How to welcome new people to your cycling group

It may seem like there’s thousands of new cyclists on the roads and trails since the pandemic, but some may not feel confident enough to join a new group or club. What are the barriers they face and how can they be overcome?

Four volunteers from different Cycling UK groups and clubs that have increased the number of people on their rides talked to presenter Anna Glowinski at our recent Volunteer Celebration about how they have welcomed new riders to their groups by overcoming some of the barriers people face in taking up cycling. They also discussed the help they’ve received from Cycling UK. The panellists were:

  • Sue Cartwright, a personal assistant in the West Midlands, is a ride leader for the Cobble Cycle Café Easyriders in Erdington, which is supported by Cycling UK and Sport England. The group features in a short video screened ahead of the discussion, showing how people new or returning to cycling gain the confidence to take part in group activities with a friendly welcome and a ride briefing at the start. She explains how riders can even borrow e-cycles if fitness conditions or health issues are barriers.
  • Marina Friend is a member of CTC Coventry, a Cycling UK member group that is celebrating its centenary this year. The group has been very successful in attracting more women to ride with them over the past few years, and a recent 100km sportive attracted a 50% gender split. Marina explains how the group persuaded new members to overcome their impression of cycling being only for 'men in Lycra', and how some women who are Deaf prefer riding in a women-only group.
  • Richard Warburton, a retired fire fighter, is a tandem pilot for Bury Tandem Club for Blind and Partially Sighted People, a vibrant club that started around 11 years ago. The group has successfully recruited both pilots, who ride on the front of the tandem, and stokers with visual impairments who are now able to go out on day rides of between 40 and 60 miles in the countryside.
  • Rukaiya Moola is a founder member of Cycle Sisters in London, a group aimed at Muslim women, and is also a ride leader and a ride leader mentor. The group is now growing and expanding into many boroughs. She discussed the ways it enables women to enjoy cycling, whatever clothing they choose to wear.

Our top tips for making people feel welcome on a ride:

  • Find out the names of everyone on your ride, particularly new riders
  • Explain that you will not leave anyone behind (unless the ride is advertised at a particular pace in advance)
  • Enlist the help of any experienced riders to keep an eye on newer ones, act as backmarkers, lead a second group, or even act as ‘human signposts’ at junctions or gates
  • Explain how you will lead the ride: any jargon and hand signals you might use; when and where you will wait for slower riders; how you will deal with traffic and so on, while reminding each rider they are responsible for their own safety
  • Give a rough idea of the route and point out any likely hazards in advance
  • Keep the ride flowing smoothly but do stop occasionally and give slower riders a rest before restarting
  • Ensure anyone who wishes to leave the ride is happy to make their own way home
  • At the end of the ride, thank people for coming and let them know details of the next one
  • Consider appointing a diversity and inclusion champion to encourage people from different backgrounds to join your rides

Our top tips for joining a new group:

  • Find a group near to you and ask them about the kind of rides they do; most groups will let you cycle with them a few times before being asked to join as a member, so you can make sure it’s a good fit for you
  • If possible, let the ride leader know in advance that you are coming along and ask about the likely distance, terrain and anything you need to bring
  • Make sure you arrive at the appointed starting location in plenty of time
  • If you are new to group riding, let the ride leader know – they will keep an eye on you, or assign someone else to do so
  • Make sure the ride leader has your emergency contact details
  • Keep in mind they are a volunteer and listen carefully to any instructions
  • Try not to overtake the ride leader, unless instructed to do so, as you may miss an important turn – let them lead
  • If you fall behind, don’t worry – your group should wait for you at the next junction or at the top of a climb
  • Abide by the Highway and Countryside Codes – never ride more than two abreast except when passing. Shout ‘Passing!’ if you do so
  • Drop into single file on narrow or busy roads, unless it would be unsafe to do so
  • Show courtesy to other road and trail users and be a good ambassador for cycling
  • Be alert to what other riders around you are doing and don’t get too close to them
  • Shout ‘Slowing!’ or ‘Stopping!’ if necessary – smooth, gentle manoeuvres work best
  • If you can, point out any road defects or other hazards to others
  • If you wish to leave the ride before the final destination, let the ride leader know first

What should I bring on a group ride?

  • Any appropriate bike in good working order. If in doubt, have it checked over by a local bike shop or qualified mechanic
  • Carry at least a spare inner tube, pump and tyre levers
  • Dress for the weather and bring a spare layer
  • Bring a drink and energy bar, plus a picnic or cash for lunch if out all day
  • During the pandemic, a face mask and hand sanitiser are a good idea for café, loo or pub stops
  • Good lights are essential if there is any chance of riding in the dark or poor visibility

Get involved

Find out about all our current volunteer opportunities and discover the resources we provide for group and club volunteers.