Smart Cycling Complete Class in Austin, Texas

Early on Saturday I attended a 4-hour League of American Bicyclists Smart Cycling Complete Class.  Four other students and I assembled in a parking garage to learn how to teach people new to bicycling how to complete some standard drills.  But even an old dog like A Dude Abikes can learn new tricks.  And some of what we learned is stuff that we’d been doing unconsciously and, in some cases, incorrectly.  So here’s a little overview of the experience.

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The class was organized by Bike Austin director Katie DeOlloz and taught by well-known League of American Bicyclists local coach, Preston Tyree.  This is a pre-requisite for an upcoming League Cycling Instructor (LCI) Seminar.  I’m not signed up for that because it costs cash money ($350, to be exact).  If the funds materialize by Friday, great, but even if not for this go-round, I’ll at least have the basics out of the way.  (If you’d like to help A Dude get into that class, find my gmail in the About page.)

Students listen as the teachrer explains a drill.

The basic skills consisted of:

  1. Starting and stopping a bike
  2. Straight-line riding and shifting
  3. Scan drill
  4. Signaling

Advanced drills included:

  1. Quick stop
  2. Rock dodge
  3. Avoidance weave
  4. Quick turn

The titles are pretty self-explanatory, but surprising, learning the skills was not.  After so many miles on the bike, simple things are just subconscious.  For example, I tend to push off with one foot to get rolling, then begin pedaling.  The proper method is to have your foot on one pedal at about 75 degrees, especially when at a stop light or sign, so you can get moving immediately.  And leaning to the side with your foot up will prevent overcorrecting and falling over.  Experienced riders don’t need to think about it, but in teaching new ones it’s important to think about the physics.  Lesson number one.

Katie and a student prepare to be shoulder safety catchers for quick stop drills.

Other subtleties:   most riders are accustomed to looking over their left shoulder.  But what about the right, as when you might be moving toward a left turn lane?  Try doing that next time you’re on a bike and notice if you tend to veer more into traffic while doing it!  Another interesting thing was that tight turning on a road or hybrid bike is maybe not second nature to long-distance riders who are mostly doing long, straight lines.  Easily understood, again, but a little bit tricky if you’re not accustomed.  As an urban assault rider just trying to stay alive, I didn’t have much problem with that, but a few others did.  I never considered flicking my steering wheel to avoid a rock with only the front wheel, but doing so could prevent oversteering and crashing.  That skill took some doing.

Preston demonstrating a turning technique.

As we worked through the class, attention was paid to not just completing the tests, but how we would demonstrate them to others.  Some things wouldn’t work well for kids, for example, looking back over their shoulder quickly, they probably wouldn’t focus on everything or retain what they saw.  If they were getting frustrated, you’d want to end teaching the drill.

After a few hours in the parking lot we were ready to hit the road.  This was for Katie and Preston to see if we had absorbed the instructions.  After only two miles, I got another flat tire.  Walking to the end point, I changed the tube.  This wasn’t part of the class but if there were extra credit, I got it.  We took a written test, based somewhat on an online class I hadn’t learned about in time to study.  So I did alright but have more theory to study and learn.

The class on the road in protected bike lanes.  (Bike Austin ED Katie DeOlloz in black t-shirt.)

Overall, I would say it’s helpful to beginners but really for any cyclist to take the Smart Cycling or similar class.  There’s always room for improvement.  Thanks to Bike Austin, Preston, Katie and my classmates for a fun morning.  And hey, if you have an extra $350 laying about (actually, it’s $410 since I have to join the League), let A Dude know by email so he can take the class.  Stay safe and classy, everyone!


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