I joined ELAM as a full member after moving to London. I occasionally went on rides with the group and I really enjoyed learning all the different routes that ELAMites take, which are centred on Thaxted and Finchingfield. I also enjoyed meeting everyone, but as I didn’t attended as often as I would have liked, I didn’t remember many names or faces. I did not know the regular attenders from those who attended occasionally (such as I), and I did not really keep up with the chats in the WhatsApp group as I did not know who was who.
Having previously lived in Hertfordshire and having been a member of HBAM, I felt I could share some of my favourite routes in Herts and Beds with the group. I also wanted to make more of a contribution to ELAM without taking on a demanding committee role. I approached the social ride co-ordinator (Nigel) and asked him if I could lead a ride and what training or skills would I need.
I was initially worried because I thought that I would have to be very fast or an observer. Nigel welcomed my contribution (more than I thought he would 🙂 He allayed my fears and gave me some useful pointers, helped me organise and advertise my first ride and kept an eye on me on the first lead. The rest of the group were very supportive, and genuinely appreciated the effort I made in planning the ride.
After having led a few rides, I felt much more like an active member of the group and started to remember many more people and faces (other members started remembering me too). I am now more interested in other activities/events organised by the group, and have become lot more aware of what is happening, and I am more involved. I also started improving my riding to be a better ride leader, so that I can lead the full member rides. It has been a rewarding experience.
My favourite routes are those that have a mixture of challenging twisty roads, scenic country roads with fast sweeping bends, riding slowly through picturesque villages with historic churches/windmills and a touch of 70mph A-roads to wake up my bike’s engine.
Recommended route (which includes all the above) :
M11 up to Harlow> Hastingwood> High Laver> Matching Green> Hatfield Heath> Thaxted (nice town for a tea break)> Debden> Newport> Wendens Ambo> B1039 to Royston> Baldock road> Ashwell and Morden Station> Ashwell (nice town for a tea break)> Guilden Morden> Wrestlingworth> Potton> Gamlingay> Waresley (impressive church and a nice garden centre for breakfast/lunch)> B1040> B1046> Abbotsley> St Neots> B645 to Staughton> B661 to Grafham Water Café at Perry.
My least favourite are the narrow single track roads especially when full of gravel.
Here is what I have learned as a ride leader:
- Take routes you know well so that you are more focused on leading the ride rather than the trying to remember the route
- Don’t worry if other riders are faster than you, ride your own ride especially as you approach blind bends
- The ride briefing is important especially for new riders. Acknowledge new members and welcome them to the group. This is because the regulars know each other so well and this may intimidate new members
- Talk new members a second time through the marker system, even if they are familiar with it as other groups do marking differently. Remind them that marking is an important responsibility
- Remind people to pick somewhere safe and mark before the turn, to be visible and to give clear direction using the arm and not the bike’s indicators.
- Slow down when you ask someone to mark & check he/she has stopped somewhere visible, then make a final check to make sure it is still safe for you to make your turn
- Slow down to 20mph in villages in order to allow the rest of the group to catch up (provided you will not hinder any other traffic) or pull over if you can only see 3 – 4 bikers behind you to allow everyone to re-group. This will make associates feel less pressured and you are more likely to become aware if the group has separated.
- If the group becomes separated, after you liaise on the phone with the others, go back, and collect your markers. The person you liaise with may take a different route and therefore will not collect your markers
- Remember that not everyone will be as experienced as you, so be courteous, patient, understanding, approachable and accommodating. You are representing ELAM!
If you would like to lead a ride, let the social ride coordinator (Nigel) know and you will receive all the guidance and support you will need. It is a rewarding experience.
Ed. Thanks Sam.
We at ELAM would openly welcome more people to become ride leaders , perhaps you have a nice route, you’d like to share, even if you don’t fancy leading a ride , you could always pass on your route , so maybe others could enjoy it are well.