Congratulations, you have just checked the club website and your name is on the list to bring out one of the groups for a winter training spin!
What does this mean?
Orwell's philosophy has always been that the more experienced club riders should take it upon themselves to act as group leader and bring out one the organized spins over the winter, as a way of imparting their knowledge to the newer members.
What is involved?
The night before:
Firstly you should be very clear on what the route is, ahead of time. The club posts suggested routes for each of the spins over the winter, on the website, with a link to a map, so it is your responsibility to be able to advise the group of the route distance before you head off on the Sunday spin. During the spin, you are also responsible for calling the directions out ahead of time in a timely fashion so that the group heads in the right direction in a safe manner.
You may also want to consider bringing an extra tube, spare tire, water bottle, energy bar, mobile phone. If you are bringing out an inexperienced group of riders, you'd be surprised when these might come in handy.
On the morning:
Each group will have 2 experienced riders assigned to it. When gathering for the group spin make it known to the riders as to who you are and which group you are rostered to take out. The 2 group leaders should ensure that the group is of a safe number, ideally no more than 14-15. Any more than this is unsafe for other road users, and will not be an enjoyable spin for anyone, as the group ends up too unwieldy to manage.
As a group leader, if you find that the group has more than 15 riders then it is preferable to split the group into 2 smaller groups with each group having one group leader.
If the group is completely new, you should ask for a show of hands to see who has ridden in a group setting before. Your job at this stage would be to explain the dynamics of riding in a group:
Topics might include:
Double Pace Line
How it works and how the group should maintain a consistent speed.
'Up and Over' to ensure group is rotating at the front and that all riders are contributing to the pace setting.
i) Pace. Explain the consequences of riding 'through' too fast or too slow, and the impact of the group not riding at a consistent pace on the front can have on the riders at the back of the group.
ii) Half-wheeling. While riding too strongly on the front by constantly 'half-wheeling' their colleague, explain that they are causing the whole group to speed up unnecessarily. When riders are in a group ensure that no-one is overlapping the rear wheel of the rider in front of them with their front wheel
i) The role of the riders at the front. Explain to all in the group that it is their job to look ahead on the road and to point out obstacles ahead and to lead the group around potholes, parked cars, debris, speed ramps etc. When they are not in front, it's still their job to protect those behind – so they should repeat point outs by those in front, even if they can't see the obstacle. All riders should keep their eyes 2-3 riders in front to spot swerving and potential hazards, and no-one should ever slam on the brakes.
ii) Cars. Explain calls such as 'car up' (car approaching the group from the rear), 'car down' (car coming down the road towards the group) and what they need to do when you call 'single out', as the road narrows and there is insufficient room for traffic to pass a double pace line group.
If of course it is a group that has already been out on a spin before, don't assume all of these skills are well known or understood.
As the experienced group rider, it is helpful to offer riders in the group tips on the above topics, if you feel this is an area of weakness, or is causing difficulties for other riders. We have all learnt from our more experienced club colleagues in this manner, and it has made us better riders.
During the spin
The 2 experienced riders should not sit on the front and set a tempo that is high enough to cause misery at the back. It is your job to ensure a steady tempo, remember the group is only as strong as its weakest rider.
It is preferable that once the group is used to the double pace line that the 2 group leaders, should mix it up within the group. That way you chat with every rider and in doing so can spot weaker riders, gauge riders who may be able to move up a group the following week etc. You will probably have to call the 'up and over's' at a regular interval to ensure all the members of the group are working together.
If the route includes rolling or hilly terrain it is likely that due to different level of ability and fitness in the group that the group will split on a hill. Group leaders should ensure that the group eases the pace, or stops completely until the back markers are back in the group before lifting the tempo back up again.
Unless you are taking out a racing group, the group should return home intact, remember that new riders will not know the routes as well as you do. As the experienced rider you should not abandon any of your group who may be dropped off the back of the group, this is unacceptable.
Ensure all of the riders pull safely off the road if the group is stopped because of a puncture. If you are taking out an inexperienced group you may have to assist with their puncture repairs to ensure the group gets back on the road in a timely fashion.
A quick coffee stop at a petrol station or cafe is expected on White and Yellow Spins . These are not lunch stops. There is plenty of time to talk when on the bikes. You will need to move the group on after a brief break.
Wrapping up the group spin
Towards the end of the spin if some of the group are looking to be struggling you may decide to advise them to sit out their turns at the front of the group by sitting at the back and letting the stronger riders do more work on the front. If the majority of the group is in trouble, then it makes more sense to call it and head the whole group home earlier than planned.
Ideally if you were taking a new group out, you should pull the group into the side of the road towards the end of the spin, and review how the spin went. This would be a good time to advise the stronger riders that they should move up to a more advanced group on the following weekend. Weaker riders should also be advised that they need to consider another group too.
Remember, the winter group rides were the way we all started out, and is a great opportunity for us to meet our new club members, and to impart some of the skills and knowledge we have picked up over the years.
You may also find it useful to have a look through these slides: Leading a winter spin (Powerpoint)