Charity Bike Ride Planning – Top Tips
You’ve met people that have done it, you are as pleased to hear their stories as you are bored of them and now you eventually realise that unless you organise your own trip this isn’t going to happen. I’ve organised a few of these trips and its easier than you think, but like all things, a few little pointers now could save some frustrations and disappointment along the way. So here are my top tips for organising a London to Paris charity bike ride.
1. Set A Maximum Number of Riders
It’s impossible to calculate costs without knowing how many riders will be able to make the trip. Don’t worry at this stage about how many people you can persuade to come, just set a maximum. My recommendation is that you keep it to 9 people for every person that is helping with the organisation so if it’s just you keep it at this number. The bigger the group the less interest people take in helping as they will follow each other and wait for your leadership. You can’t be in more than one place at once and you will literally be reminding people what time they are leaving the hotel in the morning about four or five times per person. Having fixed numbers also makes it easier to book transport, ferries, trains and so on. For example some cabins on ferries sleep 4 people, Eurostar can only take 8 bikes at a time and a group booking for the passengers must be at least 10. You can always grow the group if you need to but by having a maximum this both helps boost demand and secondly manage a waiting list (just don’t publish it as not everyone who wants to come will be the one you want to come).
2. Set Prices Early
Because it’s a charity ride you’ll do your best to ensure you don’t overcharge or get the costs wrong. You’ll be putting together detailed spreadsheets to work out the cost per person and it’ll become difficult. Some rooms will take 3 people, some people would rather pay extra for their own room. Identify the key areas of cost (see my checklist for setting prices) and then add about 20% to all of them to allow for incidentals. Any money left over can be used towards the kitty at a drinks stop, given to the charity or used to purchase non critical items like energy bars. It is also critical to take a deposit as early as you can so that you can cover initial costs as well as seek financial commitment from those that might be flaky on their enthusiasm.
3. Get A Support Vehicle
It’s not fun riding all day with bags on your bike and not every bike is capable of carrying panniers or racks to hold them. With a support vehicle you are taking a lot of the fun away and frankly putting off some people from attending the ride altogether. There will be someone in your organisation or family that would love to come on the ride but simply cannot or will not due to fitness, fear or whatever. They are the person you want driving the vehicle carrying the bags and the cost per rider is negligible as well as priceless. They will be a lot more involved than you think, handing out drinks, grabbing photos as you zoom past, passing you rain jackets and carrying first aid kit. It will be their own little mini adventure and they will have just as much fun as you. An estate car, a van or any vehicle that can be driven easily and has the room for a bike and a passenger should someone find it too difficult or have a mechanical.
4. Uniform Up
Stick to your guns and include within the initial cost the price of a cycle jersey designed exclusively for the trip. It’s a great feeling riding along in a group and looking back or forward and seeing everyone in the same jersey. It adds to the team spirit and the overall sense of achievement. Jerseys can be designed and bought for around £40.00 and they are worth every penny, especially if you can persuade your company or even a local business to sponsor them. It makes great social media activity for any business as long as they have a link to your ride or the charity. If not, invite the boss!
5. Set A Minimum Donation
You have a choice, either charge everyone an amount that you then give to charity or set a minimum that you expect people to raise. My advice would be to set a minimum and keep it sensible so that you don’t limit the appeal of the trip, say £300.00. Don’t be tempted to have a single ‘Just Giving’ type page as you can lose track of who has raised what (which lets some off the hook). There will always be those that get behind it more than others and ultimately as long as you feel people do their best it’s not the end of the world if they don’t make the amount set as not everyone has that generous supplier or relative.
6. Keep The Route Under Your Hat
Clearly people need to know the route but not until they are on it otherwise they are all going to have an understandable but unhelpful interest in it. Let them know the check points, the distances and of course the destinations each day in advance of the trip but don’t let the route be known until the last minute and then share it.
7. Don’t Be Too Tech Dependant
In a world full of mobile phones and Google Maps you would think it easy to distribute routes, to help people that are lost and to ultimately plan the events route. It is. But it’s still not as good as buying a map of the area and photocopying each page with the intended route clearly marked out with a highlight pen. It’s laborious and a bit old fashioned but it works as when someone gets lost in France, and they will even if it’s the whole group, they will be able to at least see where they should be and then plan the best way back to that. Sure use Garmins and the more the merrier but only if they are all loaded with the route you distributed. The best way to do this is to use http://www.ridewithgps.com and it’s worth paying a months subscription so that you can print out detailed aspects of the route planned on it. You can also export the route in Google Earth and Garmin format. Ultimately, there are not many mobile phones that will provide turn by turn directions for five or more hours of cycling as the batteries will run out.
8. Set The Expectation Of Average Speed
For every wannabe Bradley Wiggins there is someone nervous that they will not finish the trip at all. It is those people that will benefit most from it and it’s more important to make it work for them then someone who is going to treat it like a weekend club ride. That said, what matters most is letting everyone know what speed you would like the trip to average so that everyone can manage their expectations and training schedule before hand. Once you have agreed on this, tell them they must be able to do at least 80% of the distance at the time stated prior to the trip. In reality, you will have all day to get to where you are going and the best part of the trip is the journey not the arrival.
9. State The Bike Types That People Must Have
You don’t want people turning up on a mountain bike with slow and wide tyres as however fit they are you will be waiting for them – a lot. Many people don’t know about these things so be clear at the beginning why it matters and for example explain what a road bike or hybrid actually means. The best way to check is to produce a quick form that can be completed by each rider so that you can collect their key information like passport number, mobile phone number, food preferences and bike type. It might also be that they have some medical conditions that they need to bring to the attention of a medic in France but consider it too private to share with a colleague. In this situation you will need a contact name for someone to call in the event of an incident or if there isn’t anyone you should ask them to record the details in a sealed envelope held with the support vehicle.
10. Make No Assumptions On Bike Knowledge
If you are planning the trip it is likely you have developed some confidence and knowledge of cycling. Not everyone will have this though so don’t make any assumptions that people know how to deal with basic issues like punctures and bike maintenance. Put together a minimum required packing list along with a suggested one and then arrange a local group meeting to ensure that everyone knows about what pump and spares to bring and of course how to use them. Use every communication you send out as an opportunity to remind people of this as believe me they will leave it to the last minute to go out shopping for that extra water bottle or inner tube. This is also the perfect opportunity to have a group ride so that you can educate those that need it on group riding etiquette and safety.
What Else Do You Need To Know
There really are here hundreds of other things you will need to think of and it’s clearly impossible to cover them all here succinctly. What you need to know about bikes and Eurostar, dates to avoid, what hotels are bike friendly, insurance and the good routes to take etc. For this type of information feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll do my best to provide some pointers where I can.
oh.. And enjoy it!