My husband is 40 now. He used to ride a bicycle till he was 15. But now he wants to start cycling. We bought a mountain bike and he started cycling. First day he just managed to ride 4 Kilometers. Some part of the road was sloping too. He was having trouble while climbing slopes.

Do you think 4 Kms distance is good for beginner at this age. How to motivate him to continue even if it is a small distance is covered? Is it normal for beginner to feel tired for the first day?

Update : My Husband has managed to travel 6 Kms to his office in the morning without any rest, but slowly, and returned 6 Kms back in the evening. Thank you all for your motivation.

  • 8
    4 km is great - I did 900 metres my first couple of rides and that was flat!
    – Criggie
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 10:34
  • 4
    Runtastic for bikes worked wonders for me in terms of motivation. It shows so many details of your rides...the distances, % in slopes....i just went out cycling so I could see the new graphic I made that day. It hasn't to be runtastic, but any nice app will help! Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 12:15
  • 2
    I live in the US so we use different measurements here, but 4km is about 2.5 miles... When I got my bicycle 3 years ago (I was 33), I could barely do 1/4 mile (about 400m) on totally flat ground without being winded, sore legs, and feeling my blood sugar drop, and it took me 2 days to recover. I think 4kms is a great start!
    – Taegost
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 12:59
  • 4
    As a side note, if you are riding only on pavement, roads or other hard surfaces mountain bike might make it harder than necessary (roadies exists for a reason ;). Mounting narrower (semi) slick tires can make it easier while increasing traction.
    – PTwr
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 13:27
  • 2
    Promise him a "prize" from you after he completes the distance. Works wonders with almost all males :-) Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 15:38

16 Answers 16


I had the same "motivation" thingy when I tried to keep my wife motivated in joining me during weekend rides.

First we did a really short and slow trip around the city (about 4 or 5 km at such a slow pace that my legs were hurting).

Then I tried to combine cycling with other activities we both liked. Being both foodies, I tried to find, in every outing, a convenient place for this. So for example once we stopped by to visit some wine makers, some other times we stopped for lunch break to a farm where we bought honey, fresh baked bread and local made cheese and had them for lunch, and so on.

These small rewards for going out with the bike helped her in overcoming the struggle of the learning curve.

You can try the same with your husband (assuming he has some passion which can be easily squeezed in a bike ride), and always try to balance the push to go a bit further with the awareness of what he can do without overdoing.

  • 4
    +1 for going out for food on every trip. It's fun and resting in the middle makes the return trip easier.
    – SLR
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 11:27
  • 3
    But, of course, don't eat a lot in the middle of a ride. A snack is great (and, as you start going faster and farther, you'll need to bring food with you to keep you going) but a meal will leave you not wanting to cycle much more. Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 11:52
  • 3
    @DavidRicherby That's why I like to cycle up the hill, have heavy food there so it can help me get down the hill faster ;) Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 15:34
  • 2
    My friends and I are craft beer people. One friend is a novice rider and often suffers mental blocks of distance and hills but I know she is more than capable of overcoming them safely. So I like to motivate her with stopping at a bar she likes for a mid ride beer if she gets up the next hill, or making longer detour to hit a particular spot. It's not only for food or beer tho. Some people could be motivated by a secluded spot, a scenic view, a cool bookstore, etc... Find an incentive that matches the person. Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 18:48
  • 1
    'Find an incentive that matches the person' may be book stores or electrical distributors. Be creative.
    – hildred
    Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 0:14

Yes, 4km is good, especially if the road is hilly. Any new form of exercise is difficult at the start because it uses muscles you're not used to using, in ways you're not used to using them. It's completely normal to be tired and a bit sore. That's your body's way of saying "OK, I've done enough – ive me a break for a bit," and it's important to do that. If you're sore and tired, don't ride until you've recovered, or maybe just go on a short, relaxed ride of one or two kilometers.

If you bought the bike from a department store, or second-hand in a private sale, it would be good to take it to a bike shop and make sure it's properly set up so it fits your husband properly. Beginners often have their saddles set much too low, which makes pedalling much harder – especially up hills. Also, make sure the tyres are properly inflated: especially with the big tyres on a mountain bike, under-inflated tyres absorb huge amounts of energy and make everything much harder.

As for motivation, what motivated your husband to start cycling again? If it was for general fitness, he might be motivated by keeping a diary of how far he's cycled and how long it took him. If it was to lose weight, again, keeping track of progress can help. (Of course, if progress isn't being made, that can be demotivating, so be careful! But I'd expect a new cyclist to progress quite a bit in terms of distance, early on. Things might flatten out after a few months, though.) If he's motivated by just getting out into the world, trying new routes will keep things fresh – maybe even put the bike in the car and drive somewhere new to ride.

Finally, motivation's often easier when you have company, so how about you get a bike too and join your husband?


Just having the age of the rider and the distance to ride as information surely does not allow to judge on whether the achievement is good or bad. For some people 4 km is a hard effort, others would instantly go 40 km without problems. It all depends on the general mental and physical health condition of the person, as well as the structural conditions like the bike itself, the track to ride etc.

However, the main point is this: The distance covered, or in general the achievement in terms of numbers is quite irrelevant. What matters is that you actually do ride the bike (no matter for how long) and that you have fun doing so.

Different people get their motivation from different aspects. Some people like to do sports to compete with others or themselves, looking at numbers like speed, distance, heart rate etc. Others simply like the situation of being sportive, feeling their own body doing something. Finally, in case of bike riding, many people simply take it as a means to go from A to B.

Examples of motivation:

  • Achieving a measureable goal. E.g. "I want to be able to ride 20 km next summer. In order to do that I need to excercise at least once a week."
  • Enjoy the freedom. E.g. "I am free, can do whatever I like, let's do a bike trip."
  • Finding new places. E.g. "I always wondered how it looks between place A and B. Let's go and find out."
  • Necessary commutes. E.g. "I need to go to place X. Taking the bike will allow me to be faster than taking the bus."
  • Environmental or monetary conscience. E.g. "I need to go to place X. Taking the bike instead of the car is good for the environment and saves me money."

Whatever you do, don't overdo it. Listen to your body. If it feels good, do it, if it doesn't, do less. If 4 km was too much, do 2 km next time, then 2.5 km, try 4 km again after 3 weeks.

  • 3
    All good advice. One small point is that the word "train" might be a little off-putting to somebody whose goal is to ride 20km in a year's time -- it sounds very serious and planned and committed and professional. I think probably most leisure cyclists can manage 20km after a year of going for nice rides at the weekend. Probably a beginner is thinking in terms of enjoying themselves and getting exercise, rather than "training". Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 10:14
  • 3
    This is great. I became happier when I stopped comparing myself to others. I can ride faster/farther/etc than many people. Many people can ride faster/farther/etc than me. No one rides happier than me.
    – emory
    Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 2:46

The most motivating thing is to join a club. Check out your local sport centre or the local paper or ask in the bicycle shop.

Not all clubs are for lycra-clad demons. Our local club has a chapter for everything from possessed racing nuts up to old ladies on e-bikes.

And if you don't have a club, start a group. At least that way you get to choose where to go and how fast.

  • Also, look for a local IMBA chapter. These are typically the guys/gals that are maintaining your trails, and they most likely love biking. Riding in groups is great motivation.
    – Kenneth K.
    Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 20:48

Play Geocaching, Ingress or Pokemon Go at the destination of your trip.

Especially with Geocaching you'll have to go farther and farther to find a cache you haven't found yet. Also, it's a nice break in the middle of the ride.

  • 3
    I'm not sure how many 40-year-olds are going to be interested in Pokemon but this is a nice twist on the theme of making interesting destinations be the motivation so +1. Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 10:16
  • 1
    @DavidRicherby I've never played Pokemon Go (or Ingress) myself, I just know that you go to certain coordinates to find the rarer Pokemons, so I added it to the list just in case some reader who is looking for inspiration likes Pokemons better than Caches or Ingress portals. Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 16:59

When I was 43, I hopped back on my bicycle. I started on flat roads and did about 7 km every other morning. As I started feeling stronger, I gradually increased my speed and intensity on the same trek. After a few weeks, I decided to climb that hill that was off to the side in addition to the normal route. Over the course of the next year, I gradually increased my ride length and the amount of climbing. Then I began training for and rode a "Century" (100 mile) ride.

My advice is to ease into it for the enjoyment and gradually challenge your body.


4 km is a great start, especially if there are hills. It's completely normal to feel tired after the first day.

My suggestion: Make a point to ride every day or two. Don't overdo it, continue with the distances you're comfortable with. It will get easier surprisingly quickly.

If you ride for a purpose (to get to work, or to go to the store), that will help to get into a regular pattern.


Consider an actual endurance and conditioning training program. A program will provide progressive goals which should be attainable, and result in a better baseline level of conditioning which will make "fun" rides more enjoyable.

A quick google search found this "couch to 8k" program (based off a similar "couch to 5k" running program):

The plan is based on intervals, with the ultimate aim being to go cycling regularly (three times a week) at a pace that suits you - faster than a gentle family ride, but slower than your all-out sprint. Each run (at least in the beginning) involves cycling at one of two paces - a slower pace, equivalent in exertion to a brisk walk, and a faster pace. The faster pace should be strenuous, but if you’re incapable of speaking, you’re going too fast.


Week Ride(s) Detail

    1. Alternate 60 seconds of cycling at 10mph (16km/h) and 90 seconds of cycling at 5mph (8km/h) for a total of 20 minutes.
    2. Alternate 60 seconds of cycling at 10mph (16km/h) and 90 seconds of cycling at 5mph (8km/h) for a total of 20 minutes.
    3. Alternate 60 seconds of cycling at 10mph (16km/h) and 90 seconds of cycling at 5mph (8km/h) for a total of 20 minutes.
    1. Alternate 90 seconds of cycling at 10mph (16km/h) and 120 seconds of cycling at 5mph (8km/h) for a total of 20 minutes.
    2. Alternate 90 seconds of cycling at 10mph (16km/h) and 120 seconds of cycling at 5mph (8km/h) for a total of 20 minutes.
    3. Alternate 90 seconds of cycling at 10mph (16km/h) and 120 seconds of cycling at 5mph (8km/h) for a total of 20 minutes.
    1. 2 repetitions of: 90 seconds at 10mph (16km/h), followed by 90 seconds at 5mph (8km/h). Then 3 minutes at 10mph (16km/h), followed by 3 minutes at 5mph (8km/h).
    2. 2 repetitions of: 90 seconds at 10mph (16km/h), followed by 90 seconds at 5mph (8km/h). Then 3 minutes at 10mph (16km/h), followed by 3 minutes at 5mph (8km/h).
    3. 2 repetitions of: 90 seconds at 10mph (16km/h), followed by 90 seconds at 5mph (8km/h). Then 3 minutes at 10mph (16km/h), followed by 3 minutes at 5mph (8km/h).
    1. 2 repetitions of: 3 minutes at 10mph (16km/h), followed by 90 seconds at 5mph (8km/h). Then 5 minutes at 10mph (16km/h), followed by 2-1/2 minutes at 5mph (8km/h).
    2. 2 repetitions of: 3 minutes at 10mph (16km/h), followed by 90 seconds at 5mph (8km/h). Then 5 minutes at 10mph (16km/h), followed by 2-1/2 minutes at 5mph (8km/h).
    3. 2 repetitions of: 3 minutes at 10mph (16km/h), followed by 90 seconds at 5mph (8km/h). Then 5 minutes at 10mph (16km/h), followed by 2-1/2 minutes at 5mph (8km/h).
    1. 3 repetitions of: 5 minutes at 10mph (16km/h), followed by 3 minutes at 5mph (8km/h).
    2. 2 repetitions of: 8 minutes at 10mph (16km/h), followed by 5 minutes at 5mph (8km/h).
    3. 20 minutes at 10mph (16km/h).
    1. 5 minutes at 10mph (16km/h), followed by 3 minutes at 5mph (8km/h). Then 8 minutes at 10mph (16km/h), followed by 3 minutes at 5mph (8km/h). Finally 5 minutes at 10mph (16km/h), followed by 3 minutes at 5mph (8km/h).
    2. 2 repetitions of: 10 minutes at 10mph (16km/h), followed by 3 minutes at 5mph (8km/h).
    3. 25 minutes at 10mph (16km/h).
  1. 1, 2 and 3: 25 minutes at 10mph (16km/h).

  2. 1, 2 and 3: 28 minutes at 10mph (16km/h).

  3. 1, 2 and 3: 30 minutes at 10mph (16km/h).

Whether you use this actual plan or not, a well designed plan is a much easier and more sustainable way to improve than winging it on random rides.

  • 3
    I'm...not sure what to think about this idea. On one hand, you're correct that a structured plan makes it easier for those already motivated to establish a solid base. On the other, I think such strict, formal workouts (which promise to be "strenuous," no less!) could be intimidating to a newbie, and thus discourage them from even starting. Don't get me wrong, there's a time and place to go buck wild on training plans. But IMO, that's only after the rider in question enjoys cycling enough to push through the less fun days. Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 21:29
  • Well everyone's motivation sources are different. Some are motivated by seeing progress and gains (or de-motivated by the lack thereof). In any case, the program linked was an example, the answer was meant to be more of a "search for a well designed program that fits your goals" rather than "do this particular program". Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 13:12

Try the app "map my ride" it's good as you can set your own targets/challenges, if you have friends who ride, get them to also download the app and you can also follow how far they are going. You can also challenge your friends. It will also give you local routes that other people in your area have done. WELL DONE AND KEEP IT GOING.

  • 1
    There are a bunch of ride-tracking apps. Strava being one of the more well known ones. I'd suggest in strava to change settings to "Display my results" as a default, rather than seeing the top 10 times for any given segment. Its all about personal progress, not being first.
    – Criggie
    Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 5:00

Have him watch Cycling in the rain; morning rush hour in Utrecht (Netherlands). Some many people cycling, although it rains. These people are not cycling for pleasure, but to actually get somewhere. In the crowded cities, this is often the fastest way.

So, advice him not to just cycle around, but to pick a target and go there. A goal makes it easier to get along.

If possible, choose a level road. Cycling uphill is way harder than on level ground. My experience is that cycling up a 8% inclination, will drop my speed from 15mph to 5mph and will still require more power.

Avoid cycling in hot weather or full sun. Choose the early morning hours.

Your cycling conditions will increase incredibly fast when cycling for a few days in a row. A speedometer can be highly motivating.

Join him in cycling, or have him find a friend to cycle together.

As for the 4 km, I cannot judge that, as in the Netherlands virtually all children will learn cycling at the age of 3 to 5. I think that a healthy man of about 40 will be able to cover 30m (50km) on level ground, after 5 to 10 rides.

  • Your last sentence makes assumptions about the rider's health - I'd suggest removing that line completely.
    – Criggie
    Commented Aug 12, 2017 at 7:53

Just keep going, have fun and forget about the numbers! That usually works ;-)


Find routes that are easy to do. The important thing is to have fun, because otherwise it is work. Learn to use the gears to deal with hills. Many people new or returning to cycling are intimidated by the gears, which makes hills much harder. A tune-up to make sure the shifting is working easily is important, because if it isn't you will avoid it. Ride with people. Our shop has a Saturday morning ride open to all with no drops. The ride often has no more hills than two freeway overpasses and back up to the shop at 30 feet elevation from sea level.


When I started biking I road over 10 miles without even knowing it because I was playing a game. Gamification not only made riding, even more, fun but it abstracted the workout I was getting.

Some geolocation based games:

  • Ingress
  • Pokemon Go
  • Munzee
  • Geocaching
  • I see your underlying reason - these games make you go places. Downside is they do take your attention away from the road, which is not a good idea. Geocaching would be good because it only has a destination, you're not distracted while riding.
    – Criggie
    Commented Aug 12, 2017 at 7:48
  • None of these distract you from the road. They're all location based and require you to stop in order to actually play. When you're stopped you just plan where you're going next. They're really no different than Geocaching.
    – Krylic
    Commented Aug 13, 2017 at 17:21

Here a few simple thoughts that may help:

  • Vary your rides and try not to get into the habit of thinking: longer or more hilly equals better. A 1k sprint may be just as, or even more beneficial, than a 5k slog. And while it can be satisfying to conquer a big hill it can also be a lot of fun to stonk along a long flat straight road - particularly if you've got a breeze behind you - once you really get into it you can really get into "the zone", almost like a meditative state where your legs are burning but you feel like you can go forever.
  • Plan your rides so you save a good bit until last i.e. so that you finish down hill with the wind behind you. It feels great to cruise triumphantly down your street rather than struggling home, all dishevelled.
  • Look for smooth roads. Rough roads kill your speed, energy and motivation.
  • Remember that it might take a month or two before you start enjoying the feeling of pushing your body, and maybe 6 months or more before you enjoy it more often than not.
  • Relax and enjoy it - if you start a regime of cycling every 2 days for example, it's ok to miss one or two and have the occasional week off if the weathers bad, you're too busy or you just don't fancy it (but if you don't fancy it, give it a second thought, think of the endorphins you'll hopefully experience after you've been).
  • You don't have to punish yourself on every ride - sometimes it's nice just to cruise around, out in the fresh air, away from other stresses.
  • You've chosen a great form of exercise with a lot to offer - compared to something like running (which is also great) you're a lot less likely to get some kind stress injury and you can go further and faster, and, like running, you can tackle pretty much any terrain - even track cycling, don't forget that, that can be fun too.

One thing I do not see here is to ensure that the other activities of his life (and yours) do not interfere with his cycling. If he's anything like me, he will want to have specific times during the week when his schedule is clear for riding, alternating with days on which he does not ride. If random events are constantly interrupting that, it will discourage him.

As an example, I myself just started riding three months ago, and have a schedule of riding every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 7AM. Without bothering to consult me about it, my wife agreed to help a friend get to work, which means leaving for my own job too early for the weekday ride.

Also, make sure that the household finances permit the bicycle to be repaired immediately if it becomes necessary, so that the husband does not need to give up cycling while he saves up money to get the bike fixed.


For me personally, the joy of riding a bicycle is in the street and path I'm on in the moment, and not the things around. Like the freedom you get sitting on a motorcycle headed along a nice country road.

Optional: To encourage that feeling from the very beginning, it helps if the slower person keeps up on an E-bike. I love to be able to go as fast as I am, while the other person just adjusts the E-bike help level. On an E-bike, the achievable routes for a beginner are also interesting from the start.

A nice beginner downhill ride gets you excited about gaining more stamina to get higher uphill first. (He should feel no shame about stepping down off the bicycle, walking it slowly up, and riding it down, if he finds a track too steep.)

Because you wrote that he bought a mountain bike, I think he wishes for experiences like these, and it will be hard to stay motivated on a flat surface.

Another factor is how easily he can transport the bicycle to an interesting track. (I have a two-bike holder you can fit onto the tow coupling of your car. This is easier than putting the bike on the roof or inside the car.)

As a newbie myself without friends interested in mountain biking, a phone holder for navigation is great to find new and interesting routes easily.

For extra motivation, put mountain bike magazines beside the toilet, to visualize what's possible when his skill level grows.

To get fit because of numbers or because of an app never motivated me personally. Also, I don't like to do conventional 'training' or to have fixed schedules. I just like riding my bicycle.

So, in conclusion, find out why he drives the bicycle and motivate him with a tailored plan.

When he was 15, did hobbies such as swimming motivate him to ride his bicycle there, or the feeling on the bicycle itself?

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