Why? Because it’s intimidating to show up at a group ride with a bunch of guys who are going to hammer the entire time. Because women will actually appreciate and compliment that new kit you just purchased. Because sometimes you just want girl time. The list for why you want a women’s ride could go on, but it’s also something you will experience yourself after you plan and participate in one. Over the last year, I have been privileged to be a part of organizing and planning the Art’s Cyclery Monthly Women’s Ride. After a few months the ride became an event, in spite of many disheartening attempts to gain momentum, including a day where only one person showed up. However, our ride has continued to evolve to the point where we now have a consistent group of women riding together. After much trial and error, we think we’ve figured out the formula to planning a successful women’s ride.
Step One: Figure Out the W’s – Who, Where, & When.
Before you can plan anything, you need to figure out the basics. Who is going to run the ride? Where is the ride going to meet? When are these rides going to happen? While it may seem simple, if any of these steps are missed the whole event will crumble.
Who? Although at first it may seem obvious that you are going to be the one in charge, planning and organizing a group ride is a lot of work and can easily overwhelm one person. Find a friend or two who can help you organize and who is equally stoked to get women on bikes. Also, as your ride grows, you may not be able to attend every single ride. Having others assisting with the organization will help future rides to be more successful. Plus, it’s always more fun to have friends to discuss the details with – and fun is the main goal!
Where? A local bike shop is an awesome place to have your ride meet and most bike shops love to help out! It is easy to accommodate people when someone forgets last minute items, as the bike shop will be more than happy to assist in replacing them. We’ve had women forget an assortment of things, from arm warmers on a cold morning to nutrition for the long rides, and by meeting at a location that has inventory available, the forgotten bits and pieces are quickly replaced.
When? As far as the “when” is concerned, consistency is key. We choose to have our rides on the last Saturday of the month at 9AM. However, your time should best fit your community’s needs, so listen to any feedback you get from your participants and adjust accordingly. Meeting once a month makes it so people will be less likely to blow off your event. If it is weekly (which we’ve tried) people are more likely to think, “Well I can always go next week.” Also, as the planner, it gives you more time to prepare and come up with special touches, such as baking Skratch Cookies with your fellow ride leaders as a special treat for the participants. Cookies, by the way, are always a hit!
Step Two: Organize & Advertise
This can be the trickiest part, as you are ironing out all the little details and hic-ups that may occur during and after the ride. Important questions to consider before this step are as follows: Where are you going? Will it be one large group ride or will there be different ride options? What will the pace be? Who will the ride leaders and sweepers be? These questions are all critical to answer during your planning process.
Distance, Pace, & Ride Format If you are attempting to accommodate a multitude of rider abilities to make the ride all-inclusive, it is best to offer a few different group and route options. Specialized Bicycles Women’s Ambassador Carrie Sapp Barrett suggests, “creating distances that are good for various levels. Beginners will want to go somewhere between 10-15 miles. However, if you want more experienced female cyclists, you should also offer something in the 40-50 mile range. That way, there’s something for everyone!” We have found her advice to be true, and choose to offer three different options. For example, one group goes an easy 15-20 miles, averaging 13-15MPH. Group two does approximately 40 miles at 15-16MPH. Our third group also goes approximately 40 miles, averaging 16-17MPH. It is important to list out the speed and distance, so women know what to expect. Specialized’s Women’s Road Product manager Stephanie Kaplan reinforces this idea by suggesting to, “Make sure you have rides for beginners and for those ladies that want to ‘go fast’ — and keep them separate so the beginner ladies don’t end up feeling outmatched and then not return again.” Nobody likes to feel left out, and by creating separate groups you can accommodate and welcome all different levels of riders.
More Friends! In order to accommodate the different ride routes, search for a few volunteers who will lead and sweep each route. Leaders are the ones that make sure the pace stays on target, while sweepers stick with the last rider to make sure no one is riding alone or gets lost. Make sure to tell these volunteers how much you love them and how great they are, as without their help the ride could not happen!
Spread the Word Once you have determined the most complex details, it’s time to Advertise. Make some flyers, and hang them in your local bike shops and coffee shop as a way to advertise. Use your social media contacts as well by creating a Facebook group or event, and hit your Twitter account hard. Also, send an email blast to all of your friends who might be interested. If you have it in you, reach out to your email contacts about twice a month, the first email being a recap of last month’s ride and announcing the date of the next month’s ride, while the second email we send as a reminder that the ride is coming up. Typically it is in these emails that we reveal the routes, paces, and time of the ride. By doing this, we’ve had people arrive more consistently as they have a reminder.
Step Three: The Ride!
It’s ride day, you’ve already ironed out all the details, hopefully the sun is shining, and the wind is light! Our ride leaders typically arrive at the shop about an hour early to brew some coffee and set out some treats for the riders. At 9AM, everyone joins their appropriate group and sets off at staggered intervals. By tapering the start time, there is no confusion as to which group is which. Make sure you also announce who the leader is and who sweep is. It’s typically a good idea to discuss any safety tips before the ride starts as well. Most importantly, HAVE FUN! This is the best part, and once you get going it is awesome to see the fruits of your labor.
Wrap Up: How & Why Your Ride Will Continue to Grow
We have found that sending an email within a couple of days after the ride asking for participant feedback has been helpful. Listen to their input, and adjust where you can. Coach and Specialized Women’s Ambassador Emma Cribb suggest, “Consistency is key. If people know that they can rely on a ride being there (obviously weather is a factor), the ride will grow.” While some rides will have a better turn out than others, just keep it going. Our group ride has truly been a rewarding experience for all of us who plan it, as we have met so many inspiring women and connected with our cycling community. With spring about to bloom, the best time to start your ride is now. Happy riding.