Group Rides: The Pre-Ride Checklist!




Greater Cleveland’s Bike Attorney, Ken Knabe shares the Pre-Ride section from the all-new Group Riding chapter in the upcoming:  

Cycling Rights Second Edition. 

Read and ride!

          Group Rides Coming Up: The Pre-Ride Checklist!

Group riding! Camaraderie, greater distances, enjoyment, better visibility, and FUN!


·       Arrive on time! Best practice is to arrive at least 20 minutes early and make sure you are ready to roll at the start time.

·       Maintenance: Get your bike tuned by one of the many great Northeast Ohio bike shops before the ride starts. Always arrive at a ride with bike and equipment working well.

·       Bike check: Air pressure, tire leaks, tire wear/bubbles, brakes . . . nothing worse than riding with someone who is always getting flats! When tightened properly, the quick release should leave a momentary imprint on your palm. Remember ABC: Check the air in your tires and make sure the thru-axle or quick release in the hub is tightened and secured; check the brakes; check the chain alignment in the chain rings and cassette.

·       Tire issues: Always have a tire lever, an extra tube that fits, and a tire canister inflater or pump with you. Don’t assume another rider will have items you can use. Even if you can’t fix a flat, you should carry what you need to fix one.

·       In Case of Emergency (ICE): Be sure to have a road ID or other form of identification and include emergency contact info.

·       Helmets! Make sure yours is up to date and has MIPS (multiple impact system). Don’t tip your helmet up or to the side! It doesn’t make you cool! Wear it straight and level on forehead. Strap should be 2 fingers tight! Not too loose but not too tight. Tuck excess strap slack back under the strap so it doesn’t hang or flap.

·       Other protective gear: Gloves, eye protection, sunscreen.

·       Lights! Front white and back red lights are legally required at night (dusk to dawn). Make sure they are charged the night before and ready to go on the day of your Group Ride.  Little known fact: these lights are also required in periods of low visibility, e.g., fog & rain—if motor vehicle headlights or windshield wipers are on, your lights must be on! So, it’s a good idea to always have front white and back red lights on your bike, ready to use and activate at sundown or if your group ride gets delayed into dusk, or it starts to rain or get foggy (as often happens).

·       Daytime running lights: A personal, not legal, choice. Hopefully, it adds more visibility! Due to intensity, some daytime running lights can hinder other group cyclists riding or drafting directly behind you, so place your back light on a low setting unless you are riding alone. In that case, crank it up!

·       Know where you are going! Some phones allow you to save routes in various apps like Strava. If you have an onboard GPS unit such as a Garmin or a Wahoo, you should be able to download the route for turn-by-turn directions. Download “Ride with GPS”.

·       An onboard computer like a Garmin or Wahoo that tracks your speed is also extremely helpful in maintaining an even speed and teaching you what a certain speed “feels” like. Depending on the features you want, decent computers can be as inexpensive as $25 or as much as $500!

·       Cell phones: Avoid talking on your cell phone while riding except in case of emergency.

·       The correct bike! If you’re going to ride a road bike, be familiar withand comfortable withriding “clipless” pedals (clipless actually means that your shoes clip into the pedals; clipless is older verbiage from when cyclists wore harnesses or cages called “clips”).


·       Pre-ride, it’s a good idea, before even getting on the bike, to hydrate. Drink a bottle of water!

·       According to my cycling buddy Dr. Mark Davis of Europtical, hydration is the most important aspect of nutrition in cycling.  Once you are thirsty it’s too late, drink soon and often. How much? Well, that depends on the ride, but plan on 16-20 ounces every hour and start drinking within 15 minutes to prevent dehydration, which potentially leads to muscle cramping. Continue to drink every 15-20 minutes.

·       If your ride is under an hour, plain water is adequate; over an hour, add electrolyte powder to both bottles. There are a lot of companies making electrolyte products for athletes. Get one you like and check the sugars; try not to buy those with the highest sugar content. Look for products that have at least some magnesium, sodium, and some vitamins like Bs and C (OSMO, Nuun Electrolyte Sport and Nuun Endurancefor a long rideare good choices). Also, take along some instant glucose for if you start to bonk, anything like Stingers, Shot Blocks or Skratch. Love the “Spring” gels . . . make yourself a peanut butter and gel sandwich!

·       How to tell if you or your buddy is bonking? If they say something absurd. My friend Tim rode his first “Century” on the famous “Sunday in June” ride event put on by the Cleveland Touring Club. He is one of the most avid riders I know. Yet, nearing completion, Tim yelled “Look at the size of that bird!” My buddy Steve and I looked over to where he was pointing and saw a little sparrow! Or, as on my Ohio to Erie Trail ride, during day three from Columbus to Akron I was sitting on a boulder across from The Ohio & Erie Canal with my head down and an empty bottle next to me. I was bonked because I had gotten lostadding 20 more miles to the rideand did not fill up when I had the chance! Always fill up those water bottles! Thankfully, my buddy Mark (Looney) came along and saved me by having an extra full bottle of electrolyte charged water.

·       Post-rideespecially if the ride is over an houryou have a nutrition replenishment window of 45-60 minutes. Post-ride drinks with whey protein and branch chain amino acids are good choices and aid in recovery. If you experience night cramps, look into magnesium supplements or pickle juice in its raw or liquid form. Enjoy the ride so much more by staying hydrated!


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