In our humble opinion, cycling is the best sport in the world. If you’re struggling to convince your friends of this, here are a few suggestions that may help.
By Alison Ingleby; cover image credot: Garry Knight
If you’re reading this, you probably have more than a passing interest in pedal power already. Sadly, as with every fundamental truth, there will be people who disagree. And when they’re your friends, that can lead to difficult conversations and arguments over who’s buying the next round of drinks.
With the cycling season in full swing, you have a valid excuse to witter on about chain sets, chamois cream and Team Sky’s performance in Tour de France the whole summer, right? Needless to say, if you genuinely want to get your friends into this fabulous sport, this is not the best way to go about it.
Instead, put yourself in their non-cleated shoes. What are the benefits for them? Why would they enjoy cycling? But don’t ram it down their throats. If your idea of subtle is knocking your friends over the head with a bike pump before dumping them at the bottom of the Bealach-na-Bar, here are a few suggestions on how to convince your nearest and dearest that cycling really is the best sport ever.
Sell the Benefits of Cycling
Start in the pub. Or round your mate’s house. Or at the tea-point at work. Begin to casually weave into conversation some of the many benefits of cycling. Done well, this is an opportunity to indoctrinate subtly convince your friends that cycling is a fun thing to do.
The success to this lies in the word subtle. For example:
Your friend: “It took me nearly two hours to get home from work last night. A bit of sun and the trains grind to a halt.”
You: “Really? What a nightmare. It was a lovely evening for cycling; I took the long route home by the river for a change.”
Your friend: “I thought you rode in on <insert main road here>?”
You (leaning back nonchalantly): “Sometimes, but when the weather’s like this, it’s nice to explore the backroads. It’s still quicker than the train. And much nicer than being packed in like cattle on a sweaty carriage.”
Your friend: “Hmmm.”
Remember to keep the conversation positive. Talking about your near miss with the Number 82 bus is unlikely to convince anyone to give cycling a go.
Take Them on a Gentle Ride
Once you’ve laid the groundwork, it’s time to move onto step two. The test ride. If you’ve done a good job of selling the benefits, one of your friends may even suggest this for you. (Tip: if you have a newbie cycling friend, rope them in for the job.)
It’s important to remember is that this is not a training ride, a race or an opportunity to show off your fancy new bike. In fact, if your friends don’t own bikes, why not all hire bikes together? That way you’re on a level playing field.
A few tips to make your test ride a success:
- Pick a nice sunny day. Riding into lashing rain is not going to endear anyone to the sport.
- Make it a GENTLE ride. Preferably flattish. Though a nice downhill section may offer that wonderful coasting, ‘wind-through-your-hair’ experience.
- And slow. That means you can’t scoot off at your usual Strava-record pursuing pace.
- Make sure that there’s a pub/tea-room/café en route. And that it’s open. . .
- Stick to cycle paths or quiet roads and have some interesting stuff to look at along the way.
- Don’t turn up in your super-skimpy Lycra. (Unless y’know, your friends are into that kind of thing.)
There are lots of great suggestions for short, traffic-free cycling routes on the Sustrans website.
Introduce Them to Other Newbie Cyclists
Many people get put off cycling because they think you have to: a) be fit, b) have an expensive bike and c) squeeze your quivering thighs into tight clothing. And if you fall into all three of these categories, that’s only going to reinforce their opinion.
You need to show them that cycling is not all about high-tech gear, Lycra tights and steep hills. (No really, it isn’t.) Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to join low-key, social rides through Ride Social and local cycling groups.
Appeal to Their Wallet
Commuting is an expensive game, costing the average employee £1,087 a year. You can get a nice bike for that. In the more expensive parts of the country (cough, London, cough), season tickets can add up to over £4,000 a year. You can get a very nice bike for that.
If your friends are wincing at the cost of their commute, it may be time to introduce them to the benefits of the Ride-to-Work scheme.
Your friend: “Train fares have gone up again. Honestly, for the service they provide. . .”
You: “Extortionate, isn’t it? If I had to get the train in every day, I’d be flat broke.”
Your friend: “Well, you still have that expensive bike to pay for. Besides, I live too far out to cycle in.”
You: “Not that expensive – cheaper than your season ticket and I got a 42% tax saving through Ride-to-Work. I reckon you could get the train part way in, skip the expensive final section and get a nice folding bike for the last bit of the journey.”
Offer Them a Challenge
Once your friends have taken their first tentative steps into the world of two wheels, it’s time to up the ante. After all, who can resist a challenge?
Pick a local, friendly, non-competitive event. (Not that 100-mile road race you’ve had your eye on.) An event with multiple distances, such as a RIDE IT sportive, is ideal. Your friends can tackle a shorter ride while you stretch your legs on a longer one and you can all indulge in some well-earned cake at the end.
When they’re basking in the glow of having smashed their first sportive, that is the time to ask the magic question: “So, cycling’s not that bad, right?” And if you’ve done your job well, you’ll get a grudging smile in response.