Why I love the 5BBC !

Reason #2: PDS (aka Point Drop Sweep)

One of our unique attributes as a club is the Point Drop Sweep (PDS) System that we use on most of our rides.


There are other philosophies in cycling that focus on speed, getting to a particular destination as quickly as possible perhaps stopping at key points along the way to have a quick look, and riding together in a very disciplined way (training required) or in the racer's “peloton” as close as humanly possible. We have rides that can be like that too - Quick Spin and Quick Spin Lite.


But our other rides types: Happy Face, Moderate and Advanced Moderate, typically leverage PDS in order to let people ride at whatever pace they are comfortable and still keeping the group together. 


We generally have two leaders on most of our rides. 


One is the “point” of the ride. Like the point of a pencil, they are always at the front. Don’t pass them (except if they need a little more time up a hill and you have momentum, go ahead, but then wait for them so as not to miss a turn).


The second leader is the “sweep” of the ride. They won’t let you fall behind them and they make sure to help with any mechanicals and keep track of anyone who decides to leave the ride early. The focus is on making sure no one is left behind.


What about turns? That is where the most important role of all comes in. And it’s really simple to do this role, but critical to pay attention to its few details. Whenever a Point makes a turn, or wherever a turn may be missed by a rider, a “drop” is left. Any rider may be asked to play this role. A place to stand will be suggested by the leader. The Drop will stand in that place, in their most animated way pointing in the direction of the turn. Yes, if you are picked to be a drop, you get to audition for the broadway role / Tony award of “best turn signal ever”. You do this until the sweep, AND ONLY THE SWEEP, releases you from your duty with a clear indication that you can leave the drop position.


Easy Peasy right? Only three steps

Stand in the position indicated by the leader

Point in the direction of the turn

Continue riding only after the sweep releases you (not someone who looks like the sweep or wears the same club jersey ;) the actual sweep! Make sure to get to know who that is.


There is room for error here. It has happened that a rider said "Thank You” to a novice drop and they left their position assuming that was the sweep releasing them. Perhaps they forgot who the sweep was? The 4 riders behind got 5 extra miles that day. Luckily there was a police yellow line blocking traffic and then the rest of the group was not in site. A call to the point made evident what had happened and with a 20-30 minute delay for all, the situation was rectified. Not pleasant, but not the end of the world either.


Dropping is easy and is a nice way to contribute to a ride. If you are not inclined to drop, let the leader know and stay a bit back but don’t ignore a request to drop. Leaders should always confirm visually that a drop has taken up the request and is in place before moving on - but if they don’t see clearly that you don’t want to drop - it can lead to issues - so tell them up front and stay a bit back of the point so someone else is between you and them and can be the drop without slowing down the ride.


This also happened on a weekend trip. Someone was nervous as their phone had died and saw the front of the ride going out of site so they left the post. We recovered. one person got to see 2-3 extra miles of a new city - it was not the end of the world, but you can imagine they were not happy. And the sweep knew they passed a turn and called to verify and then corrected as well.


It is rarely the end of the world - but for those adversely affected - it is never fun. So please please please, take this seriously.


When I became a leader, we had an instructor who likened the PDS to an accordion. I like to think of it that way. Faster riders will tend to be towards the front, slower ones toward the back and the club stays together and gets where it is going while everyone enjoys the ride at their pace. Faster riders come to make a fun game of this. It's also informative: they are able to let the point know how far back the tail or sweep of the ride is.... helpful if there are issues on a ride. And good leaders always have compression stops - if the accordion stretches TOO long, let's get the group back together. Also - if someone is not up for the ride level - members can help leaders by diplomatically and friendly suggesting perhaps a train home or solo riding if they might get left behind. We never leave anyone behind - but if you slow down the ride with too many comperssions stops, it can turn a Moderate into a Happy Face and people who wanted to ride, can be miffed. But I digress or perhaps spend a bit too much time on the accordion analogy.


To quote another of our illustrious leaders: "The most important thing" to take away from this article: Drops should never leave; and leader’s should never fail to leave drops! Even our best leaders can make a mistake - turning in to Hudson Park and not leaving a second drop at the island. Remember the Yogi Berra adage - “when you come to a fork in the road, take it". PLEASE - Not on a 5BBC ride. Unless it is very obvious which way the “continue straight” would be….” and even then, better not to let it happen and leverage drops to pre-empt such circumstance. 


To quote one of our most boisterous members (who hopefully will some day become a leader) "I like to think of it like a pin dropping into place". The leader needs to pick a place where you can drop  visibly but also safely and comfortably. Negotiate with them if you don’t like the spot and once they go, try to understand why they placed you where they did - but if a shady option in sunshine and heat, or further out of the way of traffic suits you - as long as you are visible - plant yourself where you think best. Use good judgement for the cause - which is making sure everyone makes the right turn; or the left turn if that’s the case; just not the WRONG turn ;)


Keep this in mind: be a bit ahead of the turn - with a bit of warning before making the turn. Or after the turn if it’s clear far enough in advance where to be after the turn.


Finally: the concept of "self made drop". Another advantage of Point Drop Sweep is that if you want to take a picture, or really "need to go" (to the bathroom, or leave the ride for that matter). Simply wait for the SWEEP and ask them to wait for you or let them know you need to leave. It works. Try it.


That's all folks. By now you understand Point-Drop-Sweep or PDS in great detail and are ready to rock and roll with the 5BBC, New York's friendliest club who never leave anyone behind. We don't have DROP rides rather Point-DROP-Sweep rides. When it works :)