Sound Cycling For all ages
Posted: 14th Oct 2015
Doesn’t everyone know how to ride a bike?
By Eleanor van der Hoest, SOUND CYCLING, Tuition for All Ages (Southampton) – National Standards qualified cycle training instructor:
I never rode a bike as a child. I was stuck on the ground while my brother and my school chums were whizzing around on two wheels. Why didn’t I learn? Maybe my parents thought it would be too traumatic for a timid child who kept falling over! Now, having been inspired to train as a cycling instructor, I can empower anyone who is attracted by the fun and sheer delight of propelling oneself along on this staggeringly clever invention. The training is not just for beginners – all levels of cyclist can benefit. I call my business Sound Cycling for simplicity. Cycling is sound on so many levels – meaning both good sense and wholesome. Also it’s a sound decision to take training for improving skills.
Now is the time to grasp the nettle and get on that bike! The perception of cycling in this country is transforming from a quirky minority activity to one that is green and health-promoting, offering solutions to many major issues of the day. The government has pledged to double the number of people cycling – how? Training alone can move people from fearful non-riders to confident cyclists, and get more people cycling well, which in turn makes our roads more pleasant for everyone. Financial incentives and persuasive facts will do nothing for someone who is terrified. The “drive” to cycle goes beyond personal pleasure and empowerment and lies at the heart of a hopeful future in terms of the economy, air quality, town and road design, in short quality of life.
And yet, when I tell people I teach cycling skills, the reaction in the title is pretty common. Misconceptions abound, such as that everyone has learnt to cycle as a child and “you never forget how to ride a bike”. People need coaching and encouragement to gain or regain both the physical skills for controlling a bike and good practice as a 2-wheeled road user. Just as with any other physical skill, lack of practice leaves us rusty and our adult bodies are not the same as their childhood version. I have been teaching a delightful medical student who hadn’t been on a bike since she was 10 and had come by a bicycle left behind in her accommodation. She was decidedly shaky and fearful on a bike at first and is now well on her way towards her goal of riding to the hospital and uni. I just imagine the result if she had not come for lessons: another bike lying discarded and unused and another person missing out on the joys of cycling.
Then there are people who, like me, never learnt to cycle as a child. I used to think you have to learn to balance on a bike when you are small, otherwise it would be too late! That was until a Dutch boyfriend had me riding in a very short time in my early twenties. Some people claim they have poor balance. Like any physical skills, they will not improve by avoiding doing things that develop them. To be able to stand and walk, the body is already a champion at balance, beavering away at a myriad of calculations just to keep us upright. It is pretty smart at figuring out a few extra techniques to ride a bike, provided it isn’t hampered by negative thoughts and beliefs. I am teaching a young woman who, at the start, kept doubting whether she could learn. Within 2 hours of tuition she was pedalling and thrilled to bits. I break the process down into small steps so you’re not trying to do everything at once. Being able to pedal and stay upright is the first big breakthrough. Becoming secure on all the necessary skills – such as stopping (quickly), steering accurately, looking behind and controlling the bike with one hand – takes time and practice but is essential before thinking about riding on a road.
With bike control skills mastered, we move on to learning how to ride on the road. People who have cycled for years are often not up to date with current good practice, (as I wasn’t until I trained to become an instructor). For example: Are you clear what position to ride on the road? I tutored a couple who were taught as children to ride close to the curb! That’s far from current advice, with good reason. How would you negotiate a roundabout on a bike? Many cyclists choose the pedestrian option here. What is the correct procedure for approaching the different types of junction? All this is learnt in a real road environment, at first on quiet roads. Embedded throughout is good anticipation, timely decision-making and positive communication to protect ourselves and others on the road. When the basics are mastered, there is an advanced level which shows how to tackle those busier roads and more complex junctions. Tuition can also involve rehearsing a route you want to ride, and looking at a particularly tricky piece of road. You have to be a bit of a detective at times to work out where we are supposed to cycle, even when there is dedicated cycle infrastructure!
There is no age limit, so all you grannies and grandpas, don’t embarrass your little ones any longer at being a cycle numpty. Parents, ride with your kids – they want to do what you do, not just what you supervise them doing.
The National Standard for cycle training
Launched in 2005, the National Standard was developed by over 20 organizations and is maintained by the Department for Transport (DfT). National Standard training is delivered to primary school children in the form of the Bike ability scheme, which replaces the old Cycling Proficiency Test.
Level 1 = bike control skills
Level 2 = basic road craft
Level 3 = advanced road craft
Adults can access this training on a one-to-one basis or in groups, which some councils offer at a subsidized rate. To find trainers in your area, contact your local authority. For more information on the National Standard click here
Tuition for all ages
Telephone: 07952 314768