Home > Training Guide

7 tips for helping a new cyclist

Encourage confidence and good habits


There has been a massive influx of riders on the streets and trails this year. With no end to social distancing in sight, outdoor activities seem to be the go-to way to spend time this summer. You may have a family member, roommate or friend who has finally decided that “that biking thing you do” has some merit as a time-sink, but how do you get them confidently onto the road? Here are some tips on getting your new cyclist prepared for their first rides. Remember, if you don’t live with someone social distancing rules still apply. You can verbally dictate most of these suggestions to them while maintaining two meters distance. Check out the recommendations for riding together in your province, and, if you’re allowed to ride together, be sure to maintain two meters between each other.

RELATED: The re-opening ride guide: How to safely cycle outside in Canada this summer

Photo: Alex Godbout-Simard

1. Get the right clothing

Riding in comfortable cycling specific clothing can be the difference between a miserable ride and an enjoyable one. Most importantly you’ll want to help your friend find a pair of padded bib shorts that are comfortable and fit nicely.

Related: 8-steps to choosing your next pair of cycling shorts

If they don’t have a jersey, encourage them to wear an exercise shirt. A helmet could save your life, and you can easily help your friend find affordable, light and comfortable ones at a local bike shop. The right pair of shoes is also going to make a big difference, whether they’ve chosen to ride with clipless pedals or just sneakers. For beginner cyclists clipless can be a bit daunting—riding with flat pedals at first may be a safer option.

2. Proper nutrition is essential

Whether you are cycling to get in shape, for a specific event or just for fun, proper nutrition is essential to enjoying riding. Remind your friend to bring lots of water (more than they think they will need). Almost every cyclists has bonked at some point, but you can help your cyclist avoid it by encouraging them to bring snacks. The most important part of fuelling is remembering to eat something every 45 minutes to an hour.

Related: Avoiding the bonk

A derailer hanger alighnment tool is essential for getting your hanger straight and keeping shifting smooth.

3. Teach them the mechanics of the bike

Checking tire pressure, lubing the chain make sure the brakes work are all important parts of getting on the bike, especially if your friend has pulled an older ride out of storage. Explain how gearing works (if they aren’t familiar) and make sure their saddle is centred and adjusted to the proper height.

If you can, teach your new cyclist how to fix a flat and how to put a dropped chain back on.

Related: make sure your bike is safe with these easy safety checks

4. Do a bit of stretching

Stretching can benefit cyclists of all levels. Its important for avoiding injury but will also keep you comfortably on the bike, especially when you are just starting or after a long day in the saddle. It’s common to get a tight back, shoulders or neck after a few hours of riding, but pulling over to do a few mid-ride stretches can help release tension.

Related: The importance of stretching

Two riders take a mid-day break during a ride on the Virginia Capital Trail.

5. Pick a good route

Chat with them about their fitness and experience level to come up with a reasonable route that will be challenging but not too hard. Think about which roads to avoid based on traffic and how busy bike paths tend to be at the time that they’ll be biking. While some of us love a good climb, for their first few rides focus on flatter, scenic roads so your new cyclist can get used to the bike. After a few rides introduce them to some local hills and be extra encouraging once they reach the top.

6. Be reasonable with pace

Don’t set unrealistic expectations for a new cyclist. Let them set the pace and if you can see they’re pushing too hard suggest dialling it back to conserve energy.

7. Encourage them to keep it up

One of the most important parts of helping a new cyclist is supporting their efforts. Seeing others do huge rides on Strava can feel disheartening for a new cyclist. Make an active effort to encourage them and cheer them on. Check in to see if they have questions or if they want any advice on routes.