Sunday, 10 February 2013

British Cycling Ride Leader

Yes, indeedy - I am now a British Cycling Ride Leader. Well, all truth be told, I'm an assistant Ride Leader as I don't yet hold a valid first aid certificate. Once I have the first aid certificate, I'll be auto-promoted to full Ride Leader.

I attended a one-day training course yesterday in Plymouth, along with 9 other people. I knew one person already from the Plymouth Cycling Campaign meetings, but hadn't met any of the other delegates before.

Now you're probably wondering what the Ride Leader course is all about, right? I'm sure you have heard of Sky Rides, large event in selected cities where roads are usually closed to cars and given over to cycling. There are smaller versions of these, called Sky Ride Local, which may take place on roads, traffic-free paths, or a combination. These rides are organised, and led by Ride Leaders.

Ride Leaders escort and chaperone new cyclists or people who are not confident cycling on roads. If you're an experienced cyclist that regularly ride on roads, chances are you'll find led rides too restrictive. However, as a large part of the training is practical, it goes without saying that all delegates also had a chance of being in the group that was being led, as opposed to being a Ride Leader.

My initial dislike of being chaperoned soon disappeared and it wasn't until another delegate called Rob expressed it into words that I realised the reason why: even as an experienced cyclist, riding in the group means you can almost completely relax and that you don't need to be as ultra-alert as is normally required when riding in traffic.

And therein lies the secret of these led rides: less experienced, nervous or even new cyclists can ride on roads, shared with cars, when in a group like this. The Ride Leaders ensure the group moves as a unit and they do most of the "keeping safe" work, allowing group members to simply relax and enjoy the ride.

Now obviously a typical led ride won't take in the roads we were on yesterday - these roads were picked specifically to teach us how to control the group in traffic, while allowing the trainer to assess our skills. Usually led rides would take place on quieter roads with fewer hazards.

That's another secret of the led rides: the routes are recce'd beforehand, to the point that Ride Leaders need to do a risk assessment for the route. This may sound like 'elf-n-safety gone mad, but actually it is quite good, in that it forces Ride Leaders to have contingency plans in place, and more. All of which of course serves to make the rides a more enjoyable experience for group members, and that is what it is all about: getting more people on their bikes.

Yes, they may start out only ever going on led rides, but in time should have built up the confidence and skills to ride whenever they choose.

As for what is happening next, well, I have to wait for my Ride Leader's kit to come through, and liaise with other Ride Leaders to hook up and deliver rides. As "payment" for the course and the Ride Leader kit, I have to commit to delivering at least 6 rides over spring, summer & early autumn, which isn't a big ask. In fact, I'm hoping to deliver more.

Ride Leaders also get a year's worth of free British Cycling membership and as part of that are covered under British Cycling's public liability insurance. All in all I feel it was a day well spent and I'm looking forward to doing the led rides.

If YOU are interested in becoming a Ride Leader, find some more details by clicking here. My understanding is that places are limited on the courses being offered around the country and certainly on our course there was a reserve list of over ten people that wanted to go on the course, but couldn't get a place.