With the bicycle and accessories sorted out, it’s time to plan and set off on the perfect first ride. The first experience with a new sport or activity is really important. It can make the difference between your friend being excited to do it again or determined to never try again.
Address their concerns
The most important thing to pay attention to are the concerns your friend might have. If your friend is worried about traffic, then try planning the starting point of your ride outside of the city. Offer your car or travel by train together to get there and you’ll win them over. It could also be that your friend is worried about off-roading and downhills, and many first-time bikers are also concerned about steep and long up hills. Listen to your friend and plan the first cycling ride around their concerns.
Plan a casual route
It’s tempting to want to show your friends the best views in your area on their first cycling ride. The problem there is that they are usually far away and require riding through technical terrain or over big hills. Try to find a balanced mix between nice scenery and difficult cycling. Ensure the route is suitable to their ability and fitness. It’s better to underestimate them so that they have an awesome experience and feel good about themselves rather than planning a route that’s going to make them feel defeated.
Think about the weather
For us cycling enthusiasts, it is often a badge of honour to go cycling despite rain, snow, cold, or darkness. We welcome the challenge and enjoy our sport all year round. This might be the case for your friend later too. But unlikely if it’s the first experience with cycling they have. Try to plan your ride on a nice sunny day when it’s not too cold, not too hot, and not too windy. This will reduce the chance of crashing due to bad conditions.
Go through the basics
With a casual route planned on a lovely day, you only have to make sure your friend has a good handle on their bike. Before you head out, offer to go through the basics with them. Make sure they know how to use the brakes effectively and safely. Then go over shifting and explain what’s the safe distance they should keep from other cyclists. If your friend is quite fit or returning to cycling and you expect to ride fast, you can also do a refresher on common gestures the front rider uses to inform the others in the bunch that there’s an obstacle or a change in direction.
Ride their pace, not yours
One thing that will make your friend comfortable is riding at their own pace. Don’t try to push it unless they directly ask you. This is not the time to show off how fast you are. If you want to use your fitness for anything, always make sure to place yourself between the wind and your friend. They might not appreciate it on the first ride but that’s the point. Make them feel good about their cycling abilities.
Bring enough snacks
It’s very important to keep your friend fuelled. Nothing ruins the experience of cycling quite like getting hungry and low on energy mid-way. Bring snacks for the both of you just in case and be generous. Also, remind them to drink regularly, which will pay off later in the ride.
Motivate and encourage them
Be patient with your friend and talk to them. Be encouraging and show them the social aspect of cycling. Try to avoid patronizing comments like “you’re doing well for a beginner”. And definitely don’t criticize their technique or choice of clothing. Don’t try to make them an expert in one ride. Too much technical cycling talk can deter them. Keep your conversations about the scenery, how nice it is, or anything engaging you normally talk about.
Include a coffee stop
This is a must! Coffee stops are a crucial part of cycling. It’s a chance to recharge and talk about your experiences. It can reinforce the good feelings your friends have accumulated so far. Show them your favourite place and treat them to a coffee and something sweet.
All you have to do now is make sure that your friend knows how to keep enjoying cycling long term. That’s the focus of the next article in the series.