When it comes to giving advice to strangers, tread lightly unless they’ve specifically asked for your input. (Of course, the exception to this is if someone’s life is in danger or their riding is threatening the rest of the group—in that case, by all means, swoop in.) But the truth is you don’t know a stranger’s situation and level of knowledge, nor do you know the extenuating circumstances causing them to ride without a helmet or on a too-low saddle that day.
If you do offer advice to a stranger, Bicycling’s Deputy Editor Emily Furia says to make it clear that it’s their choice if they want to change anything. If whatever they’re doing wrong doesn’t seem to be bothering them, keep quiet and let them be. For example, you could say this: “Not sure if this will work for you, but one thing that helped me with knee pain was raising my saddle a couple centimeters.” Tone is important here—you want to come across as easy-going and amiable, not pompous or judgmental.
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If you’re riding with someone for the first time, make a point to get to know someone before you weigh in with advice. Assistant Editor Riley Missel says on her first group ride as a teenager, a woman started riding beside her and telling her she was pedaling wrong. “I think she probably wanted to encourage me to turn a bigger gear more consistently rather than spinning and coasting, but she didn’t ask my name, or how I was doing, or if I was uncomfortable—she just sidled up and started telling me what to do,” Missel says. The experience made her feel uncomfortable and unwelcome—which is the opposite of how any newcomer should be made to feel on their first group ride.
If you see someone have a flat or a mechanical, ask if they need any tools or help. If they say no, don’t hover—just ride on. The last time I had a flat on a busy trail, I was actively replacing the tube with the swiftness of a former bike messenger….