The dos and don’ts of helping a struggling rider

by Verita Stewart


I don’t know about you, but there have been many times when I’ve been struggling on the bike. This has happened during racing as well as training. It may be that you are fatigued, it’s hot or cold, you’re bonking, a little unfit, not prepared for the ride, not used to the gradient or just having a bad day. Those times when your legs don’t seem to be working, you start to go backwards uphill or maybe your head’s just not in it. Often, when you are feeling the struggle, you’re also feeling vulnerable, frustrated and sometimes angry.  Whatever the reasons for your struggle, there are always little things that help or hinder you when you are in this vulnerable state. Here’s what to do and what not to do when your training buddy is struggling.

How to help

  • Notice the struggle. Sometimes if you are struggling, you aren’t going to pipe up about it because you may be feeling embarrassed. It is good to be aware of the other riders in your group and notice if they are struggling.  
  • Offer them food or water, or kindly remind them to eat something. Sometimes all is needed is some food or water to get through, so if your friend is struggling, offer some nutrition of your own if they don’t have any or have run out.  
  • Politely encourage them to sit in to recover, or sit on your wheel to have a rest. This can give them the chance to catch their breath and recover. Not pulling a turn is okay, and your bunch should always support you.
  • Offer some encouraging words, make them smile and distract them from the hurt. There is nothing wrong with making light of a difficult situation, such as a strong headwind or a hard climb, but make sure your friend isn’t going to be insulted by your bad jokes.
  • Stop with them if they need a breather. Put the ego aside and take a 5 minute break, it won’t kill you. Take the chance to enjoy your surroundings and take some snaps, you will enjoy looking back on this moment when you are at the coffee shop.

Things that don’t help

  • Don’t ask stupid questions or offer too much advice. Remember, when you are struggling, you are often feeling vulnerable. Asking them if they are ok, when they are clearly not, or telling them how to ride their bike, may just upset the situation.
  • Offer for them to sit in or on your wheel, and then put them in the hurt box by riding hard. It is rude to offer respite and then put the hammer down.
  • Don’t give the push, or ‘hand of god’. This can be a little rude in certain situations, especially if you don’t know the struggling rider that well. So unless you have been given the nod to give the push, avoid this at all costs. Although you may mean well, this can be quite insulting and humiliating if it is unwanted.
  • Don’t drop them, especially if you are riding in a social group with a “no drop policy.” By all means it is ok if that is agreed upon before hand, but it is unfair if you are invited along to a ride with a friend and then you get dropped!

We’ve all had a day when we feel ordinary on the bike. Show some compassion to your friend who may be struggling, because you never know when you will feel the same way. It makes riding more enjoyable when you know that your friends have your back.

I’m signing off for 2015. I’m off to Falls Creek for some training with friends before the 2016 racing season begins.

Thanks for a great year. I’ve enjoyed sharing my stories with you all. If you have any story requests or suggestions, please let me know in the comments below!

Enjoy the Festive 500 and ride safe into the new year.

About the author

The tagline to Verita Stewart’s personal blog reads: “Not a professional cyclist, yet” and it’s the “yet” that’s most telling. Verita is a Melbourne-based cyclist riding for Specialized Securitor. New to the sport, she’s quickly made the jump from commuting to recreational riding to racing.

She now juggles full-time work with full-time NRS racing and hopes to make the leap to the big-leagues sometime soon. Verita is full of stories and smiles and snark – and will bring all three to you on Ella. Follow Verita on twitter and instagram and strava.

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