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You Too Can Become A Ride Starter

by David King

Saturday morning rides are one of the mainstays of NWCC. People come from all over the city, not just club members, to take part in our Saturday rides out of Harris County’s Zube Park. The park is located out HWY 290 west about twelve miles past Telge Road on Roberts Road. Turn right (north) on Roberts Road and the park is about a mile up on the right (17400 Roberts Road). Each Saturday, riders are organized into groups of various distances and speeds and turned loose for a nice morning ride. Each Saturday the riders return to the park and find refreshments waiting to quench their thirst and ease their hunger. Each Saturday scads of people are heard saying things like, “Gee, I sure would like to be a ride starter, if only I knew what to do!” Well, for those people, this is your lucky day! We now present:

Saturday Ride Starter Basics

Part One, Before Saturday

Sometime before the Saturday of the ride start, the ride starter needs to stop by Northwest Cyclery (hereinafter referred to as “The Shop”) and pick up these basic items:

  •  Map Case
  •  First Aid Kit
  •  Water Jugs/Coolers (two)
  •  Drink Mix

These items are normally kept in the back room referred to as “The PC” by the shop personnel. If these items are not at the shop then the previous ride starter needs to be contacted and made to feel severely guilty for not properly returning these items. Fortunately this is never a problem. I just wanted to say that in order to make this article a little bit longer. If any of these items need to come from the NWCC storage shed, contact a club officer or chairperson for access to the shed.

Part Two, Friday Evening Before the Ride

Prepare the goodies. This includes a trip to the store to pick up the bananas and cookies that we’ve all grown so fond of having at the end of our ride. The amounts of the items vary throughout the year and if you are unsure as to how many of each to buy, then simply contact one of the club officers and they can help you make a guess. Be sure to save your receipts so that the club can reimburse you. It is customary to have one of the coolers filled with water and one filled with drink mix like Allsport. These can be prepared in advance on Friday night or, in case you’re a bit more energetic than I am in the early morning hours, you can wait until....

Saturday Morning, We Will Call This Part Three

Prepare the water coolers (in case you didn’t do it Friday night). Load all the bananas, cookies, map case, first aid kit, and coolers in your vehicle. Don’t forget your bike! Now it’s time to head off to the park. If you need ice for the coolers, stop and get some, save your receipt.

By the way, you are the ride starter. It is best to get there on time. Here’s a breakdown of the start times throughout the year:

  •  January through March 8:00 A.M.
  •  April through September 7:30 A.M.
  •  October through December 8:00 A.M.

Plan on getting there at least 30 minutes in advance to set things up. The coolers, refreshments, first aid kit, along with the map case, can be set on the bench of one of the picnic tables in the parking lot of the park. The main lot used for NWCC parking is the northern most lot (third entrance). Don’t be afraid to ask any of the other riders there for help if you need it. (Ride Starter Secret Tip #1: Be sure and stash some cookies in your vehicle just to make sure there are a few left for when you return!).

After getting everything set up, and as the start time nears, make your way to the front of the gathering. Usually one of the club officers will be there to make any miscellaneous announcements. Be sure and announce the location of the map case and that if anybody is unsure of the areas of their route they pick up a map and take it with them. After the announcements, it will be time to start the riders. The main thing to remember at this point is: MAXIMUM TEN RIDERS TO A GROUP. This is sometimes difficult to do but must be constantly stressed to keep the groups in a size that will safely cohabitate with the ever-increasing amount of automobile traffic on the roads we travel.

It is customary to announce the varying average speed of the departing groups. Commonly these are broken down as follows:

  •  22+ mph
  •  20-22 mph
  •  18-20 mph
  •  15-18 mph
  •  Beginner (New Rider Group), 15 mph and less

As the groups approach the front, many of them will have a course and distance already in mind. Many times these groups are larger than ten, Break these groups up! Let a group start and allow them to make the left turn out of sight and then start the next group.

The easiest way to start the groups is to have them roll up to you and stop. This way they get separated from the rest of the riders and it is easy to see how many riders you have in the group. Work your way on down the speed groupings in this same fashion until you are ready to start the Beginner group(s).

The Beginner group(s) is usually organized by the NWCC New Rider Leader. Often times the Beginner group is too large to be handled by just one leader. It is customary, but not mandatory, that the ride starter help out, if need be, with the Beginner group. A good idea is to check with the New Rider Leader prior to starting time to see how many riders they have in their group. If it appears that some additional help is needed then an announcement can be made to the entire gathering in order to recruit some help for the Beginner group. Many experienced cyclists really enjoy helping newer people find the same joys in cycling as they do and are eager to pass along their guidance and assistance.

When starting the Beginner group, follow the same rules as the faster groups, keeping the groups to no more than ten riders and making sure everyone knows the course or knows who their leader is and has a map.

Part Four, Aftermath

After the riders are all in, all that’s left to do is to load up the stuff and dispose of the garbage, being sure to leave the park premises free from any signs that we had been there. Clean out the coolers and drop them, the map case, and first aid kit back at “The Shop.” Don’t forget to turn in your receipts to the club Treasurer. You can drop them off at the club meeting or at “The Shop.” Make sure that you put your name, “Ride Start,” and the date of the ride start on your receipts.

Others have probably already done this to you, but congratulate yourself for a job well done. You’ve just joined the ranks of what makes this club exist at such a high level, The Volunteer.