You’re eager to get a friend or a family member into cycling. It seems so simple, you love cycling and they are open to trying it. However, it’s not always so straightforward. Consider all the factors that got you hooked before you embark on your project and think of someone who was influential to you in the early days. We get it, you are really excited but you don’t want to be overbearing or overload them with information all at once. The process will be gradual. So here are 12 tips to help introduce a new person to cycling:
Let them ask questions, don’t tell them what to do
While you may feel like your knowledge is invaluable and while much of it might, it’s good to let a new cyclist learn at their own pace. They won’t feel overwhelmed or like they are doing everything wrong. So be polite and answer questions instead of being an annoying know-it-all.
Plan a short route on quiet roads
Consider taking them on bike paths or multi-use trails away from traffic for the first ride, rather than busy roads. Keep it short and sweet. Consider a scenic out and back that will let you both take your time and not have to worry about making it home in time for another engagement.
Help them learn to clip in and out of clipless pedals
If you are helping someone get accustomed to their new road bike, chances are they will be adjusting to clipless pedals. It’s a tricky process and we all remember toppling over on our first try clipping-in or out. Take your friend or family member to a park or grassy field to practice. It’s worth spending a good hour practicing clipping and unclipping. It might also be worth asking them if they’d like to be reminded to unclip once you are riding since it takes time to adjust to having our feet held in place on the bike.
Make sure their bike fits properly
Before setting off on the bike, have a look at the bike and make sure it’s in good working order. Check the brakes and shifting to make sure their bike is mechanically sound. Have a look at their set-up as well to make sure it fits them. Help them make any simple adjustments as necessary to maximize their comfort and enjoyment.
Focus on having fun, not going fast
When you ride with someone you are trying to introduce to cycling go at a super easy pace. Whatever you think your recovery pace is, go 50 per cent slower than that. Do not hammer under any circumstances, if you are breathing remotely hard, you are going way too fast.
Along with your route, add a stop to rest and have a chance to assess how the ride is going. Consider whether to shorten or extend the route if they are doing well and having a good time.
Obey rules of the road and be predictable
Don’t be running lights or stop signs and making other minor traffic violations you may or may not be used to doing when you ride with a more experienced group. Being predictable, courteous to other trail or road users, and relaxed will help make the ride much more enjoyable. Start familiarizing them with hand signals and if you need to make any course corrections slow down or even stop instead of making a sudden move.
Make a coffee stop and carry snacks
If you have a favourite ride food make sure to bring enough to share. You don’t want them to be getting an empty stomach on the first ride. In addition to carrying enough food to snack on, a coffee or lunch stop can make a ride much more enjoyable. It also introduces them to the other side of the cycling culture, hanging out in lycra in public spaces sipping a Cortado and munching on tasty baked good with your riding group.
Keep the group small
New riders will have a hard enough time riding behind or close to one other rider, don’t make it harder by throwing them into a pack. If you must, invite no more than one or two additional riders. Make sure they are experienced and skilled, and they understand the purpose of the ride.
Make the ride casual
Instead of wearing your top-end racing kit and all your fanciest gear, consider going in comfortable street clothes, even if your friend is kitted up. It will lower the intimidation factor and be a consistent reminder to go easy. Stops to enjoy a park you are pacing through or taking the time to enjoy a view you usually bypass. Check to see if they are comfortable in the clothing they chose for the ride. Perhaps they have intentions of buying bib shorts but wanted to be initiated first.
Make sure you have a flat kit (which you should always have anyway), pump and multitool when you head out for the ride. Consider taking an extra tube for you and your friend’s bike, which may not yet be equipped. Getting stranded isn’t what you want and you want to set an example for a new rider in the way you ride but also in your preparedness.
Introduce them to other cyclists
There is no better way to become hooked on riding than making it an important part of your social life. While your no doubt enjoying being outside and the exercise, having friends to hang out with is a huge draw to cycling. Once you see the person is capable of riding in a group introduce them to other friends you might have or suggest a local group they would fit into.
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Once you’ve got them started, remember to keep inviting them out for rides and as they progress introduce challenges you feel they are ready for. Helping them select gear that will serve them well at this stage of their progression can also be valuable. Think of durable and functional things you bought early on and still rely on. Being motivated to train for an event or take on their first big ride when the time is right will be an exciting progression but you need to be patient.