12 August 2007
In the beginning...
Beginning cycling must concentrate first and foremost on fun. It must be fun to ride a bike.
The difficult question is: what is fun? We must answer this question by looking closely at the cycler, the beginning cycler in our case. This can be a child, an adult in good shape, an adult in really bad shape, an adult who barely knows how to ride. (And on and on ad nauseum.) We may be dealing with a person who barely remembers how a bicycle shifts gears. Why three big cogs up front and all those little ones in the back? We mustn't take the newbie for granted. We must explain some basics first. Why two brakes? Why not just one in the back or one in the front? How should we use them and when?
We must explain basic handling. How to keep the bike straight on the road; how to maintain our position on the road, relative to cars, pedestrians, etc. We must explain the importance of "feeling" the bike. You know that feeling of maintaining control, knowing how long it takes us to stop, what happens when we brake hard or when we "feather" our brakes ever so slightly to slow us down just a bit so we regain control under the right speeds. Let's feel the fun of what a bike is, what it does and what we can experience/do with it. It's way too zen for me, but it's true: we must try to feel one with the bike.
Let's know very, very slowly what our limits are. (Again, let us know ourselves or the people we are helping to get started.) Let's take a careful look at our route, at the hills we may encounter, the traffic, the weather conditions, and how we may handle different sorts of situations. (It was sunny when we left and now it's raining and the road might just be slick.)
Let's learn to stop when we can't go any further. (Let's do that with everything in our lives and then we'd really begin talking about knowing ourselves.) It's alright to stop today -- our knees are beginning to hurt -- and to try tomorrow and see if we can improve on today's performance. One terrible experience in the beginning may be the end of cycling for a person. We should not take this lightly and we shall not take for granted what others can do and what their reasonable limitations may be. So we shall begin slowly and increase our time on the bike slowly. We must be patient. We should ride three or four times a week if we can maintain those outings -- resting in between those rides so we ride one day and rest the next day and so on. This is only the beginning folks! (I prefer days off between rides whenever possible. It works for me. Think about how it may work for you or the beginner you are coaching.) We must make those first outing "easy", moderate, at cruising speeds, taking advantage of these easy-fun rides to get us acquainted with the bike and with good technique on the bike.
We must know the importance of rest and how critical it will be to our cycling and to our progress on the bike. Ride + Rest = Fun. We cannot have fun if we do not feel good, if we do not feel the bike, if we do not progress.
All of this I'm thinking out loud to start my wife on her riding program. Slowly.