Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s Organized Ride Planning Guide
The Bicycle Coalition of Maine is a nonprofit organization that works to make Maine better for bicycling and walking. We hold three large-scale (400-900 participants) organized bicycle rides each year, two of which serve as fundraisers for the Coalition. Organized bike rides are a great way to encourage biking in your community, raise awareness about a related cause, and promote bicycling as part of a healthy lifestyle and a wonderful mode of transportation.
If you are planning to hold a ride and want to get first-hand experience in how one is run, we strongly encourage you to sign up to volunteer at one of the Bicycle Coalition’s rides, as well as participate in other organizations’ bicycle rides. If you have additional questions after reading this guide about how to conduct a safe and fun bike ride, please contact the Coalition’s Development Director Liz Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (207) 623-4511.
We hope that you find this guide helpful in planning your organized ride. Conducting these large events takes a lot of effort, money, resources, energy, and time. You’ll need a team of avid and knowledgeable bicyclists to help you plan the routes, provide safety services, and recruit volunteers. We encourage you to first evaluate if a bike ride fundraiser is the best way to accomplish your goal. For instance, if you want to raise funds for a local organization that is not at all tied to health, recreation, or bicycling, you might find a different kind of event or campaign is a more manageable project to accomplish your goal. This guide will provide you with recommendations and suggestions as to how to conduct a fun and safe organized bike ride.
Planning and Communicating Your Route:
Begin and end your route in a location that is easy to find for those coming from out of town, and where there is plenty of parking, and, ideally, restrooms.
How many miles? This will depend on your target riders:
- Family and kids: make the route 15 miles or less.
- Recreational cyclists/regular riders: give options of 25-50 miles
- Strong and serious cyclists: 40-100 miles (century ride)
Rest stops should be located every 10-20 miles on the route, depending on the skill level of your riders.
What kind of road conditions?
- Family and kids: keep the route generally flat and on well-maintained roads with low traffic, high visibility, and with wide, paved, clean shoulders. Avoid left turns as much as possible.
- Recreational/regular and serious riders: find flat to rolling terrain (some hills) on well-maintained roads with low traffic and good shoulders.
Things to AVOID on your route:
- Dirt roads, unless you’ve advertised this in the event materials. If using dirt roads, communicate to participants that wider tires or mountain bikes are recommended.
- Roads with significant broken or poor quality pavement.
- Dangerous intersections.
- Main roads or very busy roads with shoulders in poor condition.
- Multiple railroad crossings.
- Metal grid bridges.
Finally, we recommend avoiding as many left turns as possible, especially any on busy roads. While experienced riders can tackle many left turns without a hitch, your average recreational rider may not be able to easily navigate more difficult left turns. For the fun of the ride, we suggest including as few left turns as possible.
Maps & Cue Sheets
You will need to create maps and cue sheets for each route, and distribute these documents to each rider participating. We suggest using online tools such as Map My Ride or Strava to map your route, and these tools will also help you chart distances between turns for your cue sheets. In addition, you can make GPS files of your routes through these online tools, and post them to your ride website for participants to download and use at the ride.
Marking Your Route
- Use temporary marking paint (we suggest Rustoleum Marking Chalk) on pavement to create clear route markings. Indicate turns (arrows leading up to turn, at turn, and after), hazards (RR crossings, potholes), and rest stops ahead with marking paint.
- Use signs on the route to warn riders of upcoming hazards, rest stops ahead.
- Use signs to warn motor vehicle drivers that bicyclists are on the road.
Alerting the Community
- Contact every community on the route through their town office or city hall so they know you’re running the event and to make sure there are no construction or utility projects happening the day of the event.
- If traveling on state highways, contact the MaineDOT to make sure that no construction projects are slated for your ride day along your route.
- Contact all law enforcement entities who have jurisdiction along the route: each town’s police department, county sheriff’s departments, and state police if needed.
- Contact first responders to let them know you will be traveling through their jurisdiction.
- Gather the email addresses for each contact you speak to, and send them your maps and cue sheets for the ride along with the start times so they can know where to expect riders that day. This is not just a courtesy to the towns you’re cycling through, but a good safety precaution.
Volunteers and Support Services:
It takes a lot of people to put on a safe, organized ride. You’ll need volunteers in the following capacities:
- At rest stops and at rider check-in at the end of the ride
- Flaggers who are savvy cyclists and trained to give direction to cyclists on the road.
- Police at dangerous intersections—you will most likely have to pay for this service.
- HAM radio or CB radio operator volunteers (if cell phone coverage is spotty on your route)
- SAG vehicle drivers who can pick up tired riders, disabled bikes, and provide mechanical support
- Bike mechanics on site, and even at each rest stop, if possible!
- Prior to the ride, send riders a link to the basic bicycle safety rules and group ride guidelines.
- Have a clear emergency protocol document that you give to each volunteer on the route (flaggers, SAG drivers, rest stop attendees) that includes the base phone number and what steps to follow in the event of an emergency.
- At the start of the ride, give a quick safety briefing before sending the riders off.
- Collect emergency contact information for each rider, assign each participant a rider number, and have them wear a racing bib indicating that number. In the event of an accident, emergency contact information for an individual should be able to be found easily by his rider number.
- Have SAG (support and gear) vehicles circulating the route throughout the entire ride to assist riders with mechanical failures, flat tires, accidents, exhaustion, overheating, etc. The vehicle must have additional room for passengers and a bike rack to transport riders. Volunteers driving these vehicles should know basic bike mechanics (be able to fix a flat, a dropped chain, etc.) and should be equipped with a floor pump, basic tools, first aid kit, water, juice, and snacks. If riders are on rural roads where cell phone service is spotty, the SAG vehicles should also have a passenger HAM radio operator to communicate with the base.
- At tricky intersections, post knowledgeable volunteer flaggers to help guide bicyclists, and at large, dangerous intersections, hire police to conduct traffic.
- We suggest having a ride leader and sweep who are familiar with the route.
- Recruit volunteer Ride Ambassadors/safety patrollers on bicycles who kindly remind participants of the rules of the road—this is a great way to demonstrate and promote good bicycling behavior.
- Ask every rider to check in at the end of the ride. Again, use rider numbers to check everyone in.
Plan on having a rest stop every 10-20 miles and a refreshment table at the base location so riders can refuel. Include at least one on your family-friendly route, even if it’s only 15 miles.
Rest Stop volunteers should be on the lookout for overheated, fatigued, or cold riders, and should be equipped with a first aid kit to tend to scrapes and bumps.
- Water AND a fruit juice or a sports drink. If your ride is on a cold day, coffee, hot cider or hot chocolate are always popular with chilly riders!
- At least one kind of fruit: bananas are a favorite, as are apples, oranges, watermelon
- Plenty of snack foods with sugar and protein for refueling: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are always a hit, crackers and cheese, fig bars, chocolate (M&M’s), nuts or trail mix, sesame sticks, pretzels, etc.
- It’s important to take into consideration allergies and the dietary needs of riders. Have at least one gluten-free and one nut-free option at each rest stop.
- Partner with area shops and grocers to get donations of healthy snacks and beverages for your ride.
- You must get insurance for your organized ride. Depending on number of riders, this can cost over $1,000.
- Require all riders to complete and sign a waiver prior to riding.
- Require all riders to wear helmets
- Require that all riders follow the Rules of the Road and Group Ride Guidelines
- Do a driver record check on anyone, e.g., volunteers, driving a donated vehicle for use. (Insurance purposes) We also check driving record and car insurance of all our volunteers.
The Bicycle Coalition of Maine can provide the following services for your event:
- Bicycling safety information cards for your participants, including How We Share the Road, Group Ride Guidelines, Choosing the Right Helmet, and Maine’s Bicycling Laws.
- A free listing of your biking event in our online and print Event Calendar, and additional opportunities to publish a full-color advertisement in the print calendar. Visit bikemaine.org/events for more information.
- A Coalition representative can deliver a pre-ride safety talk to all participants. (Availability is tight—please request this service early!) If a representative cannot be present, the Coalition can provide key safety points for you to communicate before the ride begins.
Please note that this guide provides suggestions and recommendations for how to conduct an organized ride; the Bicycle Coalition of Maine accepts no liability for the content of this guide, or for the consequences of actions taken on the basis of the information provided.