Daily Commuting Tip: How to advise a would-be commuter with getting too ‘Preachy'*
This is one for the regulars. You know who you are. You're hardcore, rain or shine, wouldn't have it any other way. A militant commuter. Then along comes your friend/girlfriend/husband/significant other who, breezy as you like says, "I think I'm going start riding to work."
Immediately you're in a hopeless tailspin, carpet-bombing the poor innocent soul from 30,000ft with industrial quantities of advice on bikes, locks, tyres, helmets, mudguards, panniers and every other MUST HAVE item. You name it and they get it. All in one go. And you can guarantee that 90 percent of your earnest advice will wash over your protégé.
It's far better in these situations to let your proto-commuter feel their own way into bike commuting, make their own mistakes to an extent. Sure, don't let them do anything dangerous or expensive. But be the receptive listener. Make your advice available and then step back. Introduce your wisdom in a piecemeal fashion, when your student, through his or her own experience, has realised its relevance.
A case in point: My wife is in the process of getting a commuting bike, and I'm having a hard time not wading in and imposing my own hardcoded theories on what's best. She's trying bikes out in the shop. Some are upright city bikes, others a sporty hybrids and flat bar road bikes. Who am I to tell her what's comfortable or optimal for the job? Truth is, whichever bike suits her mood and attitude will get her there just fine. I'm standing back thinking, "I'd want to be a little more stretched out - it looks too upright." But rather than tell her how she should be positioned on the bike, it's a lot easier to say "How do you feel on that bike." Things like fine tuning position can be almost infinitely altered on most bikes, provided the bike is the right size in the first place.
It's the same story with helmets. So many people ask me "What's a good helmet for a beginner? I don't want to spend too much." My boiler-plate response is ‘the cheapest one that looks good and fits well.' They're all built to a standard. If your helmet fits well it will protect you properly. If it fits well it'll also be more comfortable. If it's more comfortable you'll wear it more often. If it looks good, you'll also be inclined to wear it more often. Notice that all of this is subjective stuff. Think back to when you learned to ride. Would you be where you are now if you hadn't been allowed work things out for yourself?
So if you're currently advising a would-be bike commuter, remember that the best thing you can do is climb down off your pulpit, sit back and listen.
* the term 'Preachy' has been respectfully 'borrowed' from the excellent online cycling comic strip Yehuda Moon