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Comments to ride directors -

The following is a collection of comments made by bikers and my opinion and I would be just delighted to post dissenting opinions.

I am starting a new page of reader comments. Send in yours now.

Remember, riders can always go riding in their neighborhood if they wanted to.  They will come back to your rally if they are made to feel welcome from the moment they get there until they leave. They also want to get their money's worth. One of my favorite rallies has lousy routes and other negatives, but I go back every year because they made me feel very welcome the first year and they still do.

Print up your ride flier early and get it out. Print it on white or light colored paper. Bike stores get a few original copies and make more copies, as they need them. Dark green letters on light green paper make it hell to copy or scan as I do. Also, I like letter size paper. Whatever you do, give your flier the copier test before sending it out. Make a copy of a copy and see what it looks like

Number and length of routes: The more the better. For example; I, myself, would just ignore a rally that only had routes of 25 and 62 miles. I may be looking for a route of 50 miles or maybe 40 on another day. The number and lengths of routes are the first questions asked when a rally is being considered.

You can put a lovely map to the starting point in your flier but half of the "prospective" riders will forget the map. I go to many rallies and see cars with bikes on top driving back and forth desperately looking for the starting point. A few strategically placed signs can do wonders to make your riders feel welcome.  ALWAYS put in a street address for the start point, then the rider can look it up on a web map program.   DO NOT give the location as the Children's Center,  Charlie's Park or the High School.  You know where it is but we sure in hell do not.

Try to keep the starting cyclists off the same road the latecomers will drive in on. For one thing it is dangerous and the latecomer may just park anywhere and hop on the bike to join in. "Oh, darn, I forgot to pay." You just lost $25.00.

If you do a route map, assume no one will look at it until they are lost (or at least think they might be), tired and soaking wet with sweat. I, myself, have had maps fall apart in my sweaty trembling hands. On the other side; my at the time, brash young , stepson found himself helplessly lost. He took the map to a gas station and they gave him directions. If you print up a different map for each route, riders will just take a copy of each.  Put distances between rest stops on the map. Also, mark the map to show which rest stops have porta potties and which don't.  

Hazards: On many rallies I have seen where someone has gone out on the road and spray painted a line around every pothole. I know of a rally that actually has volunteers go out and sweep gravel off the entire route. I know it seems nitpickey but this rally keeps getting bigger and bigger every year. Must be something to it.

Toilets - We understand the need to stay on budget and certainly prefer the money go to the charity, but if you're going to provide toilets, please have them at the first or second stop.  This is where they will get used the most. And don't forget the toilet paper!

More importantly, put the emergency phone number on your route map. A lot of the riders now carry cell phones on rides. If we see a rider that needs medical or bike help, it would be nice to have a number to call. I was on one ride where a rider was unconscious and 911 didn't work.

Route markings - If you put out colored arrows out to mark the route, consider the colorblind cyclist. Also, put the mileage on a few of the arrows because many riders do not even think of what color to follow until a few miles out.  Some rallies try to put a volunteer at every turn.  This is nice but I am not sure it is worth the trouble.  Good signs are just as effective if they are done right.  Use some of those volunteers to monitor the signs (and the riders) along a specific portion of the route.  Signs do sometimes get changed.  I have seen painted arrows painted over and signs turned around by vandals.

On the way back, too many rallies abandon the rider at the edge of town. They must assume "everyone knows the way back from here." - WRONG! It is where the tired cyclist needs direction the most.

Consider the slow rider. It is the slow rider that gets better and comes back next year (except me, I am still slow). It is the slow rider that pays for the ride more often than the "fast" rider. But this year that slow rider may do the entire 40 miles alone. I myself have spent hours praying I was on the right road. Don't let him feel alone and he/she will come back next year and bring friends. One ride has little signs every few miles so the riders know they are on the right route. A few "wrong way" signs won't hurt either. Put them a few hundred feet past a turn so idiots like me who don't pay attention get reminded.

Make sure the people at the last rest stop and anyone else near the end know EXACTLY the distance to the finish line from where they are.  This is the question I hear the most as the ride nears the end.

Sag wagons do not have to be a pickup truck. What you want is to provide is a presence all along the route. Itty bitty little cars with a big sign can be VERY reassuring to a tired rider. Of course, the little car can not pick you up but it can carry a cooler of ice water and the driver can drive back to the rest stop for help (or use a cell phone). In many ride reviews, one consistent remark is the number of sag wagons seen. Quote: "Did the entire ride and never saw a sag wagon. I will not go back next year." .  Also, it is considered very uncouth to follow a rider in a sag wagon.  For one thing it points out "Hey! This jerk is the last rider," and it makes him very vulnerable to the redneck in the pickup stuck behind who can not see the rider because the sag wagon is in the way.  When he passes, he will pull in quickly, and that is where the rider is.

A personal note: I worked a rally in my Ford Escort. Every time I passed a rider I would look him/her in the face and smile to let them know I was there if they needed help. Few did, but the ride got good marks for the Sag wagons. (There were only three of us for the entire rally.)

Rest Stops - Rest stops can be the most dangerous part of a rally. The combination of riders stopping in the middle of the road while other riders are speeding by can be deadly. If you can, position your stop where the riders have room to park off the road and have to walk to the table. Most cyclists are environmentally conscious. Have plenty of trash cans (cardboard boxes) spread out so they won't crowd around the only (if any, at all) trash can with a paper cup in one hand and a banana in the other. A plastic bag in a cardboard box makes a great temporary trash can. Keep the ice in the cooler. Don't fill the paper cup full of ice with a little bit of drink. The rider will just drink the Gatorade, toss the ice and get a refill (and more ice to toss).

The kids (and some adults) get a kick out of handing water and bananas to the passing riders. If you must hand-off, do it at a point past the rest stop so the rider won't have to dodge resting cyclists while eating a banana at 20 miles an hour. The best method to hand off food is to hold out your offering and DO NOT MOVE. Let the rider come to you.  It really works.

Please let me know if you have any comments or additions.  I have already received a few and have basically included them in this article.