Road captain is the name for the rider who coordinates a multiple-bike ride. Road captain can refer to both the leader and the sweepers who, among their other duties, check that other riders are safe. Working as part of a team, the road captain is responsible for the safety of the riders and the smooth running of the ride itself. Duties include planning, thinking ahead, communication and rider education. The road captain may even act as a tour guide.
Planning the Ride
A road captain is a fundamental part of any ride planning. Especially where riders may number in the dozens or even hundreds, she has to be well versed in the route. She must know about potential hazards, road conditions and any special events that are happening at the time of the ride. A road captain will ride the route a few days in advance to make sure that nothing has changed, will keep an eye on the weather, and will also be present at ride planning meetings.
Educating and Informing Riders
The road captain is expected to brief the group before the ride. He will inform riders about the pace of the ride, tell them about staggered formation, and will explain what the rules are. Some rides require the participants to ride together in tight formation, while others have a more loose, "at your own pace" style. The road captain will also answer questions and educate new riders in hand signals and other riding etiquette. Finally, the road captain will let riders know what to do should they break down or have a mishap, and might have a tactful word in the ear of a rider whose behaviour is causing problems.
Leading the Ride
The road captain leads the ride. Riders are expected to keep an eye on her for cues as to where to go next. Working in conjunction with blockers or sweepers, the captain will also help to block off intersections to allow riders to pass without worrying about traffic. She will then pass back to the front. Sometimes the road captain stays in front and only the blockers do the intersection work, and sometimes she works with the blockers.
When a lane change is performed, the leader signals the change and the rearguard initiates it. This prevents lane-changing bikes from crashing into one another and also provides a safer block to traffic. Indicators are seen from the rear and a large column of bikes changing is less likely to be cut off.
At gas and fuel stops, the road captain will set up in a staging area he has previously chosen so that the line of bikes can assemble. After leaving, the road captain will wait until the rearguard signals that everyone is ready to go before accelerating to highway speed.
Other Duties of the Road Captain
Other duties of the road captain including dealing with the police and other unexpected surprises, and making sure everybody has a fun, safe ride. The road captain is part of a team that includes the sweepers and rearguard, and is, by definition, an experienced rider.