Last Sunday my good friend Brianna shocked the living crap out of me by saying she wanted to go biking. Normally we’re ragemode buddies, but earlier this year we did some hiking/jogging, so now we’re kind of health-exercise buddies too since we have similar goals. An interesting juxtaposition…together we enable phases of reckless behavior in one another, followed by a phases of beneficial efforts. A bacchanalia – penance cycle. Whatever.
We opted for George Pierce Park since they have now finished reconstructing the Suwanee Greenway and we could ride it all the way to Suwanee Creek park. This is the PERFECT trail for a first timer. There are no -real- climbs, but there is still a little bit of work…and all the work comes at the very far end of the trail, so it is at a good moment during the ride, and provides a good natural resting point once you reach the top of the last little hill.
Here is what I learned: It was very interesting to play the role of guiding someone through their first ride. Bri had obviously been on a bike before, but I doubt for at least a decade, and even then probably not a modern bike, maybe more of a department store contraption. We spent a few minutes in the parking lot and I explained how the shifters worked, and told her not to worry about the front, just to focus on the rear. I made sure to emphasize that you had to keep pedaling to compete shifts, and to anticipate your need to shift and get it done before you have to shift under a large amount of pedal pressure. She took a few quick circles around the lot, and said “Alright let’s do it”.
Next lesson was basic path etiquette. Back in the parking lot she had poked a little fun at me for my Incredibell, but as we rode along and encountered spaced out dog walkers and little kids rambling around like little drunk stumblers, she started to see how it was an advantage. I explained to her that I like the bell better than calling out “passing on your left” because when people hear someone shouting from behind them, their natural inclination is to stop exactly where they are and turn around defensively. With the bell, you can start ringing it from way back, giving people unfamiliar with trail etiquette a chance to figure out whats going on and how they should react. Also, as I have discussed before, you can make that bell sound friendly, even flirty, or you can make it aggressively say “Get the fuck out of the way”. It’s all about Incredibell dynamics.
We eventually got to a small climb made of boardwalk switchbacks, which is the first spot that she actually had to shift, brake, turn, avoid other people coming the other way on a narrow section, and keep momentum all at the same time. She did SO WELL! It was at this point that I started to think Bri might be one of those people who is kind of as natural on the bike. At the very least she isn’t scared of it.
By the time we got to the bottom of Suwanee Creek Park, I was concerned about whether she would make it to the top of this one very short but steep section, but she pulled it off with no problems. I had sneakily left the bike in the big ring on the front, thinking that since the trail was relatively flat, she’d have enough range for the whole route, and it turned out that I was correct. However, since I have done that trail a zillion times, it became very evident to me how much I use momentum to help me, whereas Bri never knew what to expect around the next corner, so she ended up working a little harder than she had to on some sections. Because of this, on the way back I tried to stay closer to her and give more verbal warnings about what to expect, when to shift, how to attack the section etc. Maybe I am overly dramaticizing it a bit…I mean, it’s a pretty flat trail, but I figured at this point she seemed to be having fun, so starting to inject some pointers for technique couldn’t hurt.
The ride back to George Pierce was great. Bri got comfortable enough that when the trail was open and had no traffic we were able to chit chat while riding along, which for me was a real treat since I spend so much time riding alone. Having chatter also seemed to make me feel like she was having a good time, and made me think that I was doing a decent job as a guide and was not overbearing or pushing too hard.
Since then we have gone on another ride on the same route, but added a small extension that allows some non-paved action. There was one hill on that extension that she could not make it up, so now we have a goal. She could have def made it if she would have been in the middle ring on the front, so when we head back out next time, I’m going to introduce using the front gears to her. I’m hoping that when she experiences the dramatic increase in torque that I’ll be able to ramp up the challenge level with some larger hills over the course of the next few rides. If she sticks with it. I hope she does, and I think she will.
The biggest challenge to overcome next I think, will be the dreaded “butt pain management” issue. Since I ride pretty consistently and use proper padded shorts, I no longer think about how excrutiating it is getting used to being in the saddle is when you first start. She stood up a lot on the second ride.
Overall, it has been a lot of fun playing bikey guide-mentor. That is after all, my role as Global Ambassador of Low Budget Soul Riders worldwide.