Friday, January 25, 2008

Road I Courses -- First Quarter 2008

Well, I finally put a Road I class on the calendar (March 7-8, 2008), and we’ll see how demand goes. After the initial surge last September, Willa reports that attendance has been steady, but small. Maybe it’s the cold weather… and with the spring riding season coming up, it’s good way to get pumped up.

River Trails Rentals is our host for this class, which will not only be a great and convenient location, but also a good chance to show off their facilities and what they can do for the local cycling community.

Road I (I labeled it as “Smart Cycling,” which is probably a little more descriptive of what the class is about) is the League of American Bicyclists’ primary course in traffic and bicycle safety. What we try to do is cram several years’ worth of riding experience into some nine hours of theory and practice, and make you a much more aware and safe rider.

We’re in a culture of instant gratification, and there has been a good bit of interest in doing the classroom portion on-line, and then simply showing up for the road ride and test. Willa is steadily working on getting this set up. I’m a little more old-school, I guess, but what I’ve found to be the most beneficial parts of the Bike Ed classes that I’ve attended was the seminar-style, group discussion and participation where everyone seemed to feed off of and become enthused by the contributions of all the group members. Anyway, that’s the sort of class structure I’ve tried to set up. Friday night looks like one of those “death-by-PowerPoint” ordeals, but hopefully it’s set up to keep attention, participation, and enthusiasm high. And you’ll get a set of the slides to take home and jog your memory after the class is long over.

As for on-line access, I’ve loaded most of the class material and the outline to the web site here (see the Class Resources box to the right of this frame), so you can read ahead, and see if this sort of thing is for you or not.

Friday Night, March 7 -- Street Cycling Skills: About 4 hours in the classroom using discussion, demonstrations, computer presentations, and videos. Street Skills covers the basics for skilled and enjoyable cycling, including riding in the Little Rock metropolitan area, necessary equipment, hazard and crash avoidance, and your legal rights and responsibilities. A bicycle is not required for this part of the course, but you may want to bring your helmet, since we will be covering helmet fitting in this session.

Saturday Morning, March 8 -- Street Cycling Skills Practice: About 5 hours. Prerequisite: Successful completion of Part 1- Street Cycling Skills. Most of this class will be on the bike. Street Cycling Skills Practice provides an opportunity to apply what was learned in the Street Cycling Skills course. We will be learning and practicing emergency maneuvers. We will ride in a variety of Little Rock traffic conditions to practice and demonstrate your knowledge and performance of vehicular cycling skills. Street Cycling Skills Practice includes a written multiple choice test and a riding skills evaluation on the streets of Little Rock. For this course, you will need to show up with a helmet that fits and a bike that fits and is in good working order.

A traditional road or mountain bike with multiple speeds is an ideal bike to use for this class. However, any type of bike is okay -- if you have to ride a recumbent for whatever reason, bring your recumbent. Some of the hazard avoidance drills that we will be doing are best learned on a traditional road or mountain bike with front and rear brakes. Fixed gear bikes are okay, if that is your only bike, but it needs to have a mechanical brake – not just trying to stop the pedals or drag your feet on the pavement – a freewheel bike is easier to learn on and is less likely to cause you to crash. And remember, this class will be focusing a lot on how not to crash, or how to get out of a crash situation – not to give you practical experience in crashing!

Don’t have a bike yet? Our host, River Trail Rentals, can provide a bike and helmet at for a nominal fee.

Road I is a course that you complete equally as comfortably in your cycling team kit or your regular street clothes. Bike gloves and bike clothing might make you a little more comfortable on the bike, but are by no means required for the class. We aren't going to ride a long distance at a strenuous pace. We are just going to do some riding practice, in open parking lots and on residential and downtown streets at an easy pace. Anything you can ride in is fine. Be aware that the road test will happen even in light rain. If there is rain in the forecast, come prepared. Relax, it is just part of the ride. We’ll stop for lunch in the River Market area toward the end of Saturday’s ride, and then finish up with the evaluations (yes, you get to grade me, too!) and head back to the start point for graduation.

Willa will be teaching Road I as well on February 8-9, if you don’t want to wait until March…

Either is a good deal, and I hope you’ll look at cycling in a whole new light once you’ve finished…

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