What is Ride Leadership – British Cycling Video

Quick introduction

The quality of Sussex Nomads Cycling Club (SNCC) rides depends on the active participation of both riders and leaders. By listing a club ride, the club and the designated Ride Leader has advertised the general characteristics of a ride, on which riders should be able to rely.

But, leading a ride is more than just setting a particular pace or following a route or cue sheet. It’s about selflessly taking responsibility for a group of cyclists and doing your utmost to achieve a safe and pleasant ride experience. To this end, we’ve prepared this manual, emphasizing the basic concepts of leading a ride with the Sussex Nomads Cycling Club.

So, why lead a ride?

We want to start with some words of inspiration, some explanation of why you would want to lead a ride. So, here goes;

  • It’s fun!
  • You get to meet new people. This expands your pool of potential riding
    partners (and friends) who like to ride the way you do.
  • You can share your other interests, knowledge, or talents with people by
    leading theme rides or rides combined with other activities. For instance,
    people have led rides to other events, mid-week rides or even joined forces on Sportives.
  • You can inspire people, motivate them, and get them excited about cycling.
  • Ride leaders have countless tales of novices who could barely shift gears
    on their first ride and later blossomed into avid cyclists and racers.
  • You can exercise your creativity in creating a new route or using a new
  • You contribute something to the cycling community.
  • Leading a ride makes you go riding yourself.
  • Other people have to call you “Leader.” ; )

Before the ride

Before you can decide on the pace and distance you want to lead  you need to understand what these speed designations mean.

Group Name Speed Description
Group 1 18mph ~ 22mph Not for the faint hearted social ride !
Group 2 16mph ~ 18mph Fun but fast social ride
Group 3  14mph ~ 16mph Medium social ride
Group 4 10mph ~ 14mph Slower paced social ride
Come And Try It Ride 10mph ~ 14mph Introduction to group cycling. Either the welcome back to cycling or new cycling group

What pace and group should I lead?

Lead at a pace you’re comfortable with or a slower pace than you normally ride. Leading at a slower pace is better so that you will be stronger than the group and able to pull the entire way if needed.

Should I have a co-leader?

SNCC & British Cycling recommends it, but does not require that you have a co-leader for your ride.

We highly encourage you to enlist the aid of a co-leader  or Lantern Rouge who can sweep. You might want someone who also has some mechanical skills in case the need arises. You also will probably want someone with some prior ride leader experience if you are new to ride leading. Having a co-leader will also allow one leader to go to the hospital with an injured rider as a patient advocate in case there is an accident.


Safety should be a deciding factor for all route-related decisions. If you can’t find a safe way to get somewhere, don’t go there. Keep in mind that
riding with a group is much different from riding by yourself and rarely is it easier.

The best choice for a route is often one that you’ve ridden and enjoyed!

Ride leaders rarely mind if someone else recommends their alternative routes.

Always feel free to add your own variations to routes if the planned route is blocked or deemed unsafe. Some tips on riding a route:

  • If you know a ride leader who has led rides in the area where you want go, contact him/her and ask for an alternative suggestions on roads to use or avoid, good places for an alternative cafe stop and other relevant details.
  • Start points for Club Runs are usually the same place, Ditchling Village Hall. It’s there because it’s a place that people can find easily.
  • When riding to a planned cafe stop, consider stopping at the midpoint, check your group for any issues. Also, let them know your halfway there.
  • Try not to pick a route and try and avoid one that everyone always uses, e.g. main roads with heavy traffic, lots of road furniture etc..
  • Try to find an interesting alternative to get to your destination, if need be, go via a local point of interest. (But, if you are leading your first ride and you are nervous about the route, by all means use the download route)

Scouting the route

Regardless of the pace and distance of a particular ride, a scouting ride is strongly advised so that you know everything necessary about road conditions, mileage, and water and any road dangers.

Scouting a ride beforehand allows you to focus more on leading the group safely on ride day rather than on trying to read the route while moving. This is especially true when you have to lead a large group through busy junctions or into right-hand turns.

  • Try to scout with your co-leader if possible  so that you can discuss any dangers or alternatives to the route.
  • If that’s not possible and if you’re not entirely comfortable scouting on your own, enlist the aid of a couple of friends and learn the route.
  • If you’ve been on the route, but not recently, you may want to go over it again to ensure that nothing has changed significantly—no long detours over gravel or badly pot holed roads, for example.

Day of the ride – Leading a Sunday Club Run

  • Always leave yourself time to formulate your pre-ride discussion or prepare one the night before.
  • Arrive early to help co-ordinate pre-ride activities.
  • Be available to answer questions about the ride, mileage, cafe stop, food etc. to people in your Group
  • Take the opportunity to assess all the participants – are they and their bikes suitable for that particular ride? Check that all have Helmets.
  • If they have not participated in a club ride before, you might casually ask questions regarding their current riding status: i.e., how far they’ve ridden, what pace etc., and determine if they might have a problem keeping up with the group.
  • Although it might seem unfair to turn back a rider at the start or at some point before you get too far along on the ride, it could be a significant
    burden to hold the group up every few miles waiting for that person to catch up. If they are physically unprepared, lack adequate water, snacks,
    spare tube, pump, or their bikes are poorly maintained, it would be equally unfair to all to have them break or quit along the way.

Pre-Ride talk/discussion

  • After everyone has arrived, introduce yourself, welcoming everyone on behalf of
    Sussex Nomads Cycling Club.
  • If you weren’t able to talk to all of the new riders previously, ask for a show of
    hands of those who have not participated in a club ride before. It’s always nice to
    give those people a particular welcome.
  • Introduce yourself and your co-leader(s) and anyone else who may be helping
    out that day.
  • If there’s time and the group is not too large, it is nice to have the riders
    introduce themselves as well.
  • Impress upon the group that cycling with a group, as opposed to cycling alone,
    requires special cycling skills. Safety is the major concern of group riding.
  • Emphasize predictable, single-line riding that is attentive to local traffic laws and follows common sense.
  • Failure to do so may anger motorists, other cyclists who may want to pass, and pedestrians, and could contribute to an accident.
  • For instance:
    • Do not bunch up at lights or while riding – “maintain the line.”
    • Don’t allow cyclists to “move up” at a stop. They may do so only while riding – alerting other riders by saying “passing on your right.”
    • Remember to share the road respectfully with other cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians. This includes stopping before the lights.
    • Don’t pass on the left, unless asked by the front rider to move up after they have moved to the left to allow you to do so.
    • Ride as far to the left as is reasonable and safe.
    • When climbing a hill, stay to the left except to pass.
  • Notify the group that everyone must indicate his/her intentions
  • Use hand and/or voice signals, such as “stopping,” “slowing,” “left turn” etc.
  • Discourage the calling out of “Clear” when approaching junctions. Each individual should monitor traffic and proceed only when they have checked
  • Call out or point to conditions such as holes, glass, doors etc. and expect everyone on the ride to do the same. By not doing so, a rider might impede riders behind him/her from reacting to a dangerous obstacle and might cause injury or damage to those riders and/or their bicycles.
  • On the other hand, make riders aware of their need to focus on their own safety in situations such as going through junctions or turns by not always following the group blindly.
  • Describe your ride as advertised in your ride description, including distance and pace.
  • Riders rely on the pace and ride description as advertised; therefore, the leader is expected to adhere to his/her description.
  • To deviate from this would certainly be unfair to any participants who planned on doing the advertised ride. Monitor your speed often during the ride, as it is easy to be pressured by riders “pushing the pace.” “Make allowances for hills.” Keep the speed up hills proportionate to the pace and use an even effort.
  • Announce that Sussex Nomads Cycling Club has a NO-DROP policy.
  • No rider will be left behind alone for any reason.
  • Should a rider breakdown, be unable to continue, or wish to return to the start without finishing the ride:
    • If logical the group will stop while the breakdown is repaired
    • A rider can end their ride, return to the start, or for any other reason be left alone only at their request and after discussing with the ride leader.
    • If not repairable or if that rider needs to end their ride for any reason, at least a few other riders will break from the group and remain with that rider till they are picked up, or escort them on a return to the ride start location. All of this is to be discussed and agreed on with the Ride Leader.
  • Announce that you plan to adhere to the pace
  • Strictly discourage riders from “pace busting.” As a ride leader you must also resist this temptation yourself! That breaks the ride tempo and compromises group safety.
  • If riders go off the front, other riders may follow and the ride leader will no longer maintain control of the ride.
  • If riders insist on going past the leader or going faster than the advertised pace, other than where indicated (such as on hills), they should be asked to leave the ride or told to ride on their own and meet the group at the planned cafe stop.

Leading the Ride

***Always remember – the objective of a cooperative group ride is to ride together as a group.***

Every ride is different, so it’s impossible to anticipate everything you might encounter on a ride. But, here are a few items to consider.

• Set a good example. Ride safely, be respectful to pedestrians, drivers, and
other cyclists and remember that you represent the Sussex Nomads Cycling Club. For
instance, do not ride between two lanes of moving cars stopped at a red light – if
necessary, pass on the far right.
• Be courteous. Anticipate situations where your group may inconvenience
others. For example, when you stop to reqroup, be sure your riders aren’t
blocking the road, a pavement crossing, or a driveway. When you re-enter the road,
wait until there’s a break in the traffic, so drivers aren’t forced to slow down for
your group.
• Passing other riders: If your group needs to pass other cyclists on the road,
please announce yourselves (“passing on the right”), and do not move back to the
left until the entire group has passed the cyclists. Do not box in riders you are
• Unforeseen problems: If you run into unforeseen problems (new construction,
bad weather, unusually heavy traffic, a closed cafe stop), be creative.
Change the route, take shelter, choose a different rest stop. You might consider
asking for suggestions from your riders. They may know the area better than you
do. However, you’re in charge, so you want to make sure you don’t lose control
of the group and don’t let yourself be railroaded into something that you think is
unwise. Consider safety above all else.
• Mid-ride announcements: Periodically, regroup and re-emphasize safety,
especially related to upcoming conditions. For example, if you need to move into
the right lane to make a turn, remind riders to look before they change lanes.
Remind them not to yell “clear” at junction. What might be clear for them
might not be clear for riders further back. (Yelling “clear” implicitly absolves other
riders of their responsibility to look out for their own safety; the preferred term,
“going through,” simply announces one’s own intentions and forces each
individual to decide for himself or herself.)

However, do remind riders to alert the group if a car is approaching them at a junction by yelling “car right” or “car left.”

Pull the group over if you see unsafe riding practices to explain what the proper/safe practice is. Try not to point out a particular rider’s mistakes to the entire group – if needed, talk to that rider later when you are able to discuss the issue in private.

Food and comfort break stops: When it’s time to start riding again, announce your
departure enough in advance that everyone has time to pay their bill, get their
helmets and gloves on, and refill their water bottles. In addition, be alert for riders
who have wandered off or are in the toilets. You might consider having
everyone stand by their bikes so that you can be sure not to leave someone

Dealing with large groups

Anticipate when you may have one:
• Forecast for good weather
• Popular destination
• Few alternative rides and cafe stops listings for the day

When the group is larger than appropriate for the riding conditions ride leaders should break the group up into smaller, safer and more manageable groups.

Rule of thumb is for urban, heavier trafficked roads more than 6-8 riders, rural and lightly traffic roads more than 8-10 riders. The exact number of when to split is at the discretion of the ride leader. In some more popular, heavily attended rides this could mean splitting a group into 3 or more sub-groups.

When splitting into multiple groups, the ride leader should:

  • If known in advance of the ride, recruit one or more additional co-leaders and/or some fellow cyclists “in your league” to come out for the ride you’ll be sure to have some moral support if not a formal co-leader.
  • Ask for, or nominate (with the nominees’ consent), sub-group leaders (to effect the previous point)—ask if there is anyone present who has ride leading experience
  • Be sure that phone numbers have been shared among sub-group leaders and their phones are available
  • Be sure to agree on regrouping locations throughout the ride to ensure an overall sense of cohesion for the day
  • Have Groups maintain a clear spacing – 500 yards or so is appropriate.
  • Be sure riders are not switch groups when riding, and should let their group leader know if they are switching groups after a rest stop

The importance of a pre-ride discussion cannot be overemphasized. It lets riders know what you expect from them and what they can expect from
you. Try to keep it brief, covering the topics above and anything else that will ensure a safe and pleasant ride.

“What if” situations

Accidents/medical emergencies
As a ride leader, some of the initial steps for you to take if there is an accident are: to
remain calm, attend to and assess the condition of the victim, and assign leaders
A. Direct traffic around the site
B. Get all cyclists off the road and do not overwhelm the victim
C. Get details of the accident from other riders
D. If necessary, call 911 and be prepared to:

  • Describe the emergency
  • Give the proper location
  • Give 999/101 your mobile number
  • Listen to any instructions by the dispatcher

Initially, tell the victim not to move or get up and do not try to move him/her. In
order to get a quick assessment of the victim’s condition, you can calmly ask if
he/she has any serious pain, specifically in the head and neck areas. You can
then ask questions such as “do you know where you are” or “do you know what
month it is”? You can then decide whether to call the emergency services, always erring on the side
of caution when making this decision.

Do not always rely on the victim to determine if help is to be called.
If emergency help is summoned, the victim is not to be moved at all and should
be encouraged to stay still until help arrives. Under no circumstances should the
victim’s helmet be removed or should he/she be given food or drink or painkillers.

If it is determined that the victim is to be taken to the hospital, give the person
who is accompanying the victim the victim’s emergency contact information and
have that person get in touch with the emergency contact person once the
location of the hospital is known. Also, have that person give you any details that
he/she obtains at the hospital so that you can inform the group of the situation.

IMPORTANT: If someone on your ride needs to take an ambulance to a
hospital, one of the leaders should either go with him/her or ensure that
another responsible rider goes with him/her in the ambulance unless it can
be determined that the injured person’s family will meet him/her at the

In the case of a serious injury, someone should accompany the
victim to the hospital even if one of the family members says that he/she
will come to the hospital. The person going to the hospital with the injured
person will be the injured person’s “patient advocate.” The patient
advocate should stay at the hospital until the logistics are taken care of. It
is also the leader’s responsibility to ensure that the injured person’s
bicycle is taken to a safe location. Many times the police will be able to take
the bicycle to the police station where it can be picked up later, or the
leader can ask a neighbor to hold onto it.

Of course, the bike of the patient advocate must also be taken care of. And, the leader and patient advocate
must figure out a way to get the patient advocate and his/her bike home.)
Given all these responsibilities, it is clear why having a co-leader is highly

Basic Qualifications for becoming a SNCC Ride Leader

Becoming a Sussex Cyclists Ride Leader

Our club does not have a formal ride leader certification process but we have a British Cycling Qualified Level 1 & 2 Combined Ride Leader. Most of our current ride leaders have many years of experience leading rides and do an excellent job of organizing and running our rides
To maintain our high level of ride success and safety, riders who would like to lead club rides should:

• Be current member of the Sussex Nomads
• Familiarized themselves thoroughly with the above Ride Leader manual
• Have participated in mapping out at least three ride routes
• Have participated as a “sweep” or “co-leader” on a minimum of three rides with the Sussex Nomads CC (with at least two different ride leaders), with agreement from the Ride leader that these are expressly to aide in training to becoming a ride leader
• Have the above ride leader do a post-ride review with them on each of the above “training” rides
• Have the above Ride leader contact the club leadership to discuss the wishes and capabilities of the potential ride leader
• Have an experienced ride leader “shadow” them on their first two rides in which they are leaders.