Planning a Group Bike Tour

May 23rd, 2024

One of my favorite hobbies outside of bicycle touring is beach volleyball. I’m not very good, but I do enjoy the time at the beach and with old and new friends. Recently through an old friend, I found a group of other volleyball enthusiasts who took an interest in bicycle touring after hearing my stories and those of another in the group. 

The group started at about 15 people interested in participating but quickly whittled down to six or seven who were serious enough to commit. I’m always keen on sharing bicycle touring so was thrilled to have accidentally found a group of first timers. I quickly learned that bringing together such a large and disparate group was going to be more challenging than I had first thought. 

Everyone had questions. They ranged from asking what exactly a bicycle tour overnight meant, to what to pack, and how to prepare. Many people needed gear ranging from bicycles and panniers to various camping equipment, and I realized that I needed to develop a concrete plan that would require the least amount of effort and investment in gear possible while still keeping the trip interesting. 

Since everyone lived in San Diego County, I decided we should meet at the Old Town Trolley Station, which is central and easy to get to by all lines of the Trolley (San Diego’s light rail), many buses, and of course by bicycle. From there, it’s a flat 20 miles to the Tijuana River Valley Campground, right on the U.S.–Mexico border. This was the perfect distance for newer cyclists and left plenty of time for lunch along the way and together time at camp. 

Better yet, the Tijuana River Valley Campground has yurts that sleep up to 10 people and include bunk beds with sleeping pads. There is also potable water, showers, flush toilets, fire pits, and firewood for purchase. To me, it was the perfect intro to camping. To further simplify things, I put myself in charge of food and cooking.

Nonetheless, there were still many questions from everyone about the above logistics, and everything else you could think of. I finally made a recommended packing list and shared it with the group, which seemed to help. I even shared the route and ensured everyone we would ride as a group so that no one would have to worry about getting lost or separated from the group. 

Eventually everyone was on the same page, and the trip went off without any major issues. We made it into the nearby city of Imperial Beach right at lunch time, ate at one of the best restaurants in town, and made it to the campsite a few hours before sunset, after exploring the rest of the Tijuana River Valley Regional Park. We enjoyed dinner and a campfire until it was time for bed, and I think everyone slept soundly. The next morning, we took the scenic route back north along the Silver Strand, a coastal beach route that passes through Coronado, and we took the ferry across the bay and back into San Diego. 

I learned quite a bit about planning group tours with beginners on this trip. Next time, I will create a shared document with all pertinent information, including the route map. Then, a week or two ahead of departure, I’ll have a group meeting to discuss the specifics and answer any questions. 

I’ve also since learned about the Adventure Cycling Guide for Planning and Leading a Bike Overnight, which would have been a great resource. Finally, if it’s helpful for anyone else, I did put together the video below with additional tips and comments on how to successfully lead a group bike tour. 

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