Staying on the Route
by John S. Allen
CRW uses various tools to guide ride participants on a route. All of these options work, but each has unique safety implications.
• Cue Sheets and Maps: Cue sheets list both elapsed and total distances to each turn, major intersection, or other key landmark. Riders either read the cue sheet as they go, or memorize the cue sheet in short sections to navigate the ride. Riders often form small groups to spread out the navigational burden. Maps are especially useful when a participant gets off the route. Use a handlebar clip or handlebar bag with a map case to hold the cue sheet, and consult the cue sheet using quick glances. If you need more than a quick glance, or need to reference the map, stop where you can get a safe distance from traffic. We recommend carrying your own map because the route map distributed at the ride start may not provide sufficient detail.
• Painted Arrows: CRW's Sunday rides (and quite a few others) are arrowed (i.e., use navigational markings painted on the pavement). Compared to cue sheets and maps, following arrows is more convenient and generally safer for participants, as following arrows is less distracting than reading cue sheets, requires fewer navigational stops, and usually means fewer missed turns. Well placed arrows are easy to spot and give riders adequate time to position themselves for turns while attending to traffic. "Comfort" arrows placed approximately every mile assure riders that they have not inadvertently strayed off route. If you miss an arrow or see it late, proceed straight ahead while maintaining your speed, signal (and announce) that you are stopping, then gradually brake. Sudden stops or position changes can cause a crash.
• Human Arrows: The CRW Wednesday Wheelers group uses a "human arrowing" system. Before reaching each turn, the ride leader delegates another rider to stop and point the way until the last rider (the designated sweep) arrives. As a side benefit, human arrowing provides a "handicap" for stronger riders (who tend to be the arrowers) that helps keep the group together. If you are designated as an arrower, be sure you know who the sweep is, signal before stopping, and stop only where it's safe to do so. Stand where clearly visible to other riders, generally at the far side of the intersection, a safe distance from traffic. Also, it's best if the lead rider and designated sweep carry cell phones in case there is a problem such as a flat tire.
• Following the Leader: Riders follow a designated ride leader who knows the route. Each rider ensures that the rider behind stays within sight, and stops to wait if the rider behind drops out of sight. The leader stops periodically to re-group and ensure that no one is left behind. The leader often designates a sweep for extra assurance, especially if the group is large. Again, cell phones are helpful. Informal follow-the-leader groups often form on other ride types, relieving "followers" of the navigational burden. When participating in a follow-the-leader ride, be vigilant about tracking the rider behind you so that no one gets lost. Rear-view mirrors greatly facilitate this. Also, if leading such a ride, select stopping points that can safely accommodate the entire group. When stopping, ensure that you are a safe distance from moving traffic and encourage fellow riders to do the same.
• Global Positioning Systems: GPS coordinates are available on the CRW website for an increasing number of CRW rides. While relatively few club members currently have GPS units, the number is growing. A GPS screen can be difficult to read in direct sunlight, but some units provide verbal cues as well. Charge your battery fully prior to starting a ride. Since electronic devices are subject to failure, always have a back up, such as a detailed map.
Each CRW ride leader can select from a broad range of navigational tools, depending on the nature of the ride and the route, time of year, expected group size, CRW protocols (such as using arrows on Sunday rides), and ride-leader preferences. The ride description (both on line and in the WheelPeople) indicates which navigational tools will be available. Be sure that you are comfortable with the options offered and come prepared. Enjoy the ride!
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