WEEK 1 – LOOKING FORWARD TO A SUMMER OF CYCLING
by cycle instructors, Kate and John | 24th March
The clocks went forward this weekend, which means spring is here. It also means that it’s time to start the Cycling UK Cycle for Health sessions again. I’m Kate and together with John Tayler, we’ll be spending the next 12 weeks helping 12 adults to get active again. We’re both passionate about cycling and its benefits, so every other week we’ll be sharing a day in the life of a cycling instructor – it’s more varied than you might think!
During the day, I am a freelance copywriter and cycle instructor. That means I deliver Bikeability in schools to help children to cycle safely on quiet roads. You may think everyone knows how to ride a bike, but it’s not true. I also teach adults to ride. Some women were told that ‘girls don’t ride bikes’ so they never learnt. Others want to get fitter, or lose weight and cycling is a great way to tone up. And there is nothing like seeing the grin on someone’s face when they get the hang of cycling for the first time – it’s fantastic!
Cycling for health sessions are just that: to get people more active. Cycling is a non-load-bearing activity, which means it’s easier on your knees than walking or running. And this may sound crazy but we start at the very beginning. Before we even sit on the bikes, we start with getting used to how hard to squeeze the brakes. That gives beginners confidence to know that they can stop the bike once they start off. Some people may already be able to cycle but there’s something holding them back. It could be skills to ride on-road safely, or fitness. Whatever it is, a 12-week Cycle for Health programme will get you up and away and you’ll soon be cycling further than you thought possible.
WEEK 1 – MEETING NEW FACES
by cycle instructor, Graeme | 24th March
It’s always nice to meet the groups on the first session. New faces and some familiar ones from other cycle training also. Getting to know people’s names and varying abilities and helping them from there.
We could split the first group into 2 abilities to start; the cycling and the none cycling. People who were already cycling were playing games on their bikes and learning new basic skills. The people who were learning to cycle for the first time vary in ability but it’s always good to see the moment they realise they can pedal a bike and ride around, after mastering the balancing of the bike that is.
It’s got to be one of the most rewarding parts of being a cycle instructor when you get someone riding a bike for the first time or after a lot of years off.
Looking forward to next week!
WEEK 2 – GETTING BACK ON THE BIKE AFTER 20 YEARS
By Cycle instructor, Ben | 7th April
For the first 2 weeks on the course we have had a variety of people attend. Most of the participants have cycled in the past but no longer do it frequently. However, one participant hadn’t ridden a bike for over 20 years and doubted if she could get back into it but was willing to try. After a short amount of balance work and going through the level 1 basics she was soon riding and cornering as well as the others and showing great signs of progress. When we asked the participants why they wanted to attend the course all of them said something along the lines of wanting to get fitter and be more active, this feeling normally comes around spring time after a long winter. Personally I feel this course is perfect for even experienced riders to refresh their cycling skills and knowledge ready for a great summer on the bike.
Because the group we have is rather advanced they were all able to absorb the points of practice and use them in simulations we, as coaches, set up. Because of this we were soon able to progress to level 2 and working in simulated road situations. After week 2 all participants were able to confidently ride and are advancing into real life situations. At the end of the session each participant said they had learnt something new and one in particular explained how she had to alter the way she used to ride to a safer option. All riders are progressing well and I have full confidence this will continue throughout the course.
WEEK 2 – MOVING UP THE GEARS
BY CYCLE INSTRUCTOR, GRAEME | 7TH APRIL
The second week in and people are returning as well as a few new people arriving. The same split in abilities of learners to riders is made but the riders are taken out of the tennis court and onto a local cycle path. They tend to find this both very daunting and very useful too. It gives people a better understanding of the gear system usually as there are small ups and downs in the path. It also gives people awareness of limited path space and things like dogs along the way. The small trip also gives an idea of how riding a bike can be fun and relaxing as well as good exercise.
The learners continue to come on in abilities and are gaining more confidence on a bike with every minute practicing and riding around, some will be able to join the riding group on short rides soon and have only been riding for a week!
WEEK 3 AND 4 – TAKING CONTROL AND FEELING CONFIDENT
BY CYCLE INSTRUCTOR, BEN | 21st APRIL
Over week 3 and 4 the group has really progressed. We’ve had a few new students come and go but the original group still stands and are moving forward very well. Over the past weeks we have gone from learning basic skills about bike control to more complex techniques such as tight cornering and riding in pairs. In addition to this the students have begun to successfully carry out turns into and out of junctions, this is great progress for so early on in the course.
Because this is such an advanced group we have been able to fly through the structure simply practicing what we’ve learnt throughout however, some students have been struggling with some of the more detailed bike control. To overcome this last week we focused the lesson on controlling your bike, speed and direction in tight and unpredictable situations. We did this through exercises with cones to create small spaces and routes for the students to ride through, we then would add obstacles for them to navigate around.
Overall by the end of this session they had all improved in their bike handling and all, when asked, felt more confident on their bike and how to ride it safely and controlled in a road type environment. After being only a few weeks in, the riders are building up to riding on simulated roads to practice their manoeuvres and skills.
WEEK 8 – RIDING WITH ENTHUSIASM
By Cycle Instructor, Ben | 16th May
After getting this far into the course participants are still showing a lot of enthusiasm toward the weekly sessions. They’re still asking questions and suggesting things to try throughout the 2 hours we’re with them. Because all riders are now capable of riding confidently around the park itself they’re now starting to feel as if they’ve actually accomplished something and have proven they can ride, this has given everyone a confidence and enthusiasm boost for the rest of the course.
Everyone is now very eager to keep going. From an instructor point of view this is really nice to see as it’s around this point in the course where I can clearly see how much people have progressed with their riding. I can see that participants are now really enthusiastic about their riding and I like to think they often look forward to the sessions. It’s also clear to see how their behaviour towards cycling has now change as they can now understand manoeuvres and how cyclists can be respected on the road as well as how much there is to learn beyond just riding their bikes.