Cycling Guidance for Leaders

  • Planning
  • Equipment
  • Equipment (Leader)
  • Clothing
  • Ratios and Group Supervision
  • Safety Procedures
  • Water Hazards
  • Preperation of Participants
  • Cycling Expeditions

Careful planning and preparation contribute greatly to the safe and enjoyable outcome of any activity. The council's generic risk assessment for your chosen activity is designed to help you plan that activity safely, and must be referred to in the early planning stages. If the site or nature of the planned activity poses additional risks which are not covered by the generic risk assessment then these must be considered in an additional site specific risk assessment:

• Terrain with its resulting technical and physical challenges, remoteness and environmental considerations
• Experience and fitness of group
• Experience of leader
• Time of year,
• Daylight hours available
• Weather

Due consideration should be given to the return element of the journey, whether direct or circular, and sufficient account taken of the terrain, gradient and wind strength or direction to allow the return to be undertaken in reasonable time.

The possibility of mechanical breakdown or accidental damage to cycles should be anticipated and due account of this must be taken when planning the route to allow sufficient time for such eventualities.


• Size of cycle: care and time should be taken to ensure that each cycle is suited and correctly adjusted to the size of the individual rider. For trail cycling the size of cycle is generally smaller than for touring cycles.
• Helmets must be worn and time should be taken to ensure helmets are adjusted and fitted correctly.
• Gloves and protective eyewear should be considered, particularly for any routes going off surfaced roads or in wet weather
• Reflective bandoliers, vests, anklets and wristbands add greatly to the safety of all cyclists using public roads and leaders should encourage their use.
• Panniers or rack-packs should be used for carrying spare clothing, food and drink. Small daysacks or ‘bum bags’ are also useful for journeys where bikes may have to be carried.
• Gloves are recommended for each member of the party.

Leaders should ensure that each cycle meets the legal requirements when used on the road and that the cycle has been given a thorough safety check to ensure it is in good mechanical order.

The following items should normally be carried:

• Spare clothing
• Food and drink (hot or cold depending on conditions)
• A comprehensive first aid kit
• A group shelter or KISU
• Map and compass
• Repair kit appropriate for the cycles being used.
• Mobile Phone in waterproof bag or cover

Bicycle Repair Kits typically include increasing amounts of the following as the length of ride increases:

• A spare inner tube appropriate to the size(s) of tyres being used
• A pump with suitable valve adapters
• A puncture repair outfit
• Tyre levers
• Correct size Allen and torx keys for the bikes being used
• Tyre patch
• Chain link extractor, ’magic’ links
• An adjustable spanner or multi holed spanner
• A small screw driver and a small Phillips screw driver
• Assorted cable ties
• Spare kit: consider the following items, brake blocks, nuts and bolts, lights with bulbs and batteries
• Spare brake and gear cables
• Lubricant for chains

Many of these items are incorporated in bike specific Multi Tools. There are a multitude of these tools on the market, so it is worth checking the bikes which are to be used, and purchasing a tool that offers the most options.

Specific clothing for leaders and group members needs will be determined by:

• The time of year, prevailing weather conditions and altitude
• Likely changes in weather
• The nature of the journey and terrain encountered

Consideration should be given to:

• A multi-layer system
• Waterproof and windproof ‘shell’ (waterproof trousers should be guarded against becoming entangled in the chain)
• Relevant footwear which allows for walking as well as riding
• Gloves or cycling mitts
• Spare insulative clothing
• Correctly fitting helmets in good condition

If adequate clothing is not available, plans need to be modified.

The following ratios are a maximum and should not be exceeded. In some instances it may be necessary to reduce this ratio further

1 Instructor: max 8 participants.

Leaders should also take into account the nature of the terrain, group competencies and behaviours when deciding appropriateness of operating at the suggested ratios and reduce where necessary.

A ‘back marker’ should be appointed and throughout the journey the leader should be in a position to direct each member of the party in order to achieve appropriate control. Consideration should be given to pace and energy expenditure in order that the group remain in contact at all times.


The leader must maintain an awareness of the well being of each group member throughout the cycling activity. Particular attention should be paid to;

• Ensuring that the control measures identified in the risk assessment are implemented.
• Briefing the group on the planned route and advising them of actions in the event of an emergency or becoming separated from the group.
• Ensuring that the planned route/activity is appropriate for the group in the prevailing conditions.
• Observation of changes in weather, both expected and unexpected with an appropriate response.
• Considering, in the event of mechanical breakdown or other delays, the available daylight and means of prompt communication back to base.
• Descents, particularly of steep ground. A suitable pace for descent, with a safe distance between individuals, should be considered.
• Speed and how to keep it under control.
• Use of public roads. Groups should ride in single or double file depending on the width and nature of the road, and maintain a safe distance apart. The Highway Code must be observed.
• Consideration for other track users. Avoid startling walkers and horse riders.

Where cycle journeys include hill or remote terrain, relevant requirements in Walking & Hillwalking should be met.

Any crossing which requires more than a simple step across a small stream should not be underestimated and should only be contemplated when no significant risks are posed by doing so. When managing risks associated with water hazards, leaders must operate within the scope of their training and experience.
The council´s in house Lowhills Award does not provide formal training in dealing with water hazards, and leaders who are qualified in this capacity are required to ensure that any water crossings carried out under their supervision are of no more than ankle depth, able to be carried out easily and are inconsequential in the event of a slip.
Leaders who have undertaken national awards such as the Summer Mountain Leader Award will be more able to apply a reliable risk benefit analysis when faced with these hazards; however the overriding consideration should be avoidance of such hazards wherever possible.
The key to a successful outcome lies in the planning and risk assessment stages. Contingency plans should be drawn up for those situations where water is above ankle level or where the outcome of a crossing is uncertain. These should include alternative routes or waiting until water levels recede.

N.B Leaders who have undertaken training in any relevant capacity must lodge a record of that training with the management of their establishment.

When planning a journey it would be unwise to make the assumption that everybody can ride a bicycle. Checks should be made to ensure that riders can steer, balance and stop consistently.

Knowledge of the following should be considered:
• Road Traffic sense and signals
• Use of gears and brakes.
• How to effect basic repairs e.g. replacement/repair of an inner tube for remotely supervised groups
• How to cycle when carrying a load, either on the bike or on the person
• The problems and environmental impact of bicycles in sensitive areas

Training should be given as needed in:
• Basic bike handling
• Coping with steep descents and ascents
• Packing and load carrying
• Individual’s responsibility to the group, signals and voice commands being used.

  • Consideration should be given to:
  • The need for equipment to be carried on the bike rather than on the person, and the stable safe loading of the bike
  • The handling characteristics of a fully laden bike (balance, momentum, increased width)
  • The choice of terrain, in relation to the above considerations
  • The implications for group safety whilst living in and travelling through remote wild areas
  • Spares equipment which may be needed on longer rides.


Help us improve