Gawd luv yer, Mary Poppins – (sorry but I think I was so scarred by Dick Van Dyke’s cockney accent in the film that I can’t hear the word ‘sweep’ without thinking of him).
One particularly good thing we did last year was to introduce a sweep for our club rides. We have a rota and, with turns to lead the shorter and slower ‘blue’ ride as well, it works out about 3 or 4 duties a year.
As the club has progressed over the years, we have seen an increasing range of abilities and expectations. The red rides are usually between 42 and 47 miles (67-75km) and the faster riders will average around 18mph (29kph). Groups tend to form based on rider speed, but to maintain the social side of the club, but we re-gather after about 10 miles and again for a halfway ‘banana break’. That allows people to switch between groups – and that’s important as the fastest group tends to ride quite hard on the run back to Faringdon.
The sweep fulfils a number of functions – first as a safety net in case anyone has a mechanical or other problem and secondly as a way of checking that we don’t lose anyone. I tend to think the rule ‘leave no man behind’ should apply to more than just the military.
Perhaps most importantly, we want to encourage people into – or back into – cycling as a hobby. Newer cyclists wanting to progress beyond the blue ride may not be able to keep up with the faster riders and may not yet have invested in a Garmin or other satnav, so the sweep plays an important role in providing encouragement, company, reassurance and navigation for them.
It was my turn to be sweep for the club’s ‘red’ ride this morning. It was a simple case of bad news/good news:
Bad news – it was raining hard when I woke up.
Bad news – as red sweep I decided I had to go (a commitment is a commitment)
Bad news – I’d hoped no one would turn out but there were 6 others for the red ride
Good news – they were all experienced riders so we rode together as one group
Good news – everyone else had mudguards (fenders)
Good news – it stopped raining, eventually
Bad news – we all got cold while a puncture was being fixed
Good news – it was a really good ride, one I’d have missed if it had been just up to me!
A fairly gentle 70km (43.5 miles) at about 24kph (15mph) – not a day for heroics.