I love group rides...always have. Getting up and going to meet a bunch of guys to go ride bikes in the cold early morning makes riding the bike in the off season (and the cold weather) bearable. Now, going out and doing a group TEAM ride is A+.
I organized a team ride yesterday to try to get our guys and gals together to get excited about the upcoming road season. Nothing crazy and nothing too fast, just an opportunity to get out and ride with teammates that we haven't seen in a while. I think we had somewhere between 30 and 35 guys at the start. I didn't get a count, which I should have, but we had a bunch. We picked up a few along the way as well which was cool. We rolled out towards Great Falls on the Maryland side and then did a reverse semi loop of the Saturday 10 am ride. It ended up being about 50 miles. What I learned:
1) Every group ride needs at least two critical people. One who stays towards the front and guides the way or tells everyone where they need to turn (this becomes less critical if the route is the same every time). The other is the sweeper...the guy/gal who also knows the route and makes sure nobody gets dropped who doesn't know the route. We lost one at one point during the ride and I felt bad because he didn't know where we were in relation to back home. I thought we had everyone (the count at the beginning may have helped) when we did that little crazy right/left over the bridge on Glen. I felt really bad too because I advertised our ride as "conversational" pace only. We weren't rolling, but going hard enough...next time I'll keep the pace lower and make sure nobody else takes off.
2) All rides should start/stop at some place that serves coffee, snacks, and/or beer. It makes the ride feel more pro. I'm talking out of my ass on this one, but it just felt right to start the ride at a coffee shop as opposed to a bike shop or at an intersection somewhere. Brandon and I were craving beers after the ride (nothing wrong with beer 1 being before 12:30), so the next ride needs to end up at a bar...sweet.
3) Riding with the team really made feel as a part of something special. The "everybody" group rides are nice, but there is a sense of anonymity that I don't like. Rolling through the city we rode two wide and 15+ deep...it felt and looked real pro (or at least as pro as a bunch of weekend warriors can look). We still need to work on how to ride on two lane roads so that subconsciously everybody know when to single file it up or when it is safe to ride two to three wide...
All in all, awesome. I'm planning to have one of these team rides at least once a month through the off season and eventually turn them into our skills and drills sessions as the season comes closer. Really looking forward to it.