than 10 riders.

Riders pay individually.

Tea stops

Church hall tea or cafe tea

Please call with estimated number of riders if it is a small venue and there are more than 10 riders.

Riders pay individually.

Home tea

Both leaders to call host with estimated number of riders. Day leader to call at lunch time; afternoon leader to call at start.

Home teas are a fixed price of £3 per person. The tea secretary will confirm the price and contact details for each home tea and will send a reminder to ride leaders during the week before the ride. Contact the runs secretary if you are missing any of this information.

Riders pay individually, but the leader is asked to collect the money and give it to the hosts and thank them for their hospitality.

Booked pub tea

Both leaders to call venue with estimated number of riders. Day leader to call at lunch time; afternoon leader to call at start.

Booked teas are usually a fixed price per person. The tea secretary has the specific details for each booked tea and will send a reminder to ride leaders during the week before the ride. Contact the runs secretary if you are missing this information.

Riders pay individually, but the leader is asked to help collect the money if needed.

We usually offer a minimum number guarantee to the booked tea venue (typically 10-12 persons). In case of lower numbers, the leader (or another member) should pay the shortfall amount to the venue. This will be reimbursed from club funds: contact the runs secretary after the ride.