How to encourage a reluctant cyclist

Rachel trying out a Boris bike on last year’s London Skyride

Do you know how to encourage a reluctant cyclist?  Someone you’re trying to convince about the joys of cycling?  Someone who always says “did I ever mention how much I hate cycling?” or perhaps “if you EVER suggest we go for another bike ride…..”.

You get the picture?  Great.  Here’s a few things that, if you’re a keen cyclist with a wife who just doesn’t appreciate the wonders of cycling, you could consider as a way of breaking the barriers down…..


Sky have done a fantastic service in getting so many people out on their bikes.  Having enjoyed the London Skyride in 2009 and 2010 with my daughters, Rachel conceded it might be “worth a look” when we decided to take part in the 2011 London Skyride.  Initially there was no suggestion of Rachel actually taking part as she doesn’t have a bike.  We drove into London, parked easily in Westminster and set off on our bikes and left Rachel to enjoy the entertainment and general comings and goings in St James’ park.  When we caught up with her she was tempted to have a go – so we hired a Boris bike (easier said than done!).  Just as soon as we’d done that it started to rain!

Nevertheless, in spite of the rain, we had a great time.  In all seriousness events like the Skyride are a brilliant way of getting people cycing – including youngsters and anyone not so confident.

Women-only rides

Over the last year or so Cycletta events have started to spring up.  Aimed at a whole cross section of female cyclists there are opportunities to go on organised cycle rides in a way which minimises any of the stresses that can crop up.  I reckon it would be a relaxed, easy going atmosphere and very un-threatening.

I’ve just had a look at their web site (which is excellent) and I’d encourage any would-be women cyclists here in the UK to take a look.

With women in mind, I can’t fail to mention what a fantastic year 2012 has been with the stunning success of Lizzie Armitstead, Victoria Pendleton et al in the Olympics.  I think they’ve contributed significantly to the whole cause of cycling in the UK and I hope the momentum really carries on rolling.

Test rides

Some bike shops, such as Evans, will allow people to try out a bike before the deal is done. This is really helpful for a whole load of reasons.  It’s worth mentioning that a decent bike shop will be keen to make sure a new bike is adjusted so it’s a good fit.  By that I refer to the saddle and handlebar position and checking to make sure the brake levers are easy to use etc.

Sponsored bike rides

These can be great fun and often suitable for the whole family.  There are also a number of more ambitious challenges that can be done as part of a more organised event (i.e. London to Paris).

Hiring a bike at a beauty spot

We’ve done this a few times when we’ve been on holiday and it’s a great way of exploring a new area and especially good if it involves cycle tracks or Sustran routes .  From memory we have done this on the Tarka trail in Devon and the Tissington trail in Derbyshire.  Both of these offer miles of easy cycling and completely car-free.  As they are on old railway courses, there are no steep climbs.

Coast to Coast

Completing our 2012 C2C ride and dipping our tyres into the North Sea

Undertaking a set route is worth considering and there are many great challenges here in the UK.  Even with the C2C there are a number of possible routes and these are fantastic things to do as a family.  To make things easier you can book accommodation along the route in advance so you are assured of somewhere nice to stay.  Additionally you could, as we did, work it so there is a car back-up if needed.

Wrapping up

It is easy for regular cyclists to be puzzled, frustrated, perplexed or even exasperated when someone struggles with the idea of cycling, especially if it is a long time since they were last on two wheels.  But you don’t have to go straight from nothing to riding a challenging 100 mile day ride in one go.  Sure there must be numerous gentle easy routes within reach of many people.

Considering cycling has so much going for it, it’s surprising so few adults do cycle these days, though happily there does seem to be an upward trend.  This might be the Wiggo effect from the Tour de France and the London Olympic Games or simply because many are recognising the health benefits of cycling.

That’s all very well but I still have to contend with some (now) classics…..

“If you ever think I’m going to cycle EVER again”

“Did I tell you I HATE cycling”

“Why can’t we take the bikes for a walk instead of riding them?”

“How much exactly did you spend on that new bike of yours?”

“It’s too windy, hilly, hot, cold…… and it’s all your fault!”


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  1. Pingback: The Busway's Reluctant Cyclist | The Cycle Hub

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