Mountain biking is a very popular sport in New Zealand, and a lot of people want to get involved in the sport although they may not have been biking for decades. This is common for people living in the hill suburbs of the various cities in New Zealand where biking anywhere can be a significant effort. However once they realise that they can carry the mountain bike on the back of their car and ride simple relatively level trails then the situation changes and people can get very enthusiastic.
Many people decide to jump in with both feet and sign up for a guided bike tour somewhere in New Zealand, and then it will dawn on them that they haven’t ridden a bike for decades and they are not certain that they know how to do it safely and that they can last the distance. A good approach to this problem is for them to ask any friend who is a competent biker to give them a basic lesson or two.
The easiest way for the friend to start the beginner off, particularly if the beginner is a female, is to use a ladies bike preferably with front suspension and even rear suspension or a sprung seat, with the seat lowered to the point that the rider can touch their toes on the ground. This will give them the immediate confidence to start riding knowing that they can at least touch the ground if they need to stop. Ideally the first ride will be over a level grassed park, as this will help the beginner gain confidence plus give them the chance to try different gears and understand the relationship between the gear setting and ease of pedaling. A good exercise is to have the competent friend lead the beginner in a series of turns and circles, repeating the exercise until the beginner can turn sharper corners confidently. The exercise can be enhanced by aiming for pieces of litter on the grass and trying to get the front wheel to cross these, as this will give the beginner confidence that they can aim their front wheel anywhere.
The next step is to introduce the beginner to a longer ride over a safe cycling track, that is preferably sealed. A good example is the Hutt River cycling track, which is very easy for any riders as it is sealed and takes the rider through very attractive scenery including bush and riverside. The ride will be slow inevitably, unless the beginner is super confident, but this is perfectly ok because building confidence is the most important thing here. If the ride is out and back then the beginner may be comfortable riding on a short section of unsealed track so they can get a sense of what that feels like. The friend should encourage the beginner to try and ride all parts of the track (rather than walk), which means they have to think about changing down gears before they get to the bottom of any rise. The good aspect about this part of the first ride is that the beginner can cover a lot of distance, and will have a pretty good number to take home and give them a good sense of achievement and confidence.