Sharing your love of cycling with your partner can be an amazing experience. Fact. However, if you are at the start of that journey, and your beloved doesn't yet ride, then there are a few potential pitfalls to consider…
Sarah loves both mountain and road biking, and anything on two wheels. She discovered mountain biking first, having not really ridden for years; and has since helped many beginners on their cycling journeys; through mountain bike coaching, leading Breeze rides and generally enjoying sharing the love of cycling.
First things first - I am not necessarily assuming that you are a guy, wanting to get your wife or girlfriend into cycling; I'm sure there are also many experienced female riders with non-cycling or beginner partners.
I can relate to those bumpy starts…
My suggestions here are based on my experience of coaching beginners; with many years of having different people tell me similar accounts of their challenging starts in the world of cycling. Many challenges, which I can personally relate to.
My personal experience in cycling had its own bumpy start…
I had never done any off-road riding when my boyfriend at the time decided to teach me some technique… on a trail centre red route! My lasting memory of that first day mountain biking is that of walking down the descent, trying not to cry as it started to get dark!
My 'Top Tips' for beginner cyclists
So, here are my top tips for encouraging your partner into cycling (whether it be road, mountain, or anything in between):
1. Buy, borrow, or hire them a good, light bike - It's meant to be fun, right?! I have seen a lot of beginners struggling on a heavy bike; with their partner sprinting off ahead on something lightweight and shiny... maybe they should have swapped?!
2. Consider getting a third party to teach them - Whether they are really new to cycling, or just inexperienced; there are lots of great (often free) courses for adults out there.
3. Set a goal for the ride - I don't mean a 'get that KOM / QOM' type goal; rather something like riding to a nearby village or café. This also provides an opportunity for a pit-stop and some off-the-bike reflection time.
4. Don't (necessarily) take them to your favourite climb, descent or trail - Remember, what you consider to be awesomely fun, might just be too much for a beginner.
5. Explain how to brake first - The finer points of gear indexing can wait. Learning how to stop, is the most important thing!
6. Don't forget how tricky it is to do the basics - I really struggled with cornering when I first started out riding. Explaining how to perform riding practices is crucial to confidence; don't just demonstrate it.
7. Encourage, but don't patronise - This is a fine line, but absolutely no one enjoys a mid-ride domestic…
8. Don't leave them behind - Equally though, spinning up a climb next to them chatting, whilst they are giving it their all, could be equally annoying. A little polite distance here is good.
9. Stop lots - When I started road riding, after years of mountain biking, I was shocked by the constant effort - with no stops for chats, lifting bikes over things, chocolate, or mechanicals. Stop lots.
10. Give them the opportunity to enjoy it - Any non-stop 'do this, do that' teaching will quickly get wearing. Ensure they have the skills to be safe, and then concentrate on having fun instead.
Once they are up and running, then a bit of personal freedom is also good.
Get them stuck in, and 'Share the Love of Sport'