Biking First Time Setup

If you're joining our group to bike for the first time, you might want to set up the following to make it easier to follow the bike routes, to communicate with the rest of the group, and to make the ride as enjoyable as possible :)

Smartphone Bike Mount

Purchase and install a smartphone bike mount.

Mounting your phone on the bike allows you to see and follow along the route as we're biking and easily access your phone for communicating with the rest of the group if needed so there's no need to stop, take phone out of your pockets, etc.

Amazon has inexpensive ones (around $15). Just make sure it fits your handlebar diameter and your phone dimensions.

Walkie Talkies

While on the go, it's much easier to communicate using walkie talkies than having to stop and fiddle with a phone.

By default we usually use the following setting. However, we might change right before the ride if the channel is too crowded.

To avoid having to fish our walkie talkie handset in and out of pockets or bags, or fumbling and dropping the walkie talkie handset, we purchased these remote speakers that plug into the walkie talkie handset and can clip onto our clothes close to our mouths for easy access:

Motorola Remote Speaker Microphone

Route Apps

For every ride, I create a route in MapMyFitness and/or Google Maps so that anyone can follow the route. Due to varying skill levels and ages, we tend to get spaced out on the ride, so I'd highly suggest using these apps to make sure you can follow the route if we get separated.

Bike Tire Liners

Purchase and install bike tire liners.

Getting flat tires from thorns is a pretty common occurrence on bike rides, and it's not fun to patch/change a tube if you don't have much experience doing so as it can then take quite a while :) An easy way to reduce this is to install a bike tire liner that goes between the tire and the tube. If you plan on biking often, it might be a good idea to invest in some tire liners (i.e. something similar to the following):

Bike Lock

Purchase a good quality bike lock if you have a nice bike and don't want your bike stolen when you leave it somewhere. One of our friends used a cheapie combination cable lock and learned the hard way. Basically she found herself without her brand new carbon frame bike after lunch.. not fun at all.

Most cyclists recommend a U-lock in combination with a cable. ABUS and Kryptonite are both good brands.

We purchased the following:

Be aware that locks are only a slight deterrent. Determined thieves will steal your bike despite whatever lock you may have. Best is not to leave your bike unattended, second best is to leave it next to a more expensive bike and have the better lock in a group of bikes :D

Bike Seat / Saddle Height

Adjust bike seat/saddle height to proper height. Too low will cause stress and pain to your knees. Sitting on the seat, you should not be able to put your feet on the ground. Your leg should be almost fully extended (still should have a slight bend in the knee) when the pedal is all the way at the bottom.

GroupMe App (optional)

Having coordinated large groups numerous times, it's no fun being the coordinator and being bombarded with tons of texts or phone calls from individuals in the group asking the same questions or informing me of changes/status, etc. I've found it's easiest if everyone is in the same communication "channel", so if one person sends something, it goes out to everyone in the group so everyone can see or hear what's going on and/or respond. Before we even start biking, there's normally some level of communication as we're preparing the day before, or driving en route to the meeting location. While Zello app or walkie talkie is great for communicating while biking, when needing to communicate when we're not actually biking, it's a bit overkill to have everyone broadcasting walkie-talkie style.

Ideally, it would be best if we can just use SMS text to communicate as a group, since some folks still don't have smartphones, or some folks have smartphones but don't want to install new apps. Unfortunately, AT&T network limits the number of people in a group text to 10 people only :/

The best I've found is the free GroupMe app.

Basically, only the coordinator (me) has to install and use the app. I create the group by entering people's phone numbers. When sending a message using the GroupMe app, it goes out to the entire group. If anyone in the group has a GroupMe app, the message shows up in the app. For anyone who doesn't have the GroupMe app, it gets received as an SMS text. The nice thing is that even w/o the GroupMe app, anyone can respond to an SMS text sent by the GroupMe app, and it goes out to the entire group. Names are also associated with each text message so you can see who sent it. Other than the coordinator, people in the group never have to know the phone numbers of anyone else in the group.

Sounds great, right? Of course there's a catch. Unfortunately, after several messages, if recipients in the group do not reply or respond to the messages, they stop receiving further messages. Ach, what?? Ya. People need to respond to keep receiving messages from the group!

If anyone knows of a better way to do a group chat that can include both smartphones and non-smartphones, please let me know!

Zello App (for reference - not used anymore)

Before we had kids, we didn't have walkie talkies, and everyone had a smartphone. So, we downloaded an app onto our phones that works like a walkie-talkie. After we had kids join us on rides, though, they didn't have smartphones, so we instead invested in walkie talkies. We no longer use the Zello app, but it's provided here for reference.

Download and install Zello App on smartphone for communicating with group while biking:

This is an app that allows you to use your phone like a walkie-talkie, provided you have Wi-Fi or cell phone signal and data on. This is great for communicating to the entire group at once without having to stop and text or trying to call one person after another. If you have a smartphone holder on your bike handlebar, you simply tap a button on the screen, and start talking "Hi everyone, I'm stopping to take a water break", or "need to stop and tow middle J", etc. Everyone gets the "broadcast" at once, and you can even replay it if you didn't quite catch it. I strongly encourage everyone in the group to use this app, because with a large group we are bound to be spaced apart and needing to communicate if lagging behind, needing to stop, etc.

  1. Sign up for an account and create a Zello user name
  2. Select the Channels tab, tap the Add Channel icon, and Find Channel: "J Channel", or scan this QR code: QR Code for Zello J Channel
  3. Enter channel password: "jfriends"
  4. Test the audio using Zello user "echo", and configure as necessary
  5. Go to Options to modify whatever settings you need. I reconfigured the Push-to-talk and On-screen button action to "Toggle" so I won't have to hold the talk "button" down while riding to talk.