Editor’s note: with last week’s announcement of Meetups this post is quite timely. Whether you’re thinking of leading an official group ride or a small informal meetup, Duane speaks from a place of experience and his advice is spot on. Enjoy!
If you think doing group rides is fun on Zwift, leading a group ride is a whole ‘nother level of enjoyment. Perhaps you have been thinking of organizing a group ride and wondered how to make it effective. It’s worth thinking about this because some rides don’t get traction. My simple and direct advice is be predictable and be positive.
Being predictable means that riders know generally what to expect. This starts with a good ride description provided to Zwift. It also means that you communicate early to riders about the target pace. If the ride will have some changes of pace (sprint together, race the final lap, etc) let people know in advance and also give instruction for how to regroup afterward.
It isn’t easy herding the cats (er, riders) into a cohesive group so you need to establish a tone in your communication and behavior emphasizing riding together. Sometimes the group fractures a bit over hills and people 5 or 10 seconds ahead simply don’t have the experience or situational awareness to realize the ride is breaking up. In these cases it works wonders to send a chat message advising the front to go at a slightly slower pace while you herd the rear of the ride up to them.
Of course this means that you, the ride leader, are where you belong. The leader isn’t necessarily at the front of the ride. A good ride leader should adhere to the stated ride pace and move about the peloton a bit. When rides get more than 50 participants having an official or non-official sweep rider or two can really help keep things organized. Sweepers should ride toward the back fo the main pack.
This really only works though if you can be positive. There will be a handful of riders who join your target 2.5 w/kg ride who will blast away at 3.5 and possibly take five other people with them. Kindly remind them of the target pace, encourage them that it is more fun to ride together but at some point let it go and focus on having a fun ride with your core group.
Encourage the group when they do a good job of regrouping after climbs, ask stronger riders to offer the draft to struggling riders and keep a cheerful mood about it. Riding should be fun and if you approach it with the right attitude others will also contribute to the positive vibe.