More info

For more info on the Venus de Miles club, go to fullcyclebikes.com/goto/venus .

And for the guys: The co-ed Boulder Cycling Club focuses on recreational cycling and safety and has beginning and intermediate group rides. Go to bouldercyclingclub.com .


When spring is in the air in Boulder, there's also a whiff of chain lube and tire rubber riding the warm breeze, followed by the inevitable phone call from a friend: "I bought a bike. Want to go for a ride?"

Two springs ago, my friend Kim Phillips got the bug. After she purchased a carbon-fiber joyride, a few of us took it upon ourselves to turn Kim into a proper road cyclist.

I've been riding for a while -- 12 years -- so I'm on autopilot. I don't veer into traffic when I look over my shoulder, nor do I think about unclipping a foot to avoid careening over onto the pavement at a stoplight. But when you take your friend out for that first ride, you remember: these are learned skills.

Ouch.

Last year, when Tanja Wiant and Karli Gronholm started the Venus de Miles women's cycling club (which caters to beginner riders by teaching basics), Wiant noticed on their first group rides that some women never shifted their gears.

"They're not really sure how the bike works, and they're nervous they're going to mess something up by shifting," Wiant said. "But in reality, you're going to get yourself into much more trouble by not shifting," adding that she saw riders fall over on hills and at stop signs because they were grinding a huge gear.

This year, she scheduled a shifting clinic early in the season.

The Venus de Miles club is brilliant. If you want to learn to ski, you can take a class at any resort. But easy entries to cycling are less obvious, which is probably why every cyclist I know has taught someone else.

You need a buddy. Venus de Miles is a built-in buddy system. Hence the brilliance.

That spring with Kim, we took a trip to Fruita -- my favorite mountain biking destination. Kim rented a behemoth, albeit cushy, mountain bike (that none of us dared hoist atop a car) and rode it off ledges in the Mary's Loop area with her butt glued to the seat the entire time.

Ouch.

We'd remembered to teach Kim how to draft, signal in traffic, downshift before rolling up to a stoplight. I'd even taught her how to blow a snot rocket (tuck chin to shoulder, finger closing one nostril, blow!).

But none of us had the foresight to mention standing up on the bike -- even though it's an essential skill on the road or trail.

I badly wanted Kim to feel the joy of leaning back and rolling over rocks and roots without rattling her brain. Knowing the basics can make the difference between falling in love with a sport and getting frustrated enough to take your new ride to the Sports Recycler.

I wanted Kim to be in love. Or at least in like.

Kim never fell in love with singletrack, but maybe that's just as well -- she has a gorgeous road bike and endurance to match. That fall, Kim rode the Moab Century Tour. We created a monster.

I haven't been on a bike all winter, so I suspect if I went for a ride with her today, I'd be drafting off her and sucking wind.

Wiant says it's a beautiful thing to see someone who was once fumbling become skilled and confident on a bike. It definitely gives me a little thrill -- the idea of hanging onto the wheel of someone I once told to inch closer to mine.

As long as she doesn't blow a snot rocket on me.