For those of us who love to ride, there’s a strong pull to get our friends and family on bikes. Perhaps it’s evangelism, but perhaps it’s merely that we want to be able to spend bike time in their good company.
If you’ve got people in your life you hope to inspire onto a bike, here are some ideas. An inspire ts a carefully chosen word here – forcing, guilting or other negative approaches are approaches fraught with failure and the potential to damage friendships.
Get the bike set up
Find out what is the condition of your friend’s bike with a quick phone call to go over the basics. Are both wheels on? (good sign) Do the brakes touch the handlebars? (no good). If you determine the bike is basically rideable, plan a visit to your friend’s house with plenty of time to get the bike set up. Bring a helmet, lock and lights if your friend doesn’t already have these items.
When you visit, pump up the tires, oil the chain and give the bike a look-over. If it looks safe to ride, plan a short trip. If the bike needs work, suggest taking it to a shop – TOGETHER. If possible, go on a weekday or early weekend morning when the shop is less busy and can give you more thoughtful attention.
Plan a Short, Fun Trip
We know, you WANT to take your friend bikepacking or on a long adventure, but if he or she is newly getting back on the bike, it’s best to start with a short trip that will end in glee, not frustration. This leaves a much better biking impression. Here are a few of our favorite starter rides:
- Head out in the morning to a breakfast place nearby.
- Ride to a farmer’s market. YOU bring the carrying capacity and let your friend ride free (unless she/he is ambitious). Afterwards, make a snack from the treats you gathered at the market or stop for coffee.
- Head to the store and buy fixins for a BBQ, then head home and enjoy the bounty you gathered.
- Arrive at your friend’s house with EVERYTHING necessary for a picnic! Ride to a nearby park and enjoy a summer day on two wheels.
- Join in on a fun event, like a Pedalpalooza ride or other free short-ride event. The energy of a crowd is infectious! Your friend will be inspired to see so many other bike loving people.
- Head to another friend’s house for a visit, something under 3 miles.
- Cruise around a neighborhood you like and stop for a beer, wine, coffee, window browsing.
- Plan to ride together to an event for which your friend would have otherwise driven, but something closer than 6 miles away. Meet together at his/her house and ride together.
Keep at it
If your friend says no or gives excuses but is still expressing a desire to ride more, help with gentle pushes and AWESOMELY fun opportunities. We like this sort of approach: “Hey, a group of us is going to ride down to the Waterfront Blues Fest together. We are planning to meet first at XYZ bar that’s around the corner from your house. Why don’t you meet us for a drink and we can all ride down together?”
Keep it Fun
During the ride, avoid criticism or correcting. Instead, lead by example. Smart people will catch on to what you’re doing with respectful and safe riding behavior. Be open to answering a million questions (hopefully your friend asks!) and approach all inquiries with an enthusiastic and friendly response.
Go slowly on the road, avoid making harsh maneuvers, don’t squeeze through yellow lights.
Make your turns known in advance. “In two streets, we’re going to turn left.” Knowing what’s coming makes the ride much ore comfortable to a new rider, who likely has a lot of thoughts rushing through his or her head.
Whatever you do, keep your approach lighthearted, fun and positive. Hard pushing creates resistance. Inspire!
Seal the Deal with Rewards!
We’re never too old to love rewards. Sure, a 3 mile ride may not seem like a big deal TO YOU, but it might be for your friend, even if she/he doesn’t act like it. It’s not so much the distance as it is the fact that you did it – you got out on a ride. So celebrate!
Beers afterwards. Go out for dinner. Stop for a snack. Something!
How will your friend remember your ride? Hopefully as a tasty and fun day spent with a good friend.