7 Jun 2016


Few things beat the pleasure cycling brings – but sharing your passion with a friend who’s new to cycling, and watching them find that passion for themselves, comes close. Yet it’s not as easy as you might think. If they’re entirely new to cycling – or returning to cycling as an adult who hasn’t ridden since childhood, it’s easy to overestimate their fledgling abilities, and even easier to put them off. So how can you best help?

 1. Help them get the right frame

The most important part of any bike is the frame – everything else can be upgraded as you go, but if the frame is poor or doesn’t fit, the benefits will be lost. Show them how to get the right frame size – see our road frame and MTB frame sizing features – to start with, and point out the smaller adjustments that can be made with bars, stems, seatposts.

Entry-level bikes tend to be aluminum, but are increasingly available with carbon forks: the boost to comfort and handling is worthwhile. However, futureproof features such as disc mounts, thru-axles and tapered head tubes are more worthwhile still. Shiny treats such as well-specced rear mechs and carbon components can easily distract, but at this stage the frame is key. It’s easy to upgrade road and modify MTB bikes including wheels, gearing, cockpits and drivetrains as you go – in fact, that’s half the fun!

Help your friend get set up, first with the correct frame size, then get the cockpit and components right for them

2. Help them set it up

How many riders have you seen sweating up hills and squealing down them with saddles, bars and levers in all kinds of unhelpful places? While you might not be able to stop and help every badly set-up commuter you pass, but you can do your best for your friends and family. Tailoring the angles and distances of the cockpit-seat-crank triangle makes a huge distance to comfort, control and fatigue, but new riders are easily led into bad habits by random standard settings. Look also a tire pressures and lever reach adjustments. Your experience will tell you if they actually need a different stem, shorter-drop bars, new bar tape or any other replacement parts.

3. Advise them on clothing

You don’t need all the kit to start with, but a helmet is essential – €65 seems fair insurance for an irreplaceable head. Quality padded shorts are also valuable, and gloves are very cheap, rarely too warm, and save you skinning your palms in a crash. Decent shoes are worth a more serious investment if and when your friend is ready to go clipless. Good clipless shoes can be had for as little as €85, while decent pedals are from around €50 upwards – there’s no need to spend hundreds on carbon soles yet, that’s a treat for later on! The truth is that for may genuinely new riders it’s better to start with cheap flat pedals and trainers – not good for efficiency, but far better for building confidence, especially while learning riding techniques and safety with road-going traffic. Efficiency doesn’t really matter if the fitness isn’t there yet, and all being well, the fitness will develop along with the confidence and you’ll be able to judge the right time to advise them to clip in.

Getting the right clothing to start will help with confidence as well as performance – and the move to clipless pedals is an important step!

4. Don’t overwhelm them

You know more than you realise, but your knowledge has come through experience. Your friend isn’t going to pick it all up over one or two rides! They’re going to need to make their own mistakes. Also, don’t take them out on some gigantic epic, or straight up and down the most challenging hills you know. You’ll put them off. Suggest a goal – a race, an event, a cafe with great coffee and cake – that’s actually achievable.

5. Go for variety

This is not only better for developing fitness – but also for education, sparking interest and reward. Mix up distances, terrain, rider numbers and levels of effort, and don’t forget to let them rest between rides. Recovery is a vital part of getting stronger. If the bug really starts to bite, point them towards a heart monitor  to really help make their training as effective as possible.