6 Tips for the Best Group Ride - Opinion

Jun 30, 2016
by Mike Levy  
Mike Levy

Heading out on a big group ride can make for a great time, especially if everyone actually has their shit together. Unfortunately, the chances of that happening decline exponentially as the number of riders in the group increases. Depending on who shows up, when they show up, and how prepared they are (or aren't), your group could eventually end up looking more like the Donner party; a cluster of hikers wearing helmets and odd clothing who like pushing bikes around in the woods; or, in a best-case scenario, just a bunch of people who happen to all be riding in roughly the same place.

In case it isn't obvious, I don't often attend large group rides. This is mostly because I don't get invited to them anymore owing to the fact that I have the social graces of Rain Man on a mountain bike... but without the ability to do those cool counting tricks. I have, however, been on more group rides that I can remember over the last twenty-plus years, and I've learned a few tips and tricks to help them go off as smoothly as possible.

Big turnout and positive vibes for the ride Believe it or not this was only a portion of the group.

Group rides can turn into group failures if some straightforward rules aren't followed, and this is especially true if said group numbers more than two. Do your part to prevent that from happening by employing these six simple etiquette tips.

• Large group rides are the absolute best situation to show up on a bike that needs to be repaired before it can be ridden. That sounds dumb, you say? Think about it: with so many people sitting around waiting for you, one of them is bound to have the correct tool(s), knowledge, and enough desire to get moving that they'll eventually be forced to fix your bike. Now who's dumb? Not you.

• Murphy's law states that if there are more than three people on a ride, shit is going to hit the fan at some point. It's just how it is, so don't bother getting worked up about it. Besides, it’s usually considered impolite to go all 'Michael Douglas in Falling Down' on someone just because they ruined the one night of the month that you can sneak out of the house to escape from your family. Buddy double pinch-flatted and installed ''new'' tubes only to find out they're the same tubes that he double pinch-flatted on the last group ride? Remember that violence doesn't solve everything; it only solves important stuff. And a group ride isn't really all that important in the grand scheme of things.

• Bikes are fun and we're all really friendly, so a group ride is totally the best place to show up uninvited. Don't let not knowing anyone stop you from tagging along, but remember that as a guest, it's on everyone else to show you a good time. Pace too slow? Hollering from the back of the group to ''speed the f*ck up,'' will let everyone know that you're fast and everyone should go faster. Need to slow things down? A loud ''I did my intervals this morning, so this needs to be a recovery lap,'' will let everyone know that you're fast but just don't want to go faster.

• While it's fine for you to crash a group ride, the last thing your own group needs is an uninvited yahoo thinking it's okay for him to tag along when it obviously isn't. Another person would only upset the group dynamic of your, um, group, which could send everything off kilter. What if they're a lot better than you? What if their bike is nicer? No, that's the last thing you need.

• Group rides are not group races, but that certainly doesn't mean that you can't win the ride. Just look at fondos; those aren't races, either, but someone still thinks they're winning when they get to the ''finish line'' first. Use that as inspiration on your own group ride, aka mountain fondo, to destroy those who don't know that it's actually an imaginary race and that you're going to be the imaginary winner. Don't forget to zip up your jersey and raise your arms as you coast triumphantly back into the parking lot.

• Group rides also inevitably lead to group beers, which is convenient because you probably like beer. And there's only one thing better than beer: free beer courtesy of the people that you just thumped. So don't be shy about grabbing a cold one or three from the cooler, even if there aren't enough to go around. You're the guest, remember, and also the winner of the group ride. You've earned it.

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Member since Oct 18, 2005
2,032 articles

  • 286 4
 All good tips.
Living in a tourist area I often ride with out of towners. The key is to pick a group with the newest looking packs; they always carry the best snacks, and usually have good pot. Never ride with a group with water bottles; they are moochers and don't carry shit!
  • 25 1
 If only I could give you a +1000
  • 14 0
 clear, concise, and fucking awsome
  • 9 0
 Lol I automatically thought Durango but gj close enough.
  • 18 0
 but it's a fair trade: they give you snacks and pot, you show them the trails they probably wouldn't find Smile
  • 13 2
 @manuesi: Yeah, it's like giving trinkets to the indigenes
  • 2 0
 Rode with the locals when i visited Canada, half way up the mountain i had to ditch the tinnies in my pack to keep up with all these 29er riding xc whippets.... i believe there was a conflict of interests there
  • 48 12
 Rule no 7 - Bring an E-bike and take Ecstasy.
  • 26 6
 They will hate on you and you will only give them love
  • 1 0
 @szusz: @manuesi Yup. Its really kinda comical. I survived many seasons in places like Yosemite and Joshua tree living off the kindness of weekend warriors. I do get to meet and ride with a lot of really cool folks from all over the world. And tomorrow is Saturday!
  • 1 1
 Beautifully said... now, can I get an analysis on the fanny-pack types?
  • 1 2
 Like you! The irony of the hypocrite. Lmao....
  • 3 1
 @jmd2drsrbtrrthn4: I only know cause I was one of those out of towers at one point...at least I came bearing California's finest crop
  • 2 0
 Its funny cuz its true..first I thought oh well I carry water bottles "HEY" and then I was like...oh wait a minute, he's right and had to laugh... I carry a water bottle and bring nothing to the trails, well...at the first sight it looks like that but my riding friends says that I seem to bring nothing with me but have every thing for every occasion... I think that I have sortet that thing out about enduro
  • 95 0
 I'm glad I don't have friends so I can ride at my own slow pace.
  • 49 0
 I love my solo rides.
  • 28 4
 @dv8416: army of one right here.

never did get into radical sports for the social aspect.
  • 65 2
 @stacykohut: And yet here you are...
  • 18 9
 @Bikeordie1: don't confuse the periphery with the act.

the act is a solo act.

this is periphery.

  • 35 4
 @stacykohut: just like most of my favorite websites: enjoyed solo with lots of dicks and a*sholes.
  • 6 0
 @unrooted: classic. awesome.

  • 10 0
 @unrooted: there's 3 types of people chuck.
Never forget the pussys
  • 30 1
 Big group rides make me embarrassed to be a mountain biker - any more than four people is just fucking obnoxious.
  • 2 0
 @nojzilla: bravo, I was thinking the same
  • 6 0
 I dont drink so i dont need friends to ride with.
  • 11 0
 @fartymarty: I drink so I don't need friends.
  • 5 0
 For me group rides always have much too much waiting and missing out on the flow. Sometimes it's nice though... Wink
  • 3 2
 Group rides are great if there is potential to surprise predatory wildlife.
  • 63 1
 Where is ifht with the video depiction???
  • 57 5
 My personal favorite is when the super cardio XC people start the DH section without waiting for the slower climbers and then act all pissed when those slower riders happen to ride downhill like a freight train and puts pressure on them all the way down.
  • 10 8
 Liar! Never happened man. If I had a clone and took a light XC bike with XC tyres I'd easily gain 2-3 minutes on a 30 min climb to my clone on 6" Enduro bike. There is no way he could make up that time on descent, even on DH bike.

Big Grin
  • 14 2
 At the local shop rides, we had a girl who always wiggled towards the front of the group on any breathers before the downs. And she was properly shit. Ruined so many descents for competent riders. Glad she doesn't come anymore.
  • 4 0
 That was part of the inspiration to get back into shape... They get all butt hurt when you pass them too.
  • 11 4
 Yeah, you shouldn't let any attitudes ruin rides but this is one of the more annoying things that can occur at popular trails. Everyone gets a breather at the top ready for the descent, you're just getting back on the bike when a solo xc rider in Lycra storms up the climb and drops straight in. I know there is no formal queue and these guys and gals probably have important stravaing to do but they must know they're basically cutting in line like the bmw drivers who use the turning lane to over take in the city - you're still not going anywhere fast and you just screwed over at least 10 other fellow humans. I've seen a few of these riders actually rip descents but it's a rarity.
  • 22 0
 At the same point that rider doesn't know how much longer you are going to wait. They are just riding their own ride and enjoying themselves. If you are taking a breather wait another minute or 2 what's the big deal? Just because you are ready for a breather doesn't mean they need to take one.
  • 8 4
 I can imagine that: a seasoned downhiller with racing past, stands at the trail head on his Enduro bike, in baggy pants, loose fit jersey, knee pads, thicker XC lid, goggles and a backpack (incl. shock pump). He watches a XC dude in lycra with water bottle in bottle cage and no dropper post approaches him. The great bike handler thinks to himself: "what a dickhead" and says: "hey I'm going to drop in, I just need 1 more minute of standing here, don't go before me ok? And if you are wondering, no, it's not about KOM - check out my "no Strava" tattoo on my shoulder"

Xcer thinks to himself: "Wow, I wish I was as cool as you"... Or maybe not
  • 9 4
 @ThomDawson: The Solo rider has right of way. Why should he have to wait for all you losers to get your act together. Pisses me off to when I get to a summit and theres a crowd forming on top, hardly room to get by.
Big cluster f*ck 8-10 riders. I get by as fast as possible.
  • 11 0
 @SteveDekker: there is no "right of way" just simple courtesy. It works both and all manner of different ways. Just tends to be where I ride I can't catch a break for slower descenders snaking me. "Are you about to drop" is all they have to say, ima knod "yup, thanks man" and I'm off. No problems, except people don't actually consider their fellow humans. Especially when the evil filth strava is involved. If I come up to a summit and I see some quick riders just throwing a leg over I'd offer the trail to them first. Same in life and wherever you go, simple courtesy.
  • 7 0
 Sorry, not just quick riders - anyone that got there before me and looks like they're about to head off.
  • 1 2
 @ThomDawson: Agreed. Fact is that large groups are usually unwieldy and often solo riders are just faster. Common sense is needed; but not always available. There Is rights of way, slower riders yield to faster ones. I'm more lenient on my home trails I like to see the tourists have a good time. But sometimes they get out of control and need to be put in their place.
  • 3 1
 @SteveDekker: that's not any kind of right, that's courtesy. Both of you have exactly the same right to be on a public trail.

It sounds like you ride at a marginally congested time. As more users crowd the trails, finding a time with lower demand may be the better idea.
  • 9 0
 @kabanosipyvo: Time shift FTW. I joined several of the Meetup groups for MTB here locally not because I wanted to ride with them; I wanted to be sure I wasn't anywhere around them. As it turns out, this was a great way to avoid the masses of novice trailblocking riders.
  • 1 1
 @Konda: my ex girlfriend used to do that and then get all pissy when i wanted to pass her
  • 1 1
 @ThomDawson: This happens a bit when we're out although it's funny passing someone when you have your 2 year old daughter on your bike upfront on the Weeride.
  • 4 1
 @fartymarty: going for a ride with your woman who doesn't ride much is like that Fundamentals vid from Dirt where Peaty talks about racing in the mud: Don't hope it's going to be good, it's not going to be good, in fact it's going to be sht.
  • 4 0
 You're bound to catch up with someone every now and then on a trail/track. That is part of the sport. I really hate "following" people downhill because a lot of them will get stressed out and try to let you pass, crashing in the process so I always make sure to give people enough room if I'm following them. I actually don't mind closing small group rides with friends, I just let them go and wait 2-3 minutes before going myself and stop mid run to give them some more room if I caught up.

What irritates me in bigger groups is when people regularly fail to find their "pecking order" in the line, week after week. I mean, I struggle on long climbs so I will usually position myself at the end of the pack to not ruin it for the goats but on the DH sections I very often have to deal with either little-ladies-who-sneak-in-front-of-you-but-hate-when-you're-behind-them or the group-leaders-with-an-ego-problem.

Some groups are really great but I don't really bother anymore. I only go when they're riding a network I don't know and I hold my horses all night and play nice.
  • 2 1
 @kabanosipyvo: We call them rights, rules, yes its up to courtesy. Its not the same as an inalienable right or the right to say have real sugar in Coke instead of corn syrup! We do all have the right to be on the trail, some users have different rights in some situations than others when it comes to passing on the trail. Every situation is different and it comes down to common sense, courtesy and tradition. Like a sailboat on a starboard tack, has rights over one on a port tack. Maybe its different in your country.
  • 1 2
 @WAKIdesigns: I did that last night, I got to the top and had a 5min gap, and when I got to the bottom I was waiting 2min, and that was on a rigid 29er
  • 2 0
 @SteveDekker: I'm in the USA, and I get what you're saying. FWIW, shifting my ride times has paid big dividends in the ride enjoyment department.
  • 2 0
 @firsttraxx: Brilliant idea!
  • 2 1
 @ThomDawson: You sir, are a good man and a fine human! Could not be stated any better, we see it every day, everywhere, in every aspect of life, common courtesy is what the world needs more of, not Richards.....
  • 2 0
 @SteveDekker: by this I read smack a bitch for getting out of line!!!
  • 46 0
 don't forget to let hikers and horses know how how fast you are in narrow sections of the trail!
  • 4 0
 Where are the tips for group GoPro action? Read it twice and didn't see that section.
  • 38 1
 Try a group night ride for even more problems
  • 3 0
 Even better...group winter night rides....sh*t show in the making!
  • 30 0
  • 24 1
 Another note to not spoil a group shuttle ride: make sure that the guy who will drive the recovery vehicle has his keys in hand before you head down the trail from the top. There's nothing worse (except for someone getting hurt!) then to be all the way down at the end of a long ride, exhausted & spent, daylight fading away, and then to discover that the keys for the recovery vehicle were left at the top. It is the fastest way to ruin your day. Don't be "that guy".
  • 35 1
 Or your buddy is completely stoned out of his mind, misses the trailhead....keeps driving in your brand new stock truck down a rock crawling trail, gets stuck for 5 hours. Meanwhile you and your buddies are out of water and food and about 5 min away from calling search and rescue when he finally shows up....that sucks too. I sold that truck. #WTBwalkieTalkies
  • 5 0
 Been there a few times... priceless.
  • 6 0
 @norcal77: or when your so called friends tell you about this gate across the trail cuz you are out at dusk.. when time comes to see so called gate across the trail everyone turns and with their very bright headlamps blind you so that you run right through the gate get ejected off the back of the bike when your bended elbows catch on gate and your bike ghost rides down the trail for about 150 feet while you are laying on your very bruised tailbone thinking to yourself hey guys there's that gate we were talking about..
  • 3 0
 @norcal77: wish I could have seen my bike ghost ride down the trail for 150 ft without me
  • 3 0
 This happened to me many years ago. Such a great ride, completely spent but smiling as we coasted up to the car, water and food lasted just long enough, temp just starting to break 90, perfect time to be done, and then "oh, I left my keys in your car". 3k of climbing to get back under the brutal sun, and this was long before Uber could've save our asses. Now I always make sure the driver double checks.
  • 3 0
 Keys never leave my vehicle in the first place when riding my bike. Always stashed outside of the cab first and then I lock it. As good as I've gotten at breaking into my truck, I still prefer not too. I also don't ride in Compton...
  • 2 0
 @mountainyj: most of the new fords have the coded door handles, so handy. keys never leave the vehicle.
  • 2 0
 @norcal77: and people say bikers are dumb...
  • 2 0
 @norcal77: hilarious
  • 2 0
 @norcal77: keycode doors are awesome, surprised more car makers don't have it. When I'm riding/camping the keys never leave the cab.
  • 14 0
 If you want to really make an impression with the boys bring your wife along for the ride! ..........cost me a fortune in post ride beer!
  • 12 0
 Bonus points for referencing the Donner Party and "Falling Down" in less than two pages.

Setting a meeting time/place at THE TOP of the climb helps to keep the group a little more together without much waiting around.
  • 11 0
 My favorite group ride experience of late is the eco-conscious friend who insists that everyone must carpool and all go in one vehicle and that it's fine, he'll drive and pick everyone up on the way... and at the end of the ride when everyone's ready to go for food and beers he's on a tight schedule and sorry no time gotta drive everyone home okthankyoubye
  • 10 0
 I know that spot where the group photo was shot very, very well. The fact that people put together large group rides in semi-urban "wilderness parks" on weekend mornings makes my head spin. Can they just go ahead and write their local lawmakers to close the trails to bikes right now?

And yes, Matt Dennison needs to take a crack at this topic. IFHT FTW!
  • 17 0
 We have a network where the land owners let us bike/build but the only condition is to keep riding groups under 8 people to keep it quiet for the neighbors. This one shop likes to bring groups of 40 even though they know about the rule. Sometimes I feel mountain bikers hate mountain biking.
  • 3 0
 @PLC07: These guys / girls mostly care about the tailgate afterward tough. And stopping in the middle of a ride to take pictures-vids of totally gnarly sections that are much stepper than they look on said pictures-vids.
  • 6 0
 @Absent: I'm going to have to hang out with them if their picture look steeper than things really are because my pictures make everything look flat hahaha.
  • 2 0
 @PLC07: A shop doing that, knowing the asked rules.....cause for boycott IMO.
  • 1 0
 @jgottya1: I got bored of their cavalier attitude real fast, I don't ride with them anymore. Not sure if most people in the group agree with their behavior, don't care, or are too non-confrontational to say anything but their poor etiquette doesn't help our cause, especially since most trails aren't official.
  • 9 0
 Also, make sure you ride in groups of at least 15 and then spread out evenly over 1/2 a mile so that other trail users have to pass each of you individually every minute or so.
  • 7 0
 2 to 4 riders of similar skill/fitness is perfect. More than 4 riders and shit gets annoying. I go for larger group rides on occassion, mainly for the apres beers, but always find I lose any flow I had when there are a bunch of people in front and behind me. When I've got time to burn a group ride is cool, but if I have anything less than 2.5 hours solo or small groups are preferred.
  • 1 1
 Totally agree with that. Can't stand wanting to hit the jumps and fun stuff on my only night of the week out and stuck behind a bunch of guys in a row who don't hit those things and causes me not to be able to hit the stuff I really look forward to hitting on the trail.
  • 6 0
 Sentences for every group ride that make other riders like you:
- Oh i flattened, does somebody have a pump and a tube?
- I am so slow because I am not used to this bike, usually I am riding my race downhill rig!
- I am so slow because it is the beginning of the season and it is my first time this year (in July)
- Can you please wait for me while I make up my mind whether I want to do this tricky section or not. 5 minutes passing. Ok I won't do it today.
- Repeat the sentence above.
  • 9 0
 Why would any one want to ride with other people? Funny article though.
  • 8 6
 Yea, it can ruin your relationships with Strava right? Big Grin
  • 7 0
 If you want to freak out other trail users on shared trails, do a group ride. I think a good group is 2-4 people, max. This is MTB not road racing :-)
  • 4 0
 What is the equation for a group ride? Can it be balanced to work out? What about graphing the curve? Number of riders is inversely proportional to...? Variables?

I'm picturing a supremely bike/math nerdy t-shirt graphic.
  • 4 0
 Yes, we need a Hot vs Crazy type of matrix for this topic!
  • 2 0
 X=injury, y=mechanical, f=lost rider, n=slow rider, b=weather conditions
  • 5 0
 If it's a group ride with buddies, then all bets are off & rubbings racing.
  • 3 1
 Don't you hate having to pull over for an oncoming rider? Best thing about group rides is you never need to yield. The more people in your group the more right of way you have. Bonus respect points if you wear matching outfits.
  • 5 0
 "Remember that violence doesn't solve everything; it only solves important stuff."
  • 2 0
 great article... group rides!! the recipe for disaster...

- someone got lost
- someone had to pick a call
- someone is late
- have to wait for someone who is slow downhill
- have to wait for someone who is slow uphill
- someone had a mechanical problem
- someone forgot the extra tube
- someone wants to go up there
- someone wants to go down there
- someone got to be at home (by the table) at 12 o´clock
- someone who is slow, and altough knowing is slow, decides to go first ruining that great trail flow, after one hour of climb to get up there...
- someone is wearing lycra!!!
- been waiting all week for your sunday ride, with all that great trails, but with all the above turnout to be a 12kms one...

with all that said... only remains me my iphone, and my trusted great ride pals (slipknot)

yesssss, i know it´s dangerous riding alone... but animals they do have to eat too...
  • 3 1
 Cool write up, and that stuff does happen more often than not, but when it does not, the ride can be great and different from the usual lone ride, or the you-and-the-buddy-who-always-ride-with-you ride.
  • 5 0
 Always take a knobhead with you,somebody to take the piss out of.
  • 1 0
 It's a given on a group ride that there's always at least 1 knobhead. Always.
  • 12 0
 And if there's no knobhead on your ride - you're it!
  • 1 0
 @oldmanfalling: I'm the other knobhead,always
  • 1 0
 @oldmanfalling: Yep, that's me for sure
  • 2 0
 Group rides with more then 7-8 people suck, whenever a technical section shows up, you get a traffic jam

And I no longer repair bikes on the track that are obviously not looked after the last 2+ years...
  • 3 0
 @mikelevy not forgetting the important point that you don't need to carry spares or tools as everyone else will surely have them for you to use !!!! - nice article :-)
  • 4 0
 We had someone crash our group ride this past week who had a cow bell attached to his pack...
  • 1 0
 @PLC07 I hear ya mate, not a fan of that mindset, and rest assured, if I was there, my attitude is totally confrontational...lol. if no one speaks out, change never occurs ya know! Enjoy the season, have fun, keep up the great work!
  • 5 0
 this was hilarious
  • 4 1
 This is basically one of the "How to be a (insert action sport here)" videos, but in blog form.
  • 3 0
 Very nice. Thanks for the tips on free booze and weed. Gonna crash a shit load of group rides now!
  • 3 0
 There is always that one choad that shows up and while everyone waits, performs his basic bike maintenance.
  • 3 0
 wait wait wait!!
so people invite each others for mountain biking?
Mother fckrs, I knew they didn't like me.
  • 1 1
 "So don't be shy about grabbing a cold one or three from the cooler, even if there aren't enough to go around."

WTF is this?!?! This is how you get punched in the balls with any group I've ever ridden with. There are unspoken post ride beer manners/rules for sh@t like this.
  • 3 0
 It's sarcastic buddy.
  • 2 0
 The biggest group ride I've ever made was with a lonely cat that joined me on the way...
  • 2 0
 The uninvited yahoo part I can relate to do much.
  • 3 0
 damn right !
  • 3 1
 Fucking hilarious! Well played.
  • 3 0
 Lmfao.... Donner party!
  • 1 0
 been on group rides that have ended worse.
  • 2 1
 Rule #666, always use strava, esp on illegal trails and let others ahead, know that ur on a strava run.
  • 2 1
 Group pre-ride tube check, if you're running tubes you're riding solo
  • 1 0
 so close to the truth it hurts lol - nice article :-)
  • 2 2
 Hey, that's my usual trail! Laguna ftw.
  • 1 0
 So true!!
  • 1 1
 Superb satire. i thoroughly enjoyed reading this! Thanks!
  • 1 3
 Levi out front of the pack yelling "WALMART SUCKS!"
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