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Riding a Bike: It's Never Too Late to Learn

May is National Bike Month, and everyone knows how to ride a bike, right?

Most of us learn when we're kids, of course. But, what if for some reason you didn't? What would you do then?

The folks at the REI Outdoor School began hearing from adults shopping at REI stores who wanted to learn how to ride. A light bulb went off, and a learn-to-ride class tailored just for adults was born. These classes have been a big hit ever since.

Learning to stay balancedI watched one such session held recently at a large, empty parking lot in San Dimas, Calif. (about 25 miles east of Los Angeles), and it was an inspiring sight.

To get started, the dozen or so mostly female participants gathered around REI Outdoor School instructors Gene, Amber and Scotty and were asked why they were taking this class. The responses were revealing:

Angela: "My dad didn't want to teach me."

Terry: "At age 15 I ran into a tree and got hurt. That fear has kept me from riding ever since."

Laura: "My dad tried to teach me when I was 7 but he gave up."

Mary: "I outgrew my first bike and never got another one."

ThOne-on-one instructione common themes of early accidents or lack of parental support quickly became apparent as everyone told their story. What was cool to see was everyone's desire to learn to ride now, even though many of the participants were middle aged, some with grown children of their own.

So why learn now?

"Our goal is to ride bikes as a family," said the adult son of Yoshiko, one of the class members. "Everyone else in the family rides."

"I'm a runner but I am interested in doing a triathlon," said class participant Mary. "I'm just not very comfortable on a bike right now." She and another participant were deemed ready for the basic skills class, a step up from the learn-to-ride class.

Up on 2 wheelsThe learn-to-ride instruction then got underway. Once the bikes had their seats lowered and pedals removed, the first exercise was to get comfortable balancing the bike by scooting back and forth across the parking lot using one's feet.

A few seemed to get it right away; others needed extra practice. This is a key part of the class so no one was rushed. As the lead instructor Gene noted, "Once you can scoot, you are riding a bike at that point."

Eventually, pedals were reattached to the bikes and seats were gradually raised. "Pedals are a psychological leap," Gene admitted.

At this point, the class diverged into individual instruction. One class member, Carrie, wobbled a bit at first but started riding on her own almost immediately, a huge smile on her face.

Success on a bikeA few folks had minor spills but most gradually started getting the hang of the balancing, the pedaling and the steering.

A few, like Yoshiko, were struggling. She was the only class member for whom this was her first time ever on a bike. It was only right near the end of the 3-hour class that she gathered the courage to ride on her own using the pedals. But she did it!

As everyone returned the bikes provided to them, Gene gave everyone goodbyes and final words of encouragement. Turning to me, he pronounced this as being "a typical class" because everyone displayed such widely varying levels of comfort for riding on 2 wheels.

The secret to success? It just takes a desire to learn, good instruction and a bit of practice.

How about you? What's your learn-to-ride story?

Posted on at 2:26 PM

Tagged: Cycling, REI Outdoor School, adults and bicycle

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Skibloom

I learned as a kid, we rode everywhere - the empty fields past the housing area - in Colorado Springs up the hills and, of course, down! There were some hilly dirt areas close to 3 stories high, no one wore helmets back then, somehow no one got hurt. We loved to let go of the handlebars and fly down the hills!
So my daughter learned really young and we rode miles. I asked the doctor how much was too much. He asked if she was talking to us - I said, "the whole way!" He laughed and said she was fine! She would ride about 6 miles when she was 6 years old, and talk the whole way!

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