Here are a few things to avoid when you’re trying to teach someone to love riding as much as you do.
Don’t start on the street
You want someone to feel completely at ease the first time they sit on a bike saddle, and unless you live in an empty cul-de-sac, the street will never be the place for that. Start your new rider in an empty parking lot, trail, or park.
Don’t use training wheels
You don’t need a special bike to teach the glide method—just take the pedals off an ordinary bike and lower the seat so the new cyclist can sit on the saddle with both feet on the ground. Teach them to push off with their feet and glide on the bike. Once they can safely balance for a few seconds, add the pedals back, move the seat up, and teach them to pedal.
Don’t start them on an ill-fitting bike
Sure, your ride student isn’t going to climb Mount Washington or embark on a cross-country bike tour the minute you teach them how to turn their pedals. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t start out on a bike that fits comfortably.
Find a bike they can easily stand over without making contact with the top tube and reach the handlebars without straining. No one wants to keep riding on a too-large bike that’s scary to mount and dismount. Even better, get them a proper bike fit so everything is set up properly from the start.
Don’t hold on to the bike and push or run alongside
Let them build momentum through their own pedal strokes.
Don’t pressure them to go too fast or far, too soon
You’re excited. You just taught your kid, spouse, best friend, or an unwitting stranger how to successfully pedal a bike. But pump the brakes for a minute there—this doesn’t necessarily mean you have a new ride partner or tandem stroker.
Let them practice for a while at their own pace. Let them learn to slow-roll around a parking lot or around a trail. Don’t push them to ride on the road or take on more mileage than they’re prepared to.
Don’t push your own goals and agenda on them
This one is similar to “don’t pressure them to go too fast or far” but has more to do with end goals.
Once you’ve successfully got a new cyclist pedaling, don’t treat the event like it’s a training ride for bigger, more exciting bike rides. You want them to get the hang of riding a bike and possibly fall in love with it from there—not feel pressured to progress to the next level. You’re teaching someone how to ride, not molding a new cyclist in your own image.
Don’t Forget that it should be fun!
It’s easy to get frustrated when someone just isn’t picking up the valuable lessons you’re putting down, and make a quick foray into drill-sergeant territory. But being patient, upbeat, and making the process seem silly and fun can go a long way toward putting a brand-new bike rider at ease.