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  1. #1
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    Getting someone interested in cycling.

    I have a sister, a college student, who has expressed interest in bicycling.

    She doesn't know the first thing about bikes, and can't remember ever being taught how to ride (if you can believe it).

    Last year, she purchased a Huffy bike for 50 bucks at a pawnshop, left it in our garage, and went off on a study-abroad program for six months. She's back, and says that she's still interested in learning to ride, but when I offered to take her out to a parking lot and teach her, she said that she was "scared".

    I'm worried, for several reasons.

    She doesn't seem very "passionate" about it. She talks about getting fit and how a bike would be great for that, but has no real goals, and I'm worried that this bike will end up like the rollerblades she bought and never used.

    Also, I think her bike is a piece of junk. It's got rust, the brakes are messed up, and you can't shift gears without hearing random clunking, screeching sounds. If she takes it on the road, I think it'll probably kill her.

    In the past, I've kidded her about her "pawnshop bike", and told her she needs to spend a couple hundred bucks to get a decent starter bike, but I think it hurts her feelings. She calls me an "elitist". Right now she's broke, and doesn't have the money to get a new one. Am I just being prejudiced, and all this thing needs is some time at a LBS?

    Also, she has plantar fasciits and knee pain. Is it a bad idea for her to ride a bike?

    I don't know how to teach her to ride. I was planning on just letting her sit on the seat, and scoot along to learn balance. Does anybody have any teaching advice?

    What can I do to help her become a serious, competent, safe bike rider?
    Last edited by johndavis; 07-08-09 at 04:49 PM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    You can adjust the brakes, clean and lube the chain, and make sure the wheels are reasonably true. Take off the pedals and lower the saddle so she can push it along with her feet to get the feel of balance and control. Find some friends she can ride with, as dont think she would like to ride with an elitist snob like you.

  3. #3
    Prefers Aluminum Sprocket Man's Avatar
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    I would recommend helping her by fixing the bike up and extending her the offer to help her get comfortable on it. After you do that, I'd let it go and wait for her to make the next move. I've never taught an adult to ride a bike before, but I imagine that it's harder than teaching a child because adults usually have more hangups and they fall harder. I don't mean to sound pessimistic, but unless she demonstrates a strong willingness to tackle the learning curve, she probably will not end up being a cyclist.

    That said, kudos for being a cool brother.

  4. #4
    Commuter & cyclotourist brianogilvie's Avatar
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    You mentioned her interest in fitness. You can point out that cycling is a great exercise: it's easy to hit the sweet spot between walking and running, and it's low impact on the joints. Plus it's a great way to get to know where you live.

    But you've got to start with her goals and interests. It's no crime to not be passionate about cycling: you can be interested in it without making it the focus of your life. If she tries and decides that it's not for her, that's her prerogative.

    If the bike she has is what she can afford, then focus on fixing it up: lube it, adjust the shifting, and replace anything that is clearly dangerous. If her college has a bike co-op, she can go there for a better (used) bike if she decides that riding is something that she wants to continue.

    I don't know whether plantar fasciitis is a problem for cycling; I had a mild bout during my running days but fortunately it passed. I did develop recurring knee problems when running, which is one reason I got into cycling. You should make sure her saddle is high enough (knees just slightly bent at the longest extension, or fully extended when the heel is on the low pedal) and encourage her to spin quickly in a low gear (I aim for 80-90 rpm) instead of using too high a gear and stressing the knee.

    AndrewP's advice on learning to ride is good: take off the pedals, lower the saddle, and focus on coasting downhill, balancing, and braking. Once she's mastered that, replace the pedals, raise the seat to the proper height, and she should be good to go.

  5. #5
    cyclepath daredevil's Avatar
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    I turned my brother on to cycling several years ago. He just thanked me today.

    If you are passionate about it, that will come through. Keep trying and good luck.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    "Without music, life would be a mistake."
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  6. #6
    Senior Member JonathanGennick's Avatar
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    Don't worry about the bike ending up like the rollerblades. Sometimes you have to go through a few different activities before you latch on to one that you like enough to continue with.

    Even biking, per se, isn't all that important. If one can find an activity, any activity, that they enjoy, that gets them outdoors and moving around, that results in exercise and resulting good fitness, then that's a wonderful thing. Biking is but one of many choices. (And biking, of course, also has a very practical & utilitarian aspect as well, which can be exploited for fitness).

  7. #7
    don't try this at home. rm -rf's Avatar
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    I've heard of this method:
    lower the seat until the feet touch the ground.
    take off the pedals.
    find a grassy slight downhill slope.
    practice coasting down and braking.
    practice turning a bit.
    now put the pedals back on and practice coasting with feet on the pedals.
    pedal!

    For example, see Post #16 of this mountain bike thread.

  8. #8
    aka Tom Reingold noglider's Avatar
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    I've taught many adults and children to ride a bike. I also use the technique of lowering the seat and removing the pedals. Handling has to be learned before pedaling.

    A good way to assuage the fear is to go to a soft grassy area, rolling slowly, and deliberately falling on your side. Do this yourself before telling your student to do the same. Once she realizes that falling is quite survivable, she can take better risks.

    But the big question is how motivated she is. Let her take the lead. Make offers, and let her take or leave them.

    One smaller question is whether she wants you as her teacher. Sometimes, these things are better taught by someone who is not a family member.
    You don't read my signature anyway, do you?

    Tom Reingold, noglider@pobox.com
    Residences: West Village, New York City and High Falls, NY
    Blogs: The Experienced Cyclist; noglider's ride blog

  9. #9
    Senior Member Kimmitt's Avatar
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    Yeah, the big thing is to be in the frame of mind of meeting her needs. If she's po', accept that. Heck, if it's important to you she get a decent bike, why not buy her one? You can sell it if she ends up not being into it.

    Make clear that you're trying to share something you're passionate about. But don't be cynical or dismissive. Just share. It's so easy in this life to get wrapped up in the things we care about and forget why we started liking them in the first place. Or to get so in ourselves that we don't pay the right kind of attention to our family's needs.
    Last edited by Kimmitt; 07-09-09 at 05:32 PM. Reason: typo
    I see unexamined people. All the time. I don't think they know they're unexamined.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Flying Merkel's Avatar
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    I had a layoff from cycling for years. What got me back into it was a dumpster find beach cruiser. Easy to ride, no fuss. A bad beach cruiser is a far better bike than a bad multispeed hand-braked anything. If she's learning to ride, the less to items to worry about the better.

  11. #11
    aka Tom Reingold noglider's Avatar
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    Convert it to fixie for her!

    JUST KIDDING!
    You don't read my signature anyway, do you?

    Tom Reingold, noglider@pobox.com
    Residences: West Village, New York City and High Falls, NY
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  12. #12
    Pedal pusher... alicestrong's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noglider View Post
    Convert it to fixie for her!

    JUST KIDDING!


    Ha ha! Hey I don't know his sister, but that might not be bad advice, depending on how "trendy" she is.

    Brother could buy her a cute bike from Urban Outfitters with some Risky Business shades to go with it!
    May you live long, live strong, and live happy!

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