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Make Sure a Newcomer Returns for a Second Ride!

By Ed Pavelka of

If you've been in this sport for long, you've probably seen it happen. An enthusiastic person shows up for his (or her) first ride with the local club. He's a bit intimidated by the lingo he overhears, but that's nothing compared to his anxiety about what to do and how to do it once the ride gets underway. Before long he's trailing behind, spooked by the interplay of bike wheels and feeling as wanted as an IRS agent in a Super Bowl pool.
Do you think this guy will be back for another ride next weekend? Not likely.
It's unfortunate, but experienced cyclists are often pretty tough on newcomers. It may be intentional because of the risks that an unskilled bike-handler creates for everyone, but more often it happens because we forget how much a novice cyclist doesn't know. If you think about it, riding a bike isn't all that easy.
Gero McGuffin has thought about it. She was 30 years old before she climbed onto a bike the first time, so she vividly recalls how intimidating beginning can be. Now a polished cyclist and the wife of cycling author Arnie Baker, M.D., Gero enjoys helping new riders get started in a way that ensures they'll have a great time and come back for more.
Gero's recommendations can be used anytime we're riding with a newcomer. If you're a beginning rider, these tips can help you have a more positive experience as you learn the sport.

Be Gentle

Gero's core advice is useful when helping any new rider: "Treat them kindly, go slowly, and keep your expectations low. Give it your best shot, and you will help a person become a cyclist for the rest of their life."

Now, here's a digest of her specific tips.

Now We're Rolling

Make It Good for You, Too

One problem: Too many rides like just described can take some of the fun out of cycling for you. Here is Gero's advice for how an experienced rider can get some training while riding with a newcomer. She saw her husband use these techniques while he was helping her get started. Don't do these things during the initial rides. Wait till the newcomer has basic skills but still lacks speed.

The stronger rider can:

Way to Go!

After a ride, always congratulate the new cyclist on his progress and welcome comments. As Gero notes, "They will have questions that you can hardly imagine, because you have been cycling for so long."

Finally, encourage the person to ride on his own between rides with you. This will give him the chance to practice skills and gain fitness with absolutely no pressure. Just make sure he doesn't go off the deep end and turn cycling into a physical and mental chore. This can happen when enthusiasm causes a person to boost their riding too fast. Firmly recommend an increase in time or distance of about 10 percent per week, with at least two rest days.

(A portion of this material was adapted from the coaching manual for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, copyright 1999 by Arnie Baker, M.D.)

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