For the context of this question, two people are trying to get from point A to point B (and back) where the only viable means of transportation is bicycle (and a tandem bicycle / electric bicycles are not available). The distance between the two points is 20km (40km round trip). Preparation time is limited, we could go visit point B next week, but it is unlikely we'll ever find ourselves in this part of the world again. The bicycles we do have available would be rented, mid-ranged commuter style bicycles.

We'd both like to make this trip. One of us is a daily commuter (15km each way) who is used to longer rides of 40-50km on the weekends, the other rides rarely and has never gone more than 3km at a time. Even at a slow pace, 40km would be far more than this rider could do comfortably.

What tips/techniques (if any) are there that would allow the stronger rider to complete the trip as comfortably as possible?


  • 1
    Ride slower, or bring more people on the ride who are closer in speed.
    – Batman
    Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 20:26
  • 2
    Are you thinking about a temporary solution, for example to help an exhausted rider over the last miles to come home or about a more or less permanent solution for to enable a person to do a ride that they would surely not be able to do without help? Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 21:28
  • 1
    Just ride at their pace. It's even better if they can take the lead. For a short bust of speed a push works well.
    – andy256
    Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 23:04
  • We need more detail on the problem you need to solve. Whats the situation? As it stands, the Q is unanswerable.
    – mattnz
    Commented Mar 28, 2015 at 6:00
  • @mattnz - I agree. My apologies, after reading the answers I see how ambiguous the question was.
    – Rob P.
    Commented Mar 28, 2015 at 11:54

10 Answers 10


I have seen various tow rope devices based on bungie cords used in multi-event team races[1], but I'd suggest those are even harder to learn than drafting. Having someone pull on the bike unexpectedly can cause all kinds of control problems. It's not something I'd recommend using with a novice. It's generally only used on long uphill slogs. A tow rope just gets too complicated at any significant speed.

Drafting isn't all that hard and you don't need to be right on someone's wheel to get a significant benefit. Even one bike length behind gives you a significant benefit and you get some advantage at anything less than 3 bike lengths behind. Of course you have to be riding fast enough to for drafting to matter.

Probably the best way to help a novice rider enjoy a longer ride is attitude and patience. Dragging someone along may be the best way to win a race, but I don't think it's very enjoyable. If you want someone to enjoy a ride, pick a route and pace that they can manage.

[1]- (i.e. Adventure Racing http://www.adventuresportsonline.com/basics.htm )

  • I'm very skeptical that "drafting" three bike lengths behind provides any benefit whatsoever. Do you have a citation for that? Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 23:25
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    Well, for one that's the rule for a drafting penalty in triathalons. triduo.com/articlesPage/draftingrules/drafting.htm It's also a common rule of thumb in sailing that you need to be 3 boat lengths behind to get clean air. The advantage at 3 bike lengths is of course much smaller, but it is still there. As you can see in this example grc.nasa.gov/WWW/k-12/airplane/dragsphere.html, the zone of low pressure behind a blunt body is roughly 3x the body length. Commented Mar 28, 2015 at 3:01
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    Right, so a sport that bans drafting says that, at three bike-lengths, at race speed, you're getting nothing. At struggling novice speed, you're surely getting nothing at 2-3 lengths and probably nothing much at 1-2 lengths. Also, most of the bluntness of a bicycle is the rider, rather than the bike itself and three times the length of a rider's torso is a lot less than three bike lengths. Commented Mar 28, 2015 at 12:58
  • @DavidRicherby The size of recirculation regions does not depend on the velocity. Even a push from behind by a following team car can subtract precious seconds in a TT. Your surely contradicts scholar publications. Commented Jul 19, 2020 at 7:18

Novices I've ridden with are surprised and pleased that I ride behind them.

  • They set the pace
  • I can watch what they're doing
  • I can ride close (enough to talk) without being too close (i.e. without colliding)
  • I can recommend which gear they change and when
  • I keep car traffic off their tail (e.g. by my using arm-signals to the car to say "slow down" or "please overtake", and by riding closer to the centre line than the bike in front of me does, etc.)
  • Yes, the surest way of exhausting someone is having them ride faster than their natural pace. Having them set the pace avoids that.
    – andy256
    Commented Mar 28, 2015 at 21:47

There are some good answers here, but I don't see my favourite, which is for the stronger rider to set a demonic pace at the front, lashing the other with a constant stream of imprecations and exhortations, turning round with a furious demeanour to bellow "Stay on my wheel!" whenever the partner seems in danger of detaching, or even dropping back to provide a push before returning to the lead.

It worked for Rudi Altig in the Trofeo Baracchi 1962, but it's also the kind of thing that could (say) definitively end a marriage. It depends where your priorities lie, really.


Get the slower cyclist a better bike and the faster cyclists a bike that is going to slow him/her down.

When there are winds to consider, have the stronger cyclist take head and create a wind break, let the slower cyclist set the speed which can be done by cycling ahead or by the stronger cyclist paying a lot of attention on the companion.

Take breaks much more often than the stronger cyclist would do alone, and walk around when off the bike. Make sure you have good locks with the bikes so you can leave them behind when walking.

If you really need to add power, if you can cycle side by side, the slower cyclist can hold onto the shoulder/arm of the stronger cyclist and be pulled forward. Pushing by the stronger cyclist is possible as well but harder for both of you unless you are used to it. Whether this is possible at all depends on the laws and the bikes. I would do it without doubt on cycle tracks that are wide enough (like in the Netherlands) but not on a main road (in most of the world.)

I would not race ahead and run around as the slower cyclist would feel pretty awful about not being able to keep up, if it is just the two of you best stay within talking, or at least shouting, distance.

I have been cycling, including tours, ever since I was a child, as young as 10 years old, and have been slower as well as faster cyclist on different occasions.

  • If riding behind and to the center of the road of an other cyclist, check whether they use a mirror. I have had instances where I could not see anything happening behind me as the rider behind me 'hovered' so he did fill my mirror. (I was on a recumbent trike at the time but it can happen with all mirrors if you are in the wrong position.)
    – Willeke
    Commented Apr 3, 2015 at 20:03

My wife and I used this setup to make a long day trip more manageable for her. If your concern is just to get from A to B (and not improving as a rider), I think it might work quite well. I wouldn't recommend it for stop-and-go city traffic, but on country roads it seemed to work amazingly well for us.

Using a spare inner tube (which you'll want anyway), secure a retractable dog leash to the frame/seat post of the stronger cyclist's bicycle. Extend the leash to a length of ~2 bicycles and tie it to the front of the weaker rider's bicycle.

This let's the stronger rider, essentially, tow the weaker rider while still maintaining a comfortable (that is, comfortable for a novice) distance between the cyclists.

I'm not sure how clear this will be, but here is an example setup.

Two bicycles connected with a dog leash


How are you helping to help this slower rider? With technique, conditioning, or something else? You could slow down and help them with technique for a ways, then sprint ahead and turn around. When you catch up, turn around and give them more pointers.

I also suggest getting into a bigger group of riders where the novice rider can find more novice rider at their level.


A very obvious way for a faster rider (or one with more stamina) would be to let the slower rider draft. It doesn't need to be tire-touchingly close, just enough for the follower to feel less wind. I think this would allow you to reach an average speed somewhere between the two riders.

This sounds like a specific instance. The ride is long enough that you could practice with having the weaker rider draft for the first couple of miles. The key would be warning them about touching tires and to generally stay alert.


I help my wife up hills all the time so we can ride together with groups that are just a tad too fast for her while I still get some exercise. You have to have pretty good handling skills to do it, and I wouldn't try it off-road, but it's surprising how much of a difference a slight push will make on a hill. I just ride next to her with one hand on my handlebars an use my other hand to push slightly on the small of her back.

  • Yes this method works well when the assistance is of short duration.
    – andy256
    Commented Apr 2, 2015 at 20:51

Time's moved on a lot since this question was originally asked. Now, e-bikes are more affordable (okay still expensive, but better)

A modern ebike with a low assist level can be used to start with, perhaps ramping up the assist level as the ride progresses.

Fast rider can use this as motivation, or perhaps even draught behind the ebike (purely for practice of course!)

  • First and foremost, the weaker rider sets the pace. If practical (median speed not exceeding 25km/h), they ride in front.
  • Secondly, the stronger rider carries most or all of the luggage.
  • All the other answers about talking, advising on shifting, getting the nicer bike, signalling turns, are spot on.

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