On registration for bike rides

By the Columbia Slough, 2 October 2022. LOMO LC-A/Fuji C200

I’ve been leading bicycle rides for almost twenty years. Most of that time I’ve followed “the Shift/Pedalpalooza ride posting principle”: Post a ride with a public start place and see who shows up. This method usually worked fine, with anywhere from a few people to maybe a couple dozen showing up. But it’s hard to plan a ride properly if you don’t know who will show up. For example, Pedalpalooza 2009’s participation expanded exponentially. I thought that maybe a dozen people would show up for a “workday” ride to the Columbia Gorge, instead it was 46. And I hoped for a couple dozen for the Pizza Ride, instead I got over 100.

Because those two rides in particular required more planning than my casual rides, I started posting these rides as sign up affairs. People needed to get in touch with me and I’d tell them where we’d start. This way I’d know how many people were coming and I could also cap the attendance.

I was okay with having a few rides needing registration and the rest be the “open” model. But even that started to get unwieldy in the years leading to pandemic. For example, my “Remnants and Relics” ride during Pedalpalooza 2018 saw 50 people, a nerdy history ride that I figured 15 would be pushing it. The high number actually scared away some participants. And it was difficult maneuvering around downtown with that sized group. But I stuck with the “open” registration for another year, and then pandemic hit.

There was a year of no rides due to COVID. When Pedalpalooza 2021 came around, I was ready to lead some more rides. But the nature of the pandemic meant that I didn’t want to have large numbers on my events. Two dozen would be enough. So I decided to switch to “closed” registration on almost all my rides from here on out. Now people would need to register via Eventbrite to get the details of the ride. (The only ride I made an exception to this policy is my Sunset/Moonrise series, as they end up in big open spaces.)

I know that some folks don’t like having to register for rides. These are the people who don’t want to feel the obligation of doing something they sign up for. Instead they’d prefer to figure out if they want to do a particular ride a day before, or maybe even on the same day of the ride. That’s okay, they can live their life how they want. But their fear of commitment means they miss out on some good rides!

And a closed registration system makes it easier for me, the ride leader. Here are some benefits:

  • I know who exactly will be showing up. I can communicate with them directly before the ride, and get in touch with them if I’m running late (or check in on them if they are running late.)
  • When people sign up, they can opt-in to my mailing list. This means I can contact them in the future when I post new rides and events.
  • I can collect important personal info, like their emergency contacts in the event something happens to them on the ride. I can also be informed if a particular rider has any pertinent health issues and/or allergies. I started doing this with Cycle Wild rides ten years ago, when during a particularly hot camping trip to Battle Ground Lake, a rider collapsed on the side of the road because of a heart condition aggravated by exertion in heat. (Why that rider decided to ride a bike 25 miles in 100F heat is a discussion for another day.)
  • And if I need to cancel/reschedule a ride or change ride start location, I can easily communicate with the registrants. Before this, I had to hope that interested riders looked in the right place to see the notice.

The last point is a bit of double-edged sword. Because I can easily cancel a ride, I’ve cancelled more in the last year or so than I did in the past. I’ve been prone to cancelling a ride if I feel that participation wasn’t there, as it was with last fall’s Three Speed Ride. And I’m less likely to lead “fun” rides in crappy weather. Sometimes I try to “stick it out” when the forecast isn’t great, and either the returns are not there, like with May’s Stark Street Mileposts Ride (2/3s of the registrants cancelled within 24 hours of the ride). Or I push myself to the limit, like when I led June’s Old Libraries Ride in 95F/35C heat. I need to remember this from here on out and not put myself into similar situations.

I’ll probably do a few “open” registration rides from time to time, like my Sunset/Moonrise Rides. But from here on out, I’m going to be sticking with registration via Eventbrite or similar software. I put a lot of time and effort into my rides. With all that work I want to make sure that people show up, otherwise what’s the point?

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2 thoughts on “On registration for bike rides

Add yours

  1. I’ve been waiting for a sunset/moonrise ride that falls on a day that I can do it 🙂 One of these days!!

    Also, for what it’s worth, I fully support registration-required rides, or whatever makes it easier for you. I mean, you’re the one putting the work forth to lead the ride; I say do what makes it easiest and most sustainable for you to keep doing (and enjoying) it:)

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