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Cycling For Noobs – Some Ideas for How to Bring Them Along… And Get Along.

I wrote the other day that I’ve embroiled myself in a bit of a controversy.  At the heart of this is an article written for People for Bikes entitled “Introducing People to Biking (Without Ruining Their Day)”.  The tips, almost every one, threw me for a loop because I made a mistake.  I’m just as geeked about helping noobs fall in love with cycling as the next guy (as can be seen on my “Noob’s Guide to Cycling” page where I’ve got more than thirty posts – more than 25,000 words dedicated to helping noobs avoid the same pitfalls that tripped me up) but I thought the tips in that article were just plain silly.  My mistake was conflating “biking” and “cycling”.

The linked article comes at bringing people into the world of biking from a completely different angle than I do when I write about cycling, from what I would call the “little rose bud” angle.

As I often do, because I’m not perfect and I am immature from time to time (it’s a symptom of being a drunk, and it’s not all that easy to fix, but I’m trying), I went all off on a tangent and will probably end up offending a few people for no better reason than I’m tired of the delicate rose buds and their incessant whining that everyone should treat everyone else like delicate little rose buds so that they can be watered and nurtured and loved, and oh, isn’t it all just so wonderful!  I may get misty – or puke.

The important truth is, there are several ways to bring noobs up.  For instance, if any of the guys had shown up to the advanced ride on their $3,000 race bikes in cargo shorts with tennis shoes and platform pedals with sandals on to make me “feel better”, I’d have laughed at them on my first day.  I worked my butt off to get ready to ride with that group.  I put in probably 3,000 solo miles before I even thought I should give that a go.  I didn’t mess around, and for one reason in particular:  I wanted to ride with the big dogs.  I knew it was my job to fit in, not someone else’s to fit me in…  And I wanted to ride, not putt about town on a $100 full suspension Huffy.  And therein lies the rub.

There are people out there who need to be brought in gently, to be coddled and catered to – and a small percentage of them may wind up making decent cyclists once they break free.  On the other hand, there are the go-getters as well – the cyclists, like me, who don’t need any of the hand-holding foo-foo stuff.  I can remember my very first day riding with the Tuesday night group, the advanced group, the everybody gets dropped group… this guy comes up to me and starts complaining that cyclists aren’t like runners because he only rides 16 mph and he didn’t appreciate getting dropped, that someone wouldn’t fall back and ride back with him.  I was offended and it was everything I could do to leave my response at, “well I guess you’d better learn to ride faster”.  See, when a noob decides to get off the porch and ride with the big boys and girls, it’s up to the noob to keep up.  Folks, that guy was riding with the wrong group.  Imagine me, in the no-drop group, complaining that they weren’t fast enough.  Folks, I’d kick my own ass.

A noob might like for me to wait up for him, to change how I dress so he (or she) doesn’t feel like a dork, to ride with platform pedals on my race bike – but that and a buck will get you a cup of coffee, because I’m a guy like me…  I don’t care about a noob’s bullshit feeling because I didn’t place any value on my bullshit feeling when I came into cycling (notice I used the singular “feeling” – yes, that’s on purpose).  I worked hard to earn the respect of the people I ride with.  I expect the same out of anyone who would hope to ride with me… and I don’t care if someone (or a small group of someone’s) out there doesn’t like it – I’m perfectly okay with you riding with someone else.

Except for one person…

There is only one person out of the seven or eight billion on this planet who gets the patient, tolerant me.  I put a ring on her finger and riding with her is more important to me than the speed and awesomeness of cycling.  Of course, guess which night she doesn’t ride with me.  That’s right, Tuesday night, because that’s my time to be an animal and she respects that I need that.  See how that works?  My wife respects that my Tuesday night is important to me…

The final point is the bow that wraps this whole thing up:  There is room in cycling for all cyclists in the sport.  From the toughest pro, all the way down to the most delicate little rose buds.  Due to that range, there exists a wide variety of ways to bring noobs into the sport, from slapping them on the ass and calling them Mary to making sure that each and every little thing is perfect and rosy and that the noob’s every whim and fancy is looked after, so they can feel special.

We go-getters can make a deal with the nurturers:  We’ll handle the go-getter noobs and you handle the delicate flowers…  Just do us a favor, eh?

We won’t expect you to be like us – we won’t smack you on the ass and call you Mary, if you’ll simply return the favor by not expecting us to be like you.  You’re just as wrong and arrogant to think I should be like you as I am to hope you can (or would even want to) be like me.

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