2 Keys to Making a Friend or Family Member’s First Bike Ride a Success

February 09, 2022 0 Comments

Man and woman taking a break from cycling to sit on a riverbank

Cycling takes some serious devotion. If you’re 100% committed, you’re not going to spend a little time and money here and there. To get the most out of the sport, you’ll make a significant upfront investment and put in many hours a week.

That level of devotion can create some tension in a cyclist’s life. What about that friend or spouse who doesn’t understand your newfound love? They may balk at how much time you spend in the saddle or raise eyebrows when they see the receipts from your visits to the bike shop.

If only they got it, right?

“The holy grail here is getting your spouse or that key friend interested in pedaling together with you,” explains longtime cycling coach Darryl MacKenzie.

If you can get your skeptical spouse or that close friend interested enough to join you, you’re halfway there. But that first bike ride is the most critical. The endeavor could seal your fate for a future that’s full of many enjoyable rides together — or it’s one and done for your friend, and you endure even more critique about your cycling habits.

2 Ways You Must Set Up Your New Rider for Success

Coach Darryl has seen many riders go through this dilemma over the years. Some have succeeded in sharing their love through group cycling, but many haven’t. Invariably, though, there are two things he’s learned that are essential for that first bike ride together.

“If you mess up on these two, there’s probably not going to be a second ride,” he says. “This doesn’t guarantee there will be, but it greatly improves your chances.”

Never Get Your Front Wheel in Front of Theirs

Remember, you’re trying to share your love of cycling with this person. The goal of this ride is not to drag them around and show them what a great cyclist you are. They need to feel comfortable — and in control of the speed and intensity.

Cycling with friends or family members means you stay back with them and let them lead the way. Don’t even get your front wheel out in front of theirs. Go at their pace and let their comfort level be your guide.

“If you push them and make them feel as if they’re not in control of the situation, you’re in trouble,” says Coach Darryl.

Commit To Reasonable Parameters for the First Ride

To reinforce their sense of control, make sure they feel secure in the scope of the ride from start to finish. Before you even get in the saddle, discuss the ride and agree on exact parameters for how far you’ll go. Then stick to those parameters, no matter what.

As you plan bike rides with friends and loved ones, remember that you are the experienced cyclist. What sounds easy or fun to you probably won’t be the same for someone with no experience.

“If you decide to take this person on your favorite ride with long miles and lots of hills, you’re writing your own obituary,” says Darryl.

Instead, choose a first bike ride that’s mostly on the flats with little climbing. Setting a time goal is probably more helpful than a distance goal, as someone who has never ridden may not have much concept of distance in cycling terms. Darryl notes that 30 minutes is probably a good target for most people’s first ride.

Again, don’t push the limits. If you said 30 minutes, don’t ask them to do 15 more. If you committed to the flats, don’t show them your mad climbing skills. Avoid doing anything that could make them feel as if they’ll never be as good at this as you are. That is not a good recipe for enjoyment or motivation.

Other Ways To Improve Your Chances

If you want to have much chance of riding bikes with friends or family in the future, those two points are nonnegotiable. But there are a few more things you can do to boost your chances of success:

  • Make it a fun social event. Social dynamics are what attract many people to start cycling in the first place. Play that aspect up on the first bike ride. Choose a route where you can get coffee or stop to enjoy the view together. Bring along a friend of theirs. Change it from exercise to a social outing. You can even do this before they ever get on a bike — invite them to social events with your group cycling friends and help them get comfortable in that community before they try riding.
  • Avoid major traffic. Many people, especially when they’re new on the bike, feel a lot of anxiety about possibly getting hit by a car. If you go somewhere with a lot of traffic, they’ll constantly be looking over their shoulder, unable to relax and enjoy the ride.
  • Rent them a good bike! Unless they happen to fit your extra bike with a high-quality saddle, this is a good idea for this occasion. You want them to be as comfortable as possible, but it doesn’t make sense to spend thousands on a new bike before they’re committed.

That first ride with your spouse or a close friend takes some careful thought and planning, but those details are worth investing in. It may take a long time and many conversations before you can even get them on the bike. Don’t rush your initial chance — it may be your only one.


Look for more insights from Coach Darryl over at his website.

Photo by Viktor Bystrov on Unsplash