I originally wrote this article for the fabulous portland zine Taking the Lane. Thought it might be worth a resurrection here.
These are the top six things I learned about organizing a ride, a LOT from hindsight. For over a year I was one of the organizers of Menstrual Monday and Bike Sabbath (http://www.facebook.com/bikesabbath). Maybe you can take some of these to make a ride of your own.
1. Be consistent. If you say your going to ride every week make sure someone is there EVERY week. Sometimes life gets in the way but if one person shows up with no one there, they will say to their friends “man I went to RidyMcRidester’s ride and no one showed.” Not to mention it just plain old sucks to be left awkwardly hanging around wondering if anyone else is going to show up. If you can’t commit to every week, have it every other week or once a month. Just figure out what you can realistically do and stick to it. Also, don’t forget to be consistent about time. People’s time is valuable and they don’t want to waste 1/2 an hour just waiting around. Specify meet up time AND depart time.
2. Have multiple organizers. You don’t want organizing a ride to start to feel like a job. I would recommend enough people so no one has to plan a ride more than once a month (e.g. four organizers for a weekly ride). This also leaves enough people to cover a bit if someone is unavailable for a while. Keep it something you want to do, not something you have to do.
3. Recruit people constantly. Post on facebook, pass out flyers, tell friends, get blogs to post about it. Whatever you can think of. Most importantly, do this throughout the life of a ride. Don’t chill out on this once the ride has decent attendance. Word of mouth will do some of the recruiting for you but no matter how great the ride is, life will get in the way of people riding: people get jobs, new significant others, school, etc. Keep new people discovering the ride and joining the community.
4. Fill a niche. Think about what the town already has and what would contribute to the bike community. Consider what makes your ride its own unique special snowflake that would draw people to it and promote that. Research what other rides are out there when you think about when you want to meet or what you want to do. No need to compete or make people choose.
5. Be outgoing. Go up and introduce yourself to people you don’t know on your rides, especially first-time participants. This seems like common sense, but I also know sometimes it’s easier to hang with your buddies. Ask them how they heard about the ride or about their bikes, say you’re glad to have them here, and introduce them around. You want everyone to feel comfortable with each other as soon as possible. It takes guts to show up solo to a ride with all strangers so help them feel not so weirdo-new-person.
6. Have patience. It takes a while for a ride to build steam. Expect low attendance for quite awhile and don’t let that stop you. If only 3 people show up, that’s ok; you guys go have a good time. If they are fun rides, more people will slowly start to show up.
Organizing a ride is a great way to make the bike community just a little bit tighter. There are amazing people on bikes. Why not help bring them together?