Guide to leading a ride

Ulysses in Perth – Ride Guide – Suggestions for Organising and Leading a Ulysses Ride

Everyone organises and leads rides a little differently. What is listed here is a guide to planning and leading rides. These are not rules, use or discard them as you see fit. Suggestions on improving this guide are welcome, contact the Webmaster.


We start from the same place and time each week to make it easy for existing and potential new members to find us when they decide on the day that they want to join a group ride.

Most rides we do fit a basic pattern (but it’s not set in stone): start at 9 am, ride for about 1 hour, stop for morning tea at a place where coffee and possibly cakes or pastries are served and toilets are available. [Older riders need a potty stop after about an hour to stay comfortable, plus it makes sense for safety sake. ] 20 to 40 minutes later ride for another hour to a lunch destination, stop for about an hour for lunch, return home via a direct route which will ideally take an hour to an hour and a half.

What some people do is use Google Maps ( to “armchair-ride” a route; and then get on the bike and ride it through in person. Riding it in person will help you become familiar with important turns (and avoid getting lost or having to do U-Turns). It will also help you check for hazards such as corners with lots of gravel, corners where there is nowhere safe to corner-mark, interesting places to stop for morning tea or lunch, and so on. You might want to take a friend out to help you scope and refine the ride.

If your ride (including return to Perth) will be over 200 km, make sure you know where you can get fuel along the route for those people with shorter range (mostly the cruisers and the 250s). If there is fuel available near the morning tea or lunch stops, remind riders when you get there that they can get fuel if they need it and give them directions.

Try to use good quality secondary roads in preference to highways. Avoid unpaved roads, but if you need to include a short stretch of good quality gravel on a route you need to tell people about that in the ride description that gets put on the website AND again during the ride briefing before departure.

Checking with the lunch venue and making a booking can save embarrassment (for example if the place is closed when you get there, or if it is packed due to some local event or other group). Contact the destination venue a week or more in advance: make a booking using a guess-timate of numbers (a handy guide is to average ride numbers from the previous couple of rides). It can be a good idea to contact the morning tea destination too. On the morning of the ride, while we are getting ready to ride off from the start point, phone the lunch destination with an accurate count of those saying they intend to buy lunch at the destination. Ride leaders sometimes try to get people to indicate in advance who is coming, i.e. they try to get a commitment—it is difficult to get that to work accurately. Venues are more friendly and serve us more efficiently if you let them know numbers in advance.

If you already know a route fairly well you probably won’t need to do as much planning, But it is always possible something has changed since last time you used a route, so if you hate surprises when leading, ride the route a few days before the branch ride to scope it out for problems.

On the Day

On the day of the ride:

Approach another rider to be Tail End Charlie, or ask for volunteers.
Walk around and greet everyone, note any new people, introduce them round.
Advise new people that we mark corners in a particular way and advise them to watch to see how it is done.
Advise new people that they need to “ride their own ride” and go at a speed and distance that is safe for them—there is no pressure to “keep up”, the corner-marking we use prevents people getting lost, and Tail End Charlie is there to help, not push you along.
Ask people NOT to pass you on the ride, because it causes confusion about corner marking for the people behind. If someone wants to go on their own ride they should just leave and do that.
Assemble the group and describe the route in brief; tell people about any hazards to look out for; explain fully how we mark corners.
Explain that if a rider wants to leave the ride early, then that rider MUST inform TEC.
Ask for a show of hands of how many intend to buy lunch at the destination.
Emphasise where the morning tea and lunch spots are so that in the unlikely event that the group is split up people can regroup there.
Mount up, and ask Tail End Charlie to give you an “OK” sign when he thinks everyone is ready to roll.
Phone the lunch venue (and possibly the morning tea venue) with your accurate count while everyone is mounting up.
Keep it safe and obey the road rules—you are likely to get rubbished if you don’t. No sensible person will complain if you keep it legal and safe.
If you think the group has been separated by lights, rail-crossings or other delays, think ahead to a place where you can safely pull over with the whole group and wait for Tail End Charlie to appear. Or, just regroup at the next scheduled stop. DO NOT pull over where there is not room for EVERYONE to safely stop off the road and with plenty of space to re-join the traffic.

The Return Trip

Do a quick check to see that everyone at the destination is either coming back to Perth with you, or is planning their own way home.

When you are about to leave, make it clear to everyone whether you intend to use corner marking or NOT use corner-marking on the way home. We usually don’t, but sometimes it can be helpful to use corner-markers till you get to a main highway—make it very clear what you want people to do and at what point corner-marking will cease. If you don’t make this clear, someone will get left at a corner!
Corner Marking

Correct corner marking is an essential part of any successful ride. There are a number of requirements that must be emphasised at the start of every ride:
When a Ride Leader takes a corner, the 2nd rider in the group (i.e. the one after the Ride Leader), stops at that corner. The Ride Leader will often indicate where the corner marker should stop and wait. Sometimes however, the 2nd rider forgets. In that case, the next rider should mark that corner.
If the corner is a Left Turn, the corner marker signals left with the motorcycle indicator, and by using an out-streched left arm.
If the corner is a Right Turn, the corner marker signals using an out-streched right arm.
The corner marker must remain there until the Tail-End-Charlie (ie the last rider in the group) arrives and signals to the corner marker that they can proceed.

By using these methods correctly, no one should get lost.

Other members are happy to help with planning and running a ride. There’s lots of experience in the group—call on it.

A GPS and the software that goes with it can be helpful, but lots of people prefer to just print out a short guide to the tricky bits of their ride and stick it to the fuel tank or visor for occasional quick checks along the way.

Google Maps is great for armchair planning: Use the “Get Directions Feature” and this website will give you a turn by turn description with distances and directions. You can get a rough route and then pull it around to try secondary roads by using your mouse.

There are a bunch of rides available at the website (below, if that’s where you are reading this guide) which you are free to download and use as a starting point for planning your own ride. You can use a lot of them as-is, but it’s nice to add some personal touches to vary them a bit.

There is a first time for everyone. If you make a mistake it’s okay. People who’ve led dozens of rides still make mistakes and in doing so they sometimes end up giving us something new to see or talk about. If someone points out a mistake, you are very welcome to tell them a hot place to ride to where they can tender their complaints. On the other hand experienced ride leaders may give helpful suggestions and in a kindly way. Use such input as you see fit.


— Mark Dixon, November 2010