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Saturday, October 24, 2009

The joys of leading group rides

Tomorrow's Belleville Area Bicycling and Eating Society's Hidden Lake Winery Ride is the last one I have to lead for 2009. It seems I'm never completely done with bicycle ride planning -- I've already started some work on the 2010 Tour de Stooges on May 1 in Highland, Ill. -- but I'm looking forward to a bit of a break after having having led 7 Wednesday Evening Rides.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy leading group rides. I enjoy the challenge of exploring routes for us to travel. I enjoy drawing the maps for the ride. I especially enjoy the positive feedback when I've succeeded in creating a nice, scenic route.

But it does take a lot of work.

Yesterday, I drove my car over most of tomorrow route, which will take long-route riders from Hidden Lake Winery near Aviston, Ill., to Highland and back. I was fortunate to have had a lunch meeting in Highland, so I could kill two birds with one stone.

Most of the roads, as expected, were fine. But the problems came when I got near the winery. We've had quite a bit of rain the past couple of weeks, and a couple of creeks have overflowed their banks. Two roads near the winery -- Rocky Ford Road and Wellen Road -- were flooded. I quickly realized that even if the water susbsided by Sunday, they would be muddy messes unsuitable for road bikes.

So, late Friday and early this morning, I had to redraw the maps and redo the cue sheets. Even with programs like MapMyRide and Bikely, it still takes time to write the cue sheets and put the maps into a format suitable for prints.

I've learned over the years hat it really pays to visit the route a day or two before a group ride. You just never know for sure what you're going to encounter -- a fresh covering of gravel, flooding, bridge construction, etc.

You also totally can't totally trust the Google maps that are the engine for MapMyRide, Bikely and other similar programs. In rural areas, the road names on the maps and the road names on the signs -- assuming there are signs at all -- often aren't the same.

More than once thjis year while planning new routes for Winery Rides at the Lau-Nae Winery in Red Bud, Ill., I explroed roads that I thought were potentially good ones, only to find out the roads turn from a hard surface to dirt and gravel.

As our club's implies, there's work involved in making arrangements with restaurants and wineries to make sure they can accommodate us.

Leading a group ride requires a lot of work, but I find it rewarding. If you're in the St. Louis area Sunday, feel free to join us at 9:45 p.m. at Hidden Lake, 105 Wellen Road near Aviston,  for our ride. We'll have four routes ranging from 17 to 47 miles.

Happy trails!

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