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Forgive the long post. I need to vent.

My girlfriend will be 20 at the end of next month, and she never learned how to ride a bicycle as a child. I've recently gotten back into biking, and I thought riding a bike would be another fun thing we could share together. She's always complaining about how fat she is (she's not fat at all), and neither one of us get much exercise, so I thought it would be a great idea. She agreed. Of course, she had to learn how to ride a bike first. I myself learned how to ride when I was a kid, and I underestimated how much of a problem this would be for her. We went to an empty nearby schoolyard, and I let her try to learn how to get her balance on my bike. I'm not much taller than she is, so the bike frame wasn't really a problem. I did make sure to lower the seat for her. Flat out pedaling at first seemed like a bit much, so I told her to try and skip along on the ground with her feet to get going and just try to keep her balance. After about 20 minutes we weren't having much success.

We went home after that so I could do a google search to make sure we were using a good method of teaching someone how to ride a bike. I found a site for parents that gave instructions on how to teach children, but it seemed to apply. It advised using the same thing I had thought of with skipping along on the ground until you can keep your balance, and said that learning how to pedal after that should be easy. It estimated the average time to learn how to ride a bike to be about an hour and a half. We went back to the schoolyard and she kept trying for about another half hour, but couldn't get it. No biggie, she could finish learning another day...

Now, I'm a very patient person. Very patient. It's one of my best qualities, and sometimes one of my faults as I can be TOO patient. But after spending three or four days with her trying to learn how to ride a bike, at nearly two hours a day, I was ready to pull my hair out. She learned how to keep her balance when skipping along with her feet after a day or so, which I thought would be the hard part. When she tried pedaling however, she got absolutely no where. Time after time she would start to pedal, and lose her balance after moving all of 1 foot. After days of this she finally learned how to keep her balance.

The next step of course was to buy a bike of her own. I told her she'd be spending a few hundred dollars on it since department store bikes weren't worth it, and she was fine with that. I wasn't going to help her pay for it, because I had tried this same thing with roller blading last year and it didn't go over too well. I bought her roller blades she swore she would use and I never got her to use them once. Spending a few hundred dollars of her own money would be a powerful motivator to getting some use out of her bike, or so I thought. I told her before we went out to buy it, "If you don't want to buy a bike just tell me now. I'll understand. If you're scared of riding it, or don't think you'll ride it enough to justify buying it, or just don't want to buy it for any reason, tell me now. It's ok." I didn't want her to feel like she had to buy the bike. She of course said that she wanted to buy the bike, and spent $500 + on a new bike and helmet.

We went back to the movie parking lot so she could get the feel of it, and learn how to shift and brake. Shifting, braking, and even turning were mole hills she prompty made mountains out of. What I thought would take a few minutes instead turned into days. She refused to leave the parking lot, and instead wanted to ride around in it more until she felt more comfortable. I totally understood this, but it turned into the same kind of fiasco that learning how to ride in the first place had been. We'd go to the parking lot, ride around for a little while, and then she would want to go home (we'd walk the bikes home, of course). All the while she continues to insist she is interested in riding, as she does to this day.

After days of this she finally feels up to riding to a nearby park. We'd be riding along a wide low traffic street straight from the parking lot. A few minutes into this, she has her first crash. She was riding along and started to lose her balance. We weren't going fast. She wobbled and seemed to recover. Rather than continue on, or come to a full stop to be safe, she panics. She did the equivilant of curling up into a fetal position - she removed her feet from the pedals, and kept going straight from the angle she recovered - which put her on a collision course with the curb. Does she hit the brakes? No. She hits the curb and falls off instead. Nothing more than a minor scratch thankfully. I tell her she should have hit the brakes, and we continue on without incident.

To make a long story short, she has continued to panic at the slightest bit of trouble when she is riding in extremely tame conditions. Each time she is curling up into a fetal position, taking her feet off the pedals and never hitting the brakes. As a matter of fact, I don't think she's EVER hit the brakes when it really matters - to prevent herself from crashing. Her luck of course eventually ran out, and the last time this happened she took a nasty spill and hurt her right wrist. X Rays indicated it wasn't broken, but it was pretty sore for a few days, and continues to be sore two weeks after the incident. She hasn't rode the bike once since. In the month or so she's owned the bike, I think she's done less than 4 hours total riding time on it.

I'm VERY frustrated with her. At this point I just want to grab her by the shoulders, shake her violently, and scream "WHAT THE &%$# IS WRONG WITH YOU!?!?!?!?" I've been extremely patient (as I usually am), and encouraging. I try to tell her she is doing alright, but to no avail. And no matter how many times I tell her she never ever hits the brakes, she always panics instead. I'm afraid the next time she crashes she's going to really hurt herself.

Are some people not made for cycling? Is this normal for someone who learns how to ride a bike as an adult? Should I just tell her she wasted her money? To give up and put her bike on eBay before she really hurts herself? If not, what can I say to her to make her stop panicking when she's riding?
 

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SS Grrrrrrrl
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Clearly your only option here is to buy her clipless pedals. ;)

Seriously though, It doesn't sound like your GF should get anywhere near a bike. Perhaps you need to shop around for another activity that you two can share.
 

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Mmm, whilst it is amusing visualising a grown up learning to ride a bike, I had the same problem with windsurfing. I tried sooo hard to like it, I even bought my own stuff just to keep my husband (then boyfriend) happy. You know the saying, the couple that plays together stays together.

Anyway, I did it to make him happy, we got married and I never did it again!!! OK, where am I going with this?

Oh yeah, I took up mountain biking and for the first 3 years, it was the same feeling, anxiety, nausea and total panic (I too never really got to ride a bike as a kid and changing all of those gears AND remembering to brake freaked me out), but then one day I just got it. That feeling of the inner child. Zooming around and feeling free.

Finally not being intimidated by the components on my bike. Finally understanding that if I fell off, I wouldn't die. I still call cassettes "those rounds things at the back", and I still call those things that go on the ends of cable wire "doobries", but I now get why people love their bikes.

I own three (I built two of them myself) and my bike shop don't treat me like a spas when I ask what the difference is between brake and shifter cable and I think if you just give your girlfriend a bit of time, she will get it too. Get her a lesson (see my post about balance clinics, I'm sure stuff like that goes on all over the country). Women being taught by women is such a confidence boost cos there's less embarrassment factor involved.

I learned so much more from cycling than I did from windsurfing (oh that's where I was going with that) because I had women to go out with and have a laugh and a screw up with. I only windsurfed with my other half and he was great and all, but I always felt like I was failing him in some way so I just didn't enjoy it.

Now I can ride almost as well as the old man, and I can build a much meaner bike!!
 

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Am I supposed to be seeing something in that screen?

dirtcrab said:
Clearly your only option here is to buy her clipless pedals. ;)

Seriously though, It doesn't sound like your GF should get anywhere near a bike. Perhaps you need to shop around for another activity that you two can share.
OK, I'm colour blind and that little tv screen by your post is wiggling about. Am I supposed to be able to see something in there or is it just moving about? Stupid question, but I need to know!
 

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SS Grrrrrrrl
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mtbkers said:
OK, I'm colour blind and that little tv screen by your post is wiggling about. Am I supposed to be able to see something in there or is it just moving about? Stupid question, but I need to know!
The only reason I haven't changed my avatar is because I know this one annoys Sabine. :p

edit: and yes, while it is moving around it says "you are color blind". ;)
 

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Find some other women for her to ride with. Maybe see if she is interested in some event involving biking as a goal. Something like the Danskin that is for women but not really competitive. There is a Women's only adventure race here that involves a bit of off road riding. The promoter designs the course and *special events* so that his 55 year old mother can complete the race.

some links
Danskin Tri

Women's Adventure Race
 

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My two cents

Hey there...

I can understand your fear and frustration. Here's a couple things that come to my mind. They might not help at all, but you did ask, right? :D

1. She might have heard or seen someone go over the bars after gripping the brakes too enthusiastically. Maybe you could put her on a trainer and let her get used to the idea that you can hit the brakes with varying degrees of intensity - from feathering to short sharp grabs in order to slow down, control speed, or come to a full stop.

2. Maybe you should see if you can get someone else to try a training session with her. As much as I love my husband, who is also quite patient and a very good teacher, sometimes the chemistry between significant others just doesn't bode well when one partner becomes the teacher. Maybe another female would help to diminish her fears a bit.

3. She just might not be a "biker". Like you said, maybe she just doesn't have it in her to lose the fear of falling. That doesn't make her a bad GF. You might just need to find another "together" activity.

Hope she overcomes her fears. I know I got hooked and maybe, with even more patience and time, she will be too.
 

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Well From the outside I will tell you what I see...
Your Girlfriend took up roller blading because you wanted to get into it.
Your Girlfriend took up bike riding because you were getting back into it.

When does she do something because she wants to? When that happens is when she will have the detrmination to see it through. I lived this with my wife and it is a bad mix. I grew up living on skiis all winter. My wife (girlfriend at the time) did not ski. but she learned. We get maried have kids she is still not into skiing but pleases me and comes out....Kids start skiing she starts to feel left out so trys toget back into it with the family. 10 minutes out one day on bunny hill..fractured tibial plateau, complete rupture of mcl and acl and a few other injuries. 2 years later she still can not bend or straighten that leg proably never will again.
Do not force her to move beyond her abilities...

Ok assuming that she really does want to mountain bike. Here are a few items that my daughter Xteme_pink_racing and her coach have taught me. (I grew up racing moto-x and bmx and assumed everyone knew how to table top a jump).

Here is a quote from her Coach who was a pro elite woman racer and currently at world adventure racing championships

"In coaching mountain biking, men often gain skill by being daring/fearless and just going for it. If they make it down something then they consider it mastered. For females on the other hand, fear is one of their biggest hang ups. They need reassurance and confidence building. They want to know HOW a skill is technically done. They want progressions to gain confidence and once they achieve this they often perform a skill perfectly. They feel in control and successful and are happy."

Another Pro Elite woman that I deal with said in her opinion it is all about learning to take risk. Boys develop a way of evaluating risk and attacking it that is different from "most girls"...
She says
"It's all about "how girls are encouraged to play"...Once again I was down at
the pool with my son - it's right beside the "skatepark" - who is skating?
learning how to evaluate risk? learning how to push outside of their comfort
level?

boys.

Guess where the girls were?

Sitting on the sidelines watching the boys."

So have a I given you the answer to your girlfriend and riding?? No, not at all. But maybe I have given you some insight into working with her. Maybe you want to try a female instructor or an instructor/coach that specializes in women riders.
 

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I would have the same response. I feel for you. Have you ever watched her doing some other sort of physical activity that requires coordination and common sense? Maybe she's just uncoordinated and goofy (sorry...I sat here for a minute trying to think of more polite words, but none came to me). If that's the case, you may have to give up. If not, and she keeps a positive attitude, maybe it will just come...surely self preservation will take over at some point.

BTW, i crashed a couple of times right in a row where I put out a hand and torqued my wrist back. It took quite a few months before it stopped bothering me...but it finally did.
 

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OK man, take a deeeeeep cleansing breath.....

To ME, it sounds like she's just getting to do all the stupid stuff WE did when learning to ride as a kid. I vividly remember bombing down a steep lot just cleared w/ a bulldozer- complete with big ol' embedded lumps from the machine's track- quickly hitting terminal velocity, and just running the bike straight into a thimbleberry bush with feet off the pedals and arms covering my face. The steel Schwinn (AKA "The Old Blue Bike") is an absolute tank and is still getting passed around my enormous family for kids to abuse during the learning phase.

Anyway, JMO: she's got NO business doing anything but flat, very very simple stuff right now until she gets the basic balance, brakes, steering stuff down to automatic. I'm talking circles in a flat parking lot, practicing braking when she gets to this or that white line, etc. THEN she can look at hills, bike paths, road w/ traffic, etc. LATER STILL comes off road obsticles.

IF she hangs in there. Let's face it, the rest of us learned when we were much less breakable and the falls didn't hurt so much! She'll need lots of time and practice if she's to ever become proficient, and that's going to be largely contingent on her motivation level... little steps and little successes will make her feel more positive about the whole processes, which is probably your best hope.

And if she throws in the towel I certainly couldn't blame her. Making a fool outta yerself in public and getting hurt just for recreation w/ your BF sure doesn't sound like fun.... I'm actually very, VERY impressed she made it this far!
 

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Slothful dirt hippie
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And one more thing to try: get down to the parking lot, let her get started on her circles, steering, braking, balance practice..... and find a piece of really bad gum stuck to your shoe that's going to take 20 minutes of your total concentration to get off.

Sit down with your back to her with the blasted shoe, tell her to keep going you'll get the gum off in a minute. Don't look. Don't comment. Even if she asks, you didn't see what she just did.

To ME, the most endearing thing about bikes is that euphoric sense of TOTAL FREEDOM... maybe if she has a chance to experience a sliver of that herself she'll see the light at the end of the tunnel. But if you're nagging her about hitting the brakes or doing this and that, it's not likely to happen.
 

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Flashback to 1968:

I grew up doing all sorts of outdoors activities and sports, one of which was water skiing. Myself, my brothers and my sister, all learned to ski on doubles at 4 or 5 years old, but I was the black sheep because I didn’t ski on a single until I was 10. The rest of them were on a single by as early as seven and shore starts as early as eight. But I just couldn’t get the hang of the single ski. I got so tired of trolling for gators that I took up fishing and had a great excuse to go off by myself (not unusual back then) and not be embarrassed by the fact that the rest of the family that couldn’t understand why I wasn’t up on the single ski yet. What finally got me over the top was for my older brother and I to both get onto the same pair of skis and I was then able to step out of one onto the other while he held me up until I got used to how it felt.

Your situation reminded me of that time and here’s why:

When she’s ready to try cycling again, you might suggest renting a tandem somewhere not too crowded. The balance thing cannot be overstated. It’s everything on a bike, just as it is on skis and it just needs to be experienced to get it. I can’t imagine learning to ride a bike as an adult. She probably is terrified. Teach her how to steer from the back by leaning into turns. On the back at first and then when she grows more confident, she’ll probably want to “drive” at some point and will likely say so ;). If I were in your shoes, that’s what I would try.
 

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You just need to be that much more patient with her if this is a skill she really wants to learn. Like a person moving from road riding to mountain biking, she needs to learn even more about how the bike reacts to her input and how it responds to the surface. This just takes alot of time. It takes some kids a year or more to move from training wheels to a regular bike. Now imagine adding adult inhibitions and fear response to the mix.

A few suggestions: 1) make the sure bike isn't too big - borrow a size down from normal if necessary (she will feel more in control and can put her feet down easier). 2) ride in a relaxed setting like a field or a smooth park path so the riding feels normal and the focus is less on her. 3) training wheels? seriously, they build confidence. 4) Put the bike in a gear that works for her, which she won;t spin out of, and tape the shifters. Worry about shifting later.

Good luck.
 

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The number one thing I'd recommend is to get her to ride with someone other than you for a while. She's scared, you're frustrated... . Evidently it's going to take a lot of balance work and practice for her to get used to riding - why not have her go out with a female friend who can help her. Heck, I don't even think she needs to ride - just having a friend there to be there and be supportive and cheer her on as she rides around a parking lot would be better than having you there watching, where she feels like she's not making progress fast enough, is holding you back, etc. We've said it a million times to guys in this forum, but even if you swear you've never indicated to her that you're impatient or she's too slow or whatever - she feels it anyway. Really. Let her learn to enjoy it on her own and when she's feeling more confident you'll be able to enjoy riding together.

And like other people have said, I can't imagine trying to learn to ride a bike as an adult. Developing mountain biking skills is hard enough - trying to learn to balance a bike would be pretty tough.

I'd let her stick to the parking lot or whatever's comfortable for her (a grassy field comes to mind...) until she's feeling confident. Using the brakes and shifting will come along, I'm sure, once she's not using 100% of her concentration trying to balance and pedal.
 

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Totally agree with Connie.

I agree completely...

1) Encourage her to ride with someone else, preferably another woman.
2) Learning to bike as an adult must be really difficult! While I give her lots of credit for sticking with it as long as she has, with such modest results, maybe she isn't cut out for it.

I'll add that she should practice stopping at curbs, or logs that have been placed on the grass so she gets used to stopping in front of obstacles instead of running into them. Are there any grassy fields that have a gentle hill she can ride down? She needs speed for balance, to practice braking, and for fun. I wouldn't even have her worry about shifting at all.

Give her time to regain her nerve. Wrist injuries take a long time to heal, and with her history she has good reason to be nervous about riding.

Spike

connie said:
The number one thing I'd recommend is to get her to ride with someone other than you for a while. She's scared, you're frustrated... . Evidently it's going to take a lot of balance work and practice for her to get used to riding - why not have her go out with a female friend who can help her. Heck, I don't even think she needs to ride - just having a friend there to be there and be supportive and cheer her on as she rides around a parking lot would be better than having you there watching, where she feels like she's not making progress fast enough, is holding you back, etc. We've said it a million times to guys in this forum, but even if you swear you've never indicated to her that you're impatient or she's too slow or whatever - she feels it anyway. Really. Let her learn to enjoy it on her own and when she's feeling more confident you'll be able to enjoy riding together.

And like other people have said, I can't imagine trying to learn to ride a bike as an adult. Developing mountain biking skills is hard enough - trying to learn to balance a bike would be pretty tough.

I'd let her stick to the parking lot or whatever's comfortable for her (a grassy field comes to mind...) until she's feeling confident. Using the brakes and shifting will come along, I'm sure, once she's not using 100% of her concentration trying to balance and pedal.
 

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jeffj said:
Flashback to 1968:

I grew up doing all sorts of outdoors activities and sports, one of which was water skiing. Myself, my brothers and my sister, all learned to ski on doubles at 4 or 5 years old, but I was the black sheep because I didn't ski on a single until I was 10. The rest of them were on a single by as early as seven and shore starts as early as eight. But I just couldn't get the hang of the single ski. I got so tired of trolling for gators that I took up fishing and had a great excuse to go off by myself (not unusual back then) and not be embarrassed by the fact that the rest of the family that couldn't understand why I wasn't up on the single ski yet. What finally got me over the top was for my older brother and I to both get onto the same pair of skis and I was then able to step out of one onto the other while he held me up until I got used to how it felt.

Your situation reminded me of that time and here's why:

When she's ready to try cycling again, you might suggest renting a tandem somewhere not too crowded. The balance thing cannot be overstated. It's everything on a bike, just as it is on skis and it just needs to be experienced to get it. I can't imagine learning to ride a bike as an adult. She probably is terrified. Teach her how to steer from the back by leaning into turns. On the back at first and then when she grows more confident, she'll probably want to "drive" at some point and will likely say so ;). If I were in your shoes, that's what I would try.
yes,yes,yes..... my son was on a tagalong ( a tandem for kids) at 3 and on his own bike
without training wheels at 3 1/2 ish. balance is very important. and a tandem is a great way to keep her safe, and teach her how to lean and what it feels like to flow with a bike.
i dont know where you live, but some bike shops will demo tandems. i cant wait until my
sons 6yr old legs are long enough for our full suspension tandem. he wants to downhill and this will give him a head start. i applaud her for sticking with it. i also agree on the bit about women feel more comfortable with other women. we have a different way of processing things. :confused:
good luck
lis
 

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Patients and honesty.

I personally think that anyone who has to comment on how patient, how very very patient they are trully isn't very patient at all. It's like the person who tells you how honest he or she is, I never trust someone who feels they have to inform people of their honesty.

I think the person who is patient here is your girlfriend.
 
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