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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Saskatoon, Sask.
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    345

    Mentoring newbies

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    I'm helping out with an informal class put on by a local cycling advocacy group, aimed at encouraging more women to ride. Last Monday we met up at the house of the organizer and met the participants. So far there are as many mentors as participants, but there may be more coming next Monday, when we ride to an empty parking lot and work on some basic skills.
    Many of the skills are things I've always taken for granted, like simply taking a hand of the bars to signal, or shoulder checking without wobbling, or even getting out of the saddle on a hill. Like most life-long cyclists, it's never even occurred to me that someone wouldn't ride because of feeling uncomfortable with those things.
    We'll also be working on route planning, as it's often not clear (even to us "lifers") what the best route somewhere by bike is.
    An interesting experience on the whole. One young woman has never learned to ride a bike, so a local fellow who rescues bikes has found her one to learn on.
    Queen of the sea beasts

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Western Canada-prairies, mountain & ocean
    Posts
    6,982
    Admittedly nulijuk, I haven't risen from my saddle going up hills for the past....35 years.

    And my partner who cycles on his own across mountain ranges, across Canada-U.S. several times and elsewhere doesn't either. He just bears down and goes up a long climb and is very good at this.

    That's great you're teaching/mentoring.
    My Personal blog on cycling & other favourite passions.
    遙知馬力日久見人心 Over a long distance, you learn about the strength of your horse; over a long period of time, you get to know whatís in a personís heart.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Oslo, Norway
    Posts
    4,083
    Good for you. nuliajuk! I hope you post about your experiences with this. I regularly wonder about what is the best way to encourage more people to take cycling, especially everyday transport cycling. I think the things we "regulars" consider important aren't always the things a newbie finds most challenging.

    I agree that basic bike handling is important to feel safe and in control, and that route finding is a very important skill in urban cycling. I used to hate driving a car to places I hadn't been before, because route finding by car was a new skill I wasn't very good at - and if you take a wrong turn you can't just stop, pick up the car and turn around... ;-)
    Winter riding is much less about badassery and much more about bundle-uppery. - malkin

    1995 Kona Cinder Cone commuterFrankenbike/Selle Italia SLR Lady Gel Flow
    2008 white Nakamura Summit Custom mtb/Terry Falcon X
    2000 Schwinn Fastback Comp road bike/Specialized Jett

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Concord, MA
    Posts
    13,141
    I don't stand on hills, either, Shooting Star. I find it tiring and counter productive to my speed. I can spin up anything, often faster than others I ride with.
    Mentoring new cyclists is very important, Nuliajuk. My club just did a clinic for real beginners, in a parking lot and then 10 miles on a bike trail, followed by a picnic. While I wasn't involved with this, I did speak to the person in charge and she said it went very well. We plan on offering it a few times a year.
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  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Columbia, MO
    Posts
    2,051
    We decided to cancel our Traffic Skills 101 class because not enough people registered. It was ok to have 2 students in March when the weather was awful, but the weather is perfect now and we only had 2 students register. We are going to replace it with a series of 1-hr workshops followed by 1/2-hr practical (parking lot or road). Our first workshop will be bike maintenance because that is a popular topic and I think it will draw a lot of people. Maybe we'll do a workshop that is just for women too.
    2009 Trek 7.2FX WSD, brooks Champion Flyer S, commuter bike

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Sacramento, CA
    Posts
    29
    As a road bike newbie, I am appreciative of mentors! I'm keeping an eye out for classes in my area, I think I found one in June - the info is a little vague. I'm sure I could use some tips on shifting (when, how hard/soft to be pedaling, etc.), and just learning general biking etiquette. I'm also planning on taking my LBS up on their free weekly maintenance classes. They rotate between 4 class subjects each month.

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  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Saskatoon, Sask.
    Posts
    345
    There are many reasons to get out of the saddle besides hills - starting up quickly when the light turns green, getting over level crossings and cattle grids with more even loading on the wheels. In any case, this woman wants to learn how to do it, so I'm willing to show her how.
    Many of my best commuter skills were, oddly enough, learned on a velodrome while training for the weekly track racing league. It's surprising how useful a good standing start is in downtown rush hour traffic. And of course we had to learn to shoulder check to both sides without wavering, because we didn't want to switch up or down the banking without making sure there was no-one coming up behind us.
    Queen of the sea beasts

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Concord, MA
    Posts
    13,141
    Well, I've been able to survive without standing on hills in my 12 years of cycling, although I do stand to go over tracks (no cattle guards here).
    On another mentoring note, yesterday we lead our club's annual new member ride. It's not really for new members, though. Because of threatening rain, we had a smaller turnout than usual. I was sweeping the faster group and ended up coaching 2 women. One just had difficulty with hills but wanted to challenge herself by going with the faster group. She stayed with us until the half way point and then rode back on her own, after I gave her some tips on shifting for hills. The other was a very fit and younger woman who just seemed to be in the wrong gear all of the time. I ended up staying with her and finally deduced that she had no idea how to shift, even though this was her second season with the bike! We finally stopped and I figured out she had SRAM, so I remembered something about the double tap, and voila, she was at least able to shift the front. I gave her more of a lesson, with my DH when we got back.
    She had had no instruction from her LBS and had no idea how anything worked. Now, I am a mechanical dunce, but the fact that the shop let this person go off with such a lack of knowledge is just horrible. Then, I helped another couple with some other things.
    I got a really nice email from the first woman, thanking me for teaching her. And the couple told DH and I that we are "the perfect cycling couple."
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  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Oslo, Norway
    Posts
    4,083
    I'm with Nuliajuk here, you can certainly get by fine without standing out of the saddle, and some people just don't like it, but it does come in handy when cycling in city traffic, or anywhere else you need to rapidly accelerate. That's cool that she wants to learn.

    Come to think of it, I probably rode regularly for almost a decade before switching to clipless pedals, trying a road bike or learning to ride no-hands. None of them essential skills, but I appreciate all of them now, for various reasons. I still struggle with getting a bottle out of a cage though, as I don't drink very often while riding. Should be working on that one!
    Winter riding is much less about badassery and much more about bundle-uppery. - malkin

    1995 Kona Cinder Cone commuterFrankenbike/Selle Italia SLR Lady Gel Flow
    2008 white Nakamura Summit Custom mtb/Terry Falcon X
    2000 Schwinn Fastback Comp road bike/Specialized Jett

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Concord, MA
    Posts
    13,141
    Well, for the first five years I rode, I couldn't even stand up on the pedals. Not sure what the issue was, as I am plenty strong. I can stand up now (I do to stretch), but it seems to have the opposite effect on me when climbing. My speed decelerates, mostly because my legs are hurting like hell. Generally, in order to stand and climb, I need to be in a harder gear than I normally would be, so I can balance on the pedals. Hence, it just feels harder than it needs to be. If I saw some kind of speed increase, I'd do it! So, when I do difficult climbs, I just gear down and spin. Since I am not racing, there's no need for a sprint to get to the top.
    Riding no hands will never be a goal for me, lph. I am much better with the water bottle now, but that's about my limit. Maybe this is why I enjoy helping newbies so much. I am not particularly coordinated and my spatial/balance skills are pretty poor. Yet, I'm a bike leader and I had little issue learning to use a road bike, clipless, etc.
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  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Western Canada-prairies, mountain & ocean
    Posts
    6,982
    It is important to at least hand signal with one hand off the handlebar, and shoulder check without wobbling the bike.

    You never know when you're going to need it ...like the time when a bee got stuck with its stinger on my eyelid (flew between face and sunglasses!) and I had to frantically pluck off that bee from my eyelid with one hand, while still cycling up a road hill, hanging onto handlebar with other hand. For certain, that was an emergency manoeuvre in a moment of terror!

    I've never been able to ride with no 2 hands. And won't worry about it ...at this point in life.

    When I returned to cycling over 2 decades ago, I often cycled behind my partner to learn how he dealt with new routes, signalling, etc. and that's when I watched-learned how he could climb-spin up long hill and mountain grades without standing/rising from his saddle. He does this also with full weighted bike panniers and a loaded bike trailer also. He is a experienced and long distance endurance cyclist....I believe he has racked up 130,000 km. over the last 25 years and he doesn't rise from his saddle. Yes, he has iron legs.

    Yet, I am certain he is incorrectly/negatively judged by younger/same age guys flying up the mountain grades on their carbon bikes in their team kits. (My partner has never cycled in a team kit. He never will. Just ordinary lycra, jersey and high-vi apparel. That's all.)

    I don't think he's ever figured how to take a water bottle out of cage while riding along. He just stops and drinks. He doesn't race. He's done some group rides but he...just stops and drinks. He does have good geospatial skills so getting disconnected from group is less of an issue, compared ....to me.

    It is actually really inspiring to see someone ahead, apply tremendous mental disclipline and stamina/strength with a weighted bike to exercise patience to go up 10-19% long grades in this way. It's helped me a lot of how to prepare myself mentally....because half of the time, that's what it is. Cycling for transportation is not for folks who dislike cycling with weight and who want to cycle fast a lot of the time.

    It helps to learn to cycle up hills with heavy grocery weight with the image of someone else not dancing up a hill up on carbon bike, but someone who is pulling up ordinary everyday weight of food and other stuff on bike.
    Last edited by shootingstar; 05-12-2013 at 11:09 AM.
    My Personal blog on cycling & other favourite passions.
    遙知馬力日久見人心 Over a long distance, you learn about the strength of your horse; over a long period of time, you get to know whatís in a personís heart.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Indianapolis, Indiana
    Posts
    10,956
    Like Crankin, I don't stand on the bike except to stretch. I feel...unstable when I try to pedal while standing and I just do not like that feeling. I prefer to use my gearing and just spin when I need to do so. With my shoulder & t-spine mobility problems I don't know that I will ever learn how to use a water bottle - I use a hydration pack. I am thinking about taking water bottles for shorter rides and just....stop when I need to drink

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    4,713
    I stand for a little extra oomph on really short, steep stuff. If it's an actual hill, I'm not getting up it on the bike if I have to stand. And I can get a water bottle out of the cage while riding. I just can't get it back in.

    Crankin, that's kind of scary.
    At least I don't leave slime trails.
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  14. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Saskatoon, Sask.
    Posts
    345
    Instability while out of the saddle is usually due to being either too far forward, too high up (legs too straight), or both. Most bikes have a balance point that usually falls about 10-12" in front of the saddle, so that's what the hips should be lined up above. Crouching a bit lower so that the leg at the bottom of the pedal stroke is a little bit bent also helps with balance. It is harder on the legs than being in the saddle, which is why it's usually only done on very short steep snorts. And of course, it helps to have a bit of grip on the pedal so that it can be brought back and up at the same time the other pedal is being brought forward and down. Just pushing down on the pedals tends to make the bike weave from side to side.

    Last Monday we all went to a nearby school playground and had people practice the various things they wanted to work on. I didn't get to work with the one that wanted help with gearing and getting out of the saddle, my charge was a woman who hadn't ridden for a number of years and could only get stopped or started with one leg on a curb. So I had her get one crank horizontal, step down on it, and coast just standing on that pedal for a short way. After a few coasts, she was able to bring the other leg up to the top of the other crank and start pedalling and getting onto the saddle. Then she worked on doing it in reverse to get off again. She did well until we all got back on the road to go back, which is normal when learning a new skill, the old way of doing things kicks in automatically until the new skill is cemented into place in long term memory.

    The new rider is doing really well, in the week since she got a bike she's already learned to ride. A bit wobbly, but she can pedal it and stop and start.
    Queen of the sea beasts

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Concord, MA
    Posts
    13,141
    Owlie, what's kind of scary? The fact that I'm not that coordinated, or the woman who couldn't shift? THAT was scary; my lack of coordination, not so much. I push my limits regularly and I'm actually better from riding, despite my advancing age!
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