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A Look Inside an Adult Learn to Ride Class!

Yesterday afternoon, BikeMN staff Helena, CJ, and Maya went to Roosevelt High School to hold the first Adult Learn to Ride class in a series of four classes. We unloaded the BikeMN van full of donated and refurbished bikes, set up tables with sign-in sheets, and put out helmets with our two volunteers, Z and Rebecca. It felt like we had just finished describing how the class was structured when the first participant arrived! From there, we got everyone checked in, name-tagged, and began fitting their helmets and adjusting bikes to fit them. We instructed participants to try getting comfortable pushing themselves using their feet on the ground, eventually striding and gliding while looking forward instead of down at their feet, and eventually fitted some participants with pedals.

Some participants, like a mother and daughter, saw the class happening while driving by and stopped to join, “my mom has always wanted to learn how to ride a bike, can you teach her?” the daughter asked. We got them checked in, fitted them for a helmet, and gave instructions as she began.

Throughout the class, everyone was encouraging and cheering each other on. It was so fun to see the joy of riding a bicycle as the class went on! A cool breeze made the slight slope in the parking lot a little easier, but some said the slope was tiring. When asked why the sloping parking lot was preferred for this stage of class, Helena said it was easier to gain a little speed when gliding down a hill, and gets participants more used to balancing.

As the class was wrapping up, we had a chance to ask Rose, Kulthum, and Dan a few questions about their experiences:

What brought you to this class today?

“Over the course of my life I always wanted to ride a bike but it’s in my head that I can’t do something so I just didn’t pick it up. But, every time I saw someone riding I thought ‘one of these days I’m going to try that.’ Well, why not today? So I emailed and asked if [BikeMN] was doing a class and you did, there was no way I was going to miss it! I feel like there are so many parks and there are so many reasons to ride a bike instead of a car, it just feels like a great option.” – Rose

“It takes forever to get to my clinicals, my classes, or from point a to b using public transportation, so I got motivated to learn. I grew up in Africa, in Kenya, and we were never taught how to ride a bike, y’know it’s like, ‘oh you can’t ride a bike, you’re a girl, you can’t do this.’ Now I wish I learned to ride a bike, and I was emailing so many places to ask if they had summer classes, and I was so glad [BikeMN] were offering summer sessions.” – Kulthum

“I came here because it’s summer, it’s a wonderful time to be able to enjoy the outdoors while we have this window to do so. The Twin Cities has a really great system of biking trails. I’ve never been able to ride a bike, and at 30, I’m excited to cross this off my list!” – Dan

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to learn to ride a bike or take this class?

“There is an organization, BikeMN, that exists and that is doing this work to make sure everyone can have this experience. I say just come, come with no expectations, ready to learn, ready to have fun, and ready to get on the bike” – Rose

“Don’t overthink, just come. Just come to the first class, I think you tend to psych out yourself out thinking, ‘will there be someone as big as me, will there be somebody like me,’ you kind of psych yourself out because of these thoughts. Just show up!” – Kulthum

“It’s really awesome that we have an organization that has this resource available to adults, and it’s also especially nice that the organization is so welcoming. Right off the bat, people are warm and friendly and it feels like a safe environment to be able to mess up. There are a lot of folks who don’t know what they are doing either and I don’t think the goal is to be the person who is able to pedal right away, we’re getting close to the end and people are just starting to pedal and work on balance. It’s a comfortable place to be doing that.” – Dan

“This location has an incline, which means you have a decline and you can get speed. Which should help you get the balance, speed is supposed to be your friend to get balance. Balance is the first hurdle to get through, so just embrace the speed. What’s the worst thing that can happen when you embrace speed? And, embrace the feeling of not being in control, if your bike is sized right you should be able to just plant your feet down if you feel yourself going too fast. I think it starts there, when you’re comfortable gliding, use the decline to your advantage so you can glide quickly. It’s also okay to go a little bit slower with gliding, there are folks today who took it slowly and are doing well! I tried to just count to myself, 1-2-3, glide-glide-glide, and try to glide for longer and longer until I was balancing and ready to pedal.” – Dan

Where are you excited to go on your bike?

“I just want to get on the bike, get outdoors, and ride! I think that’s freedom right there.” – Rose

“I see a lot of people around Bde Maka Ska, I’ve always wanted to ride my bike around that!” – Kulthum

“When I first moved down to the Twin Cities in 2013, I just walked the Midtown Greenway and it looked so wonderful. I thought to myself ‘man if I could ride a bike one day down that, it would be so cool,’ to just be able to go down the Greenway on a bike. I want to enjoy the outdoors in the summer while everything is still nice and green.” – Dan

Next week, BikeMN will hold the second Adult Learn to Ride session covering safety and basic maintenance with the same group from today. At the end of the four sessions, the class will go on a group ride together!

BikeMN is also seeking volunteers to help with registration, 1:1 instruction, helping lead a group ride, basic maintenance, and more. If you’re looking for a way to spread bike joy and help your community, please consider signing up. Learn more and fill out the volunteer interest form using the buttons below!