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How do you help really bad new riders?(17 posts)

How do you help really bad new riders?cory
Sep 29, 2001 7:04 PM
Happened again today...I was coming home, uphill, into the wind, and I caught and passed an obviously new cyclist. He was an older guy (well, about my age, 50s, but way out of shape), his seat was too low, he was turning about 45 rpm in the big ring, wearing jeans, killing himself to go 8 mph.
Anybody figured out how, or whether, to offer advice? I'm not comfortable just riding up alongside and telling them what to do, and in any case, he was about whipped--I wouldn't have welcomed somebody giving me tips under those circumstances, either.
It even seems pushy to say, "Hey, do you mind a little advice?" But just going down about five gears and raising the seat would really have helped him, and as far as i'm concerned, the more people out there riding, the better our chances are of getting recognition from government, roadbuilders etc.
Road riding is enjoying a huge boom where I live as people move over from casual mountain biking, but they have no background and soon lose interest. Women seem more willing to accept advice than men (no mystery there; I've got that macho thing going myself sometimes). Anybody else worked out a successful way of dealing with this? Or just let 'em learn it in the streets like we did?
Lets analyze this...Kristin
Sep 29, 2001 8:09 PM
Hmmm. I don't think you could do wrong if you road up to the guy sometime--when he isn't suffering up a hill--introduced yourself and struck up a conversation. During the conversation, let him know you have experience setting up bikes. Don't offer your advice...just cast out your line and see if he bites. If he has a true interest in improving, he'll jump at the opportunity to ask questions. If not, he's most likely the sort of person who doesn't learn very well and will not heed any advice you give--solicited or otherwise.

I sometimes find myself in the company of a person who insists on doing things the very hardest way possible. Just because. They had either always done it that way or don't have the energy to learn a new way. I've pushed my advice on these people, but to no avail. You can't teach someone who doesn't want to learn. No need to waste your energy on it.

Good luck! And, by the way, you're a good guy for wanting to help other riders.
Lets analyze this...peloton
Sep 30, 2001 7:46 AM
Kristen's right. I hear you when it comes to wanting to help out someone who looks like they need it, but a lot of people take well minded advice as being looked down upon. I wait until people ask if I don't know them very well. I just try to be friendly to obviously new riders when on the road. If they percieve the cycling community as being friendly, then they may be more inclined to ask questions. When people ask questions, it empowers them to feel like they knew something needed change instead of being percieved as ignorant when they are told, even if it was well meant advice.
Sep 30, 2001 5:51 AM
As somebody old enough to remember when everybody had a "road" bike, and the lousy riders who came with them, I would say that it is best to let such cluless riders give up on their own.
In the "good" old days, dozens of people used to show up for rides that didn't know how to ride, how to maintain theier (usually cheap) bikes, and who were likely to lose interest after 2 months. The serious ones asked for advice, or sought it out on their own.
I'm perfectly content to have every "casual" rider on mountain bike clones-they are less dangerous that way. And if some guy spends $$$$ on a road bike, doesn't know haow to ride it and sells it, well, that's one more good deal for us used bike scavengers.
If the guy wants advice, he will ask. Otherwise, give him room and pass him by.
Oct 1, 2001 6:29 AM
I'm also old enough to remember the road bike only era. Unlike you I wasn't fortunate enough to be born wearing wool riding shorts and spinning my feet at 90 rpm. Lots of people helped me and it wasn't because I was such a willing listener. They believed, as I do now, that more riders on the roads is good for all of us and that helping newcomers enjoy riding is one of the ways we make that happen.
re: How do you help really bad new riders?roy Zipris
Sep 30, 2001 12:19 PM
I don't see anything wrong about introducing yourself and asking if he minds some suggestions. He's then free to tell you yes or no. If he says yes (he minds), apologize for disturbing him and ride on your way. If he wants to listen, you've made a cycling friend and helped another rider get better.
Just don't ask when he gasping for every cc of oxygen as he labors up that hill watching his speed drop from 8 to 7 to 6 to 5...
Well, you could casually mention a cycling-specificSpinchick
Sep 30, 2001 1:07 PM
message board where he might find some helpful advice. Hmmm, let's see, isn't there one called I would have been glad for someone to point out this and other cycling sites when I first started riding seriously. This way, he's free to look it up if he wants and can find out basic info without having to ask questions he might think are "stupid." Just make sure you mention the search feature :-).
I like this technique . . .LAIrish
Sep 30, 2001 1:49 PM
How about turning your suggestion into a question:

Hi. Howya doin? Nice day to ride, eh?

No, I'm not Canadian, but I play one on TV. Heh, heh. No, not really.

Hey. Can I ask you a question? I read on all the bike websites and the magazines that you should have your seat high enough so that your heel barely touches the pedals when your legs are straight. But I've been thinking of lowering mine down, like you've got yours. I've been thinking it might give me better leverage. How does it work for you?

Really? Thanks. I guess maybe I'll try it. (or not, depending on his/her answer.)
re: How do you help really bad new riders?Birddog
Sep 30, 2001 3:04 PM
Great day for a ride isn't! Hey I used to ride a POS almost exactly like that. I had it for about a year when one day a guy rode up alongside me all decked out in Lycra/spandex and Coolmax with logos splattered all over the place and asked me if I'd like to ride faster and more efficiently. I said well sure, what fool wouldn't. He told me to raise the seat up till I could just touch the pedals without my hips rocking. He said if I couldn't do it on my own, any LBS would help me for next to nothing and it would be well worth it. Next thing I knew, I had dropped three grand on a bike and had a drawerful of the stretchy high tech stuff myself. Well, don't say I didn't warn you, see ya and keep your feet out of the spokes!
I've done this with success.Len J
Sep 30, 2001 4:49 PM
Slow down as you come up behind him, so your not obvious. Gradually pull alongside & offer encouragement, you know, "this hill really sucks doesn't it" Strike up a conversation, ask him how long he's been riding, etc. Don't be condesending, just one roadie talking to another. Before you know it, if he's interested in learning, he'll ask you questions that will allow you to offer advice. Works every time, as long as your willing to invest some time.

Great question Cory, so sounds like you are the type who would invest the time.


p.s. sometimes people don't want any help, that's OK too, at least it's thier choice.
tough callDog
Oct 1, 2001 7:01 AM
Generally, I'd avoid giving unsolicted advice.

Last spring, while riding through the desert on the first day of a 4 day "tour" (508 Spring Camp), I was riding a little behind someone with the worst possible form. She was knees out, and grinding this insanely large gear, loping over at about 35 rpms - just looked awful. But, she was moving along at 20 mph or so.

I started talking to her a little while later. My urge to give advice quickly dissappeared when she said, "Hi, I'm Seana." Oops - Seana Hogan, the women's transcontinental record holder, the fastest woman (and 99.999th percentile overall) ultra distance rider.

So, you never know.

But, if they guy truly needed advice, I'd just take it gradually. Start off with "nice bike", or something like that. Then, later, "I've been messing around with seat heights. How do you like yours down low like that?" "I tried it like that, and it hurt my knees..." Then progress so that he doesn't even realize you are giving advice.

Boy there is a lesson in that!Len J
Oct 1, 2001 12:13 PM
Sometimes what we think is true is not true.

I need to remember this.

Miss Manners says...mr_spin
Oct 1, 2001 7:38 AM
Keep your nose out, in general. But if you do insist on helping, you have to phrase it properly to avoid insulting or patronizing the person. And you shouldn't do in with other people around, to avoid embarassment. It's really an art, which is why professional diplomats exist!

If you insist, start a conversation and then drop in a line such as "Gee, last week I raised my seat a bit and it has done wonders. I feel so much stronger." (Note: it doesn't have to be true.) Or, "Did you see Lance in the Tour? The guy must know what he's doing spinning those low gears uphill. I've been using lower gears on climbs ever since."
re: How do you help really bad new riders?Icefrk13
Oct 1, 2001 8:06 AM
I am one of those new riders, and I am always willing and welcoming advice from better riders, on anything when it comes to helping me ride better, and get into shape faster.
Be carefulStarliner
Oct 1, 2001 8:31 AM
Giving advise to strangers can be a dicey thing to do - the other posters came up with several good reasons why that's so.

However, if you must, then do it carefully. I'd like to add one thought to what has been advised by others -- keep your advice simple, easy to follow, and in few words. You might have seen several things this guy is doing wrong. Choose one to solve and leave the rest for later. If he is receptive, then he'll probably be open for more suggestions once he realizes the benefits of your wisdom. If he ignores you, then you'll know better than to further waste your breath on him.
Oct 1, 2001 1:30 PM
Unfortunately you've got to let them stew. Anything else and you're asking for it unless you know the person. Who knows maybe his wife filed for divorce that day and he's not a happy camper. The best thing to do is to get a conversation going at a rest stop or at the end of the ride. A perfect lead in is when they ask how you're so fast/strong/etc. - you don't always get this opening or chance, but to do otherwise may be sticking you nose somewhere it doesn't belong. Obviously some people are more diplomatic than others. It's funny - in the MTB world most people have no problems giving/receiving advice. I think it has to do with the fact that just getting out and on a trail puts you in a differrent frame of mind and people bond by simply being out in the woods.
grzy makes me think of golfDog
Oct 1, 2001 1:46 PM
I'm a horrible golfer. I keep score by the number of balls I lose. Although they have the best of intentions, I cannot stand the fact that everyone on the darn course wants to give me lessons before, during, and after every shot. I get so tired of it. Half the time they screw me up worse than I was already. When I want lessons I'll pay for them (or visit an internet forum) :-)