Louise Gagnon



Louise Gagnon writes….

I have been on club rides where over 60% of the group members are equipped with Garmin GPS pre-loaded with the day’s ride.  In theory, such abundance of riders in possession of the day’s ride is not problematic but it is in my view quite possibly gradually changing the way we ride as a group – and not for the better in some instances.

My past 20 rides with our beloved club have left me with the occasional gnawing feeling that a wonderful tool such as pre-loaded GPS rides may just unconsciously lead us into occasional sloppy group riding.

I think some of us have at times been led astray by the “HA- HGROG” syndrome (He’s Alright – He’s Got the Ride On his Garmin) or even worse, it’s close cousin “IA – IGROG” ( I am Alright – I’ve Got the Ride On my Garmin).  In my opinion, this is leading us into making assumptions that have already caught us out.image2

Here are a few cases in point:

  • Ride leader proceeding at a fast rate of knots turning left or right at junctions with stretched out packets of riders in tow (not within sight of each other, sometimes miles apart), and leader not issuing any form of signposting instructions to guide the next packets, incorrectly assuming that all his riders are in a blissful state of “HA- HGROG”.
  • The last member of the lead packet cited above neglecting the customary fundamental courtesy of staying behind at the junction, incorrectly assuming, as his ride leader just did, that the rider behind is “HA- HGROG”;
  • Riders shooting past a ride leader who had ever so briefly stopped for a steam roller to finish a stretch of road repair while in unfamiliar territory way out of our usual riding area.  Safe in the knowledge that they knew where they were going, 80% of the riders just sailed past the ride leader using the pavement and proceeded quickly down the road without any sign of relenting.  This showed a lack of courtesy for the junior ride leader in charge who, as he did his best to catch up with the group now stretched out nearly 800 metres ahead, was overheard saying “How disappointing that a ride leader is trying to do the right thing and everyone else is carrying on”.  I wonder if this group bravado would have so readily occurred had riders not been in a collective “IA – IGOG” empowered state of mind?
  • Ride leaders cruising along with no back marker in sight for a good 15-20 minutes after many left and right turns have elapsed.  Ride leaders stopping to assess the situation but opting to carry on nonetheless while a good 10-20 miles from end of ride.  Ride leaders heard saying out loud regarding the missing back marker:  “HA-HGROG”.  As if Garmin could also assist a back marker in fixing a mechanical or worse, dealing with a medical emergency “back there”!   In my books, a ride leader ought to know the condition and whereabouts of his riders and she/he can never abdicate on this duty of care;
  • Ride leader not carrying OS map backup and overly relying on/rigidly sticking to his/her meticulously planned GPS route distributed the day before for all to upload.  Such  over-reliance on pre-loaded GPS rides leads an insecure ride leader into rigid thinking; temptation is then high to neglect to do what he/she ought to do which is to adapt one’s route at the drop of a hat either at ride start if a new or a less capable rider shows up, or if any situation requires a detour while en route;
  • Last but not least, it is disheartening to watch a fellow rider become a safety hazard while mentally engrossed in pressing Garmin buttons at the expense of his/her awareness of what goes on in the tight riding formation.

Possible Way-Ahead?

Garmin GPS pre-loaded with the day’s ride have the potential to become powerful allies for conscientious ride leaders and riders.

We are proud to advertise on our club business card our credo of “Never get left behind”.  Sadly poor use of pre-loaded GPS routes by ride leaders and riders alike have on some occasions already prevented us from delivering on that promise.

May I suggest that it is time for us to reflect on this occasional “Garmin Myopia”.  It is important we do so, lest our cherished collective courtesy and safe group riding may just become the first casualties.image3


  1. Thanks for bringing this up, Louise. Not having been out on rides much this year, I’ve only once had reason to somewhat cheekily admonish a leader for leaving too big a gap between stops for people to catch up – however that was as a direct result of the very successful ‘human signposting’ that we’ve relatively recently adopted as standard procedure; it can lead to over-confidence that back markers will catch up OK. And undoubtedly they will but perhaps not without a certain degree of stress, not to mention an inordinately long wait for the people at the front – not recommended in cold weather.

    So now we have a new problem in the form of leaders assuming that people won’t get lost because they’ve got the route on their Garmin. At this stage of the game there is no way we should change our modus operandi as a result of everyone having a GPS. We must continue as before and re-group on a regular basis, and I have no doubt that John Murdoch will advise all leaders of this.

    I continue to be amazed that we still seem to get things wrong despite the emphasis we place on rules, regs, guidelines and training. Let’s not bury our common sense; ride leaders are responsible for the safety and safe return home of all group members: the ‘right thing to do’ when leading a group should emanate directly from this simple statement: (1) keep the group together as far as possible, (2) check regularly on their wellbeing and (3) ride sensibly to suit prevailing road conditions.

    Best to all, Mark (Chairman)

    • Thanks for the feedback Mark. Fully agree: ‘human signposting” is a wonderful way to keep packets of riders together but there are limits as to how many a leader can use before re-grouping.

      The operative word in group riding is “group” (your point # 1) and a back marker is also part of the group. Ride leaders should ensure they not only start with a back marker but more importantly finish with one!

      You haven’t seen your backmarker for the past 10 minutes? Time to stop the group and get your buns back there to check what is going on. Until people stop confusing ride leading with “navigating”, we are bound to get it wrong more often that we’d wish.

      Best regards.


  2. Hi Chris… How reassuring to hear the voice of a long time member reaffirming the tried and true fundamentals of “If a rider goes off the front that is their problem; if a rider goes off the back that is the leader’s problem”.

    Technological progress should not dilute in any way such basics of group riding/group leading. I have merely pointed to occasional instances where it has and I stand firm in the belief that we can harness the best of GPS pre-loaded rides while staying true to our best practices. I realise that such revelations can be uncomfortable for some. I trust that we can hold the tension as we redress our ways instead of merely sweeping the problem under the rug.


    • Yes. The procedures ‘Signpost & Regroup as necessary’ (from ‘Guidance to Leaders’ on the website) and splitting into packets need to be integrated with the widespread use of GPS devices. The resulting procedures need to be learnt and adhered to by ride leaders, and the essentials made clear to other riders.

  3. Spot on, Louise.

    One piece of etiquette I am used to is that one never overtakes the ride leader. The only exception to this is going up a hill, because everyone likes to climb at their own pace, and it is understood that we regroup at the top.

    If a rider goes off the front that is their problem; if a rider goes off the back that is the leader’s problem.

    If I am leading and a persistent overtaker goes past a turning, I will take the turning, whether that was in my original plan or not. They soon learn.

  4. i agree as a new member i was impressed with the way the group ride was organized and everyone covered everyone but if what Louise says is true it will certainly ruin a very well organized ride and may lead me into leaving and finding another club.

    • Dear Ian… thanks for your comments. Fortunately I am pointing to an occasional problem which is troublesome but yet assuredly not the norm at all with the club. All that is needed is a little tweak as we find our ways with best using new technology. Let me encourage you to stick around as I am convinced that you won’t find a more dedicated group of superb ride leaders in another club. Looking forward to seeing you on a future ride then! Best regards. Louise