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Ride Captain Instructions

Ann Arbor Bicycle Touring Society

Ride Captain Instructions


Thank you for volunteering to be a ride captain.  The club owes its gratitude to everyone who volunteers as rider leaders because without them there would be no club.  As a ride leader you have several responsibilities to the club and to your fellow riders.  These responsibilities are:


q Read the Pre-Ride Announcement document (enclosed) prior to the ride.

q Announce yourself as the ride leader and immediately identify new riders. 

o  Have new riders pair off with an AABTS member

o  Mention one topic from the Pre-Ride Announcement document

q Have all riders read the disclaimer on the Ride Sheets and then either sign their name or write in their mileage

q Enforce the use of road helmets.  Ask riders without helmets to wear one. 

q For rides held irregularly, i.e. Sunday rides, please have the following items available:

o  Clearly marked maps showing the route to be ridden for every rider. Maps can be obtained from our Maps Chair or http://www.aabts.org/maps/. For reimbursement of copying costs, please contact the Treasurer. Refer to http://www.aabts.org/about/ for contact information.

o  Have a basic tool kit available for riders use, i.e. patch kit, allen wrenches, pump, etc.

o  Carry a First Aid Kit and know how to use the items in it

q Remind riders to be courteous to motorist and to obey all traffic laws, this includes Stop signs in rural areas. 

q Remind riders that when “Car back” is called all riders should form a single pace line.  
Also have riders call out road hazards they come upon.  This gives riders behind you ample warning.


Saturday Morning Rides


Ride leaders for the Saturday Morning Rides have additional responsibilities in addition to the above.  These responsibilities are:


q Mention several issues from the Pre-Ride Announcement document

q Ask several AABTS members to be available to questions from riders and to offer riders support if necessary.

q Ride at the back of the group and insure that no one is left behind.


Please mail the completed Ride Sheet to Vickie Smith, the AABTS Mileage Chair.  If this was an irregularly scheduled ride please provide a map of the route with the Ride Sheet. 

The Pre-Ride Announcement


·         Introduce yourself, and identify your sweeps, co‑captains, and other helpers.  If the ride will be breaking into two or more groups, explain who will be leading each group.

·         If you don’t already have someone to ride sweep, you may want to ask if anyone wants to volunteer.  For more information on sweeps, see “The benefits of having a sweep” in the next section, “Leading the ride.”

·         If the group is small, you can also ask the riders to introduce themselves.  If the group is larger, consider passing out nametags.

·         Remind riders that the club requires you to wear an ANSI- or Snell-approved bicycle helmet.  (Required by law in some places.)

·         Remind riders to make sure your bike is in good condition before every ride.

·         Let the group know that you will have a pump, spare tube, patch kit, tire irons, and a full water bottle available for everyone’s use.  Encourage riders to purchase these items on their own and know how to use them.

·         Remind the group to eat before you’re hungry, drink before you’re thirsty.


Welcome to new riders 

·       Ask if there are any riders who have never been on an AATBS ride and, if so, welcome them to the group. 

·         Encourage the regular riders to check in with the newcomers during the ride and ensure that they’re doing all right. In a group that rides together regularly, a new rider, shy or not, may not feel welcome if the regulars spend the entire ride talking among themselves.

·         Ask the new rider to buddy up with someone of his or her own speed during the ride.  This insures the new rider will not get lost and will return safely. 


Waivers, maps/cue sheets

·         Ask if everyone has signed the liability waiver and has received the map or cue sheet.


Pace of the ride

·         Announce the pace and explain what it means.  If you don’t intend to wait for slow riders, you should announce this, too.


Whether the ride will stick together

·         Indicate whether the ride will stick together, regroup at the top of hills, or regroup at a specified point. 

The route

·         Briefly describe the ride, including food and rest stops, difficult hills, unusual or dangerous conditions, the first regrouping point, and hazards and tricky turns before that point. 


Ride safely

·         Talk about safe riding, and remind riders that each person is responsible for his or her own safety.  They may have heard it all before, so say it some amusing or vivid way that they can’t forget.  You might emphasize that riding like lemmings is not a good idea.  Or that just because the rider ahead of you made it through an intersection without being run over doesn’t mean you can, too.  Or that cars kill cyclists one at a time.  You get the idea.

·         You can’t teach safe cycling in the three minutes you have before people stop listening, so vary your safety announcement to fit the hazards of the ride.  If you lead rides regularly, rotate topics from time to time.  Point out the safety tips that you copied onto the back of your map or cue sheet, or that you provided on a separate sheet. 


Obey traffic regulations

·         Remind riders that a bicycle is a vehicle and that bicycle riders are, therefore, expected to obey traffic regulations. 

·         Observe all traffic laws.  Your bicycle is legally considered a vehicle, so you’re subject to the same traffic laws as the drivers of motorized vehicles. 

·         Caution riders not to run stop lights or stop signs out of fear of being left behind. 

·         Use hand and voice signals when turning or stopping.

·         Ride with traffic.  Motorists don’t look for bicycles going the “wrong way.”

·         Don’t wear headphones while you’re cycling.  It’s dangerous and, in some places, it’s illegal.

·         When riding at night, state law requires you to have, at a minimum, a white front head lamp and a red rear reflector, each visible from a distance of 500 feet.  It’s also a good idea to have a red taillight or blinker and to wear reflective clothing and safety vests to increase visibility.  Flashing lights are not legal headlights.


Watch out for hazards

·         Make eye contact with drivers so you know that they’ve seen you.

·         Cross railroad tracks at a 90° angle.

·         Look ahead for road hazards (glass, potholes, wide cracks, metal grates, gravel, and so on), and point them out to other riders.  This is extra important when the road is wet.

·         Check for traffic yourself.  Scan the road in front of you, behind you, and around you.

·         Watch for car doors opening in your path.

·         Use voice and hand signals to communicate with other riders, especially when you’re riding close together.


Be Courteous

·         Ask riders to be courteous.  Drivers who are impressed with the courtesy of a group of cyclists will be more inclined to treat other cyclists with respect.

·         Take a full lane when safety dictates.  If you’re delaying five or more vehicles, pull off the road at the next turnout to allow them to pass.

·         If you stop for any reason, move yourself and your bicycle completely off the road or trail.

·         On multi-use trails and sidewalks, yield to pedestrians.  Slow down when other people are present, and slow to a walking pace if safety dictates.

·         Pass on the left, and use a bell or your voice to alert others that you’re passing. A simple on shout of “on your left” is more then sufficient.


Group riding techniques

·         For the benefit of new riders, mention group riding techniques, including:

  • Riding single-file in traffic
    • Make it clear that riders are not to block traffic by riding two or more abreast. 

o       When there’s traffic behind you, ride single-file so cars can pass.

o       Limit pace lines to eight or fewer. 

  • Riding on right half of trails
    • If you’ll be riding on trails, remind riders to stay on the right half of the trail and to be considerate of other trail users.
  • Hand signals
    • Remind riders to use hand signals for turning or stopping.  It’s also a good idea to point out road hazards.  Proper hand signals are always given using your left arm.  Your left arm straight out means you’re turning left, left arm bent at the elbow and straight up means you are turning right and left arm bent at the elbow and straight down means you are stopping.
  • Voice signals
    • Give riders a quick overview of voice signals:  “Car up/back/left/right,” “On your left” to indicate that you’re passing another rider or a pedestrian, “Glass/pothole/etc.” to indicate road hazards (combined with hand signals as appropriate).  Emphasize that “Car back” means a car is coming from behind, so riders should start riding single file.
    • Discourage riders from calling out “Clear” at intersections to indicate that no cars are coming.  “Clear” is a subjective and temporary condition, so riders should always look for themselves. 


Watch out for other cyclists

·         Remind riders to watch out for one another.  On a group ride, they’re much more likely to have an accident with one another than they are with a car.

Special equipment required (lights?)

·         Remind riders about any special equipment that’s required for the ride (for example, lights or lunches).


Keep the ride leader informed

·         Ask riders to pass the word if someone leaves or breaks down, and to notify you if they’re planning to leave the ride before the end.


Ask if anyone has a First-aid kit, or cellular phone

·         Ask if anyone has a first-aid kit, first-aid training, or a cellular phone.


After-ride refreshments

·         If you’re going somewhere after the ride for a meal or a snack, tell everyone where you’re going now.  You probably won’t get a chance after the ride because everyone will scatter to the four winds.



·         Ask if there are any questions.  Encourage riders to ask questions if they are unsure of any riding technique or traffic law.