Teaching beginners

For discussions within the Cycle Training profession.
Bikecat
Posts: 31
Joined: 28 Oct 2007, 11:06am
Location: Bristol

Postby Bikecat » 6 Feb 2008, 1:06pm

To learn to balance a beginner needs to learn steer towards the inevitable leans that happen as they ride. This brings the bike upright again.I can teach most of my beginners in under 20 minutes using this idea. This is in fact how everyone balances on a bike! I teach with pedals on and lots of patience!

Bikecat
Posts: 31
Joined: 28 Oct 2007, 11:06am
Location: Bristol

Re: Teaching beginners

Postby Bikecat » 30 Sep 2010, 6:12pm

Hi Gargil
More info:
Choose a wide flat car park or tennis court. Beginners may weave around as they learn to steer. Hold the back of his saddle underneath and his handlebar and help him to steer the right way. The very first thing I usually do is a braking lesson. Get them cycling one or two revolutions of the pedals as you hold them, then ask them to put the brakes on very gently. This gives most people the confidence to stop and therefore more confidence to ride. Make sure he is looking ahead as he sets off - most beginners want to look down at their pedals, but we balance better if we look at the horizon.
I hope it helps! Let me know how you and him get on.

Fireweed
Posts: 6
Joined: 12 May 2010, 6:45pm

Re: Teaching beginners

Postby Fireweed » 2 Oct 2010, 10:15am

I have taught several adult beginners this summer. I don't remove pedals.

1. Talk about the bike.
2. Discuss and practice braking as you walk around.
3. Go ahead with Level 1: getting on and off the bike, setting the pedal.
4. One of two things: have them coast down a slight incline (no pedaling at all), slowly using their brakes coming to frequent, controlled stops. Otherwise, use a flat surface and push right pedal down to start the bike moving. Adults seem to favour one or the other.
5. Practice balance with short coasts, then when they feel the "moment" when balance is achieved they can touch the left foot to the pedal. Next comes pedaling, only when it feels right to the client. No pressure!

This can take one or two hours, depending on the anxiety and skill level of the client.

The ultimate goal for the first hour should be an increase a sense of safety and control- convincing the client that full control of the bike is easily obtained at every step. Adults seem to really appreciate this, rather than feeling pressured to achieve pedaling by the end of the first hour (though this is frequently achieved, much to their amazement!)

I taught my kids how to ride by running behind (before I became an instructor). I would never suggest doing it this way for anyone! What a waste of time and energy!

Bikecat
Posts: 31
Joined: 28 Oct 2007, 11:06am
Location: Bristol

Re: Teaching beginners

Postby Bikecat » 2 Oct 2010, 5:56pm

To fireweed
Insisting on a right foot pedal ready may mean those with a left foot preference are being disadvantaged! I always ask which pedal they prefer to use and about one in 10 says left. I leave them as it makes no difference to an adult and in fact has advantages where there are cambers and makes you more visible at junctions!
My method of teaching them to steer towards the lean seems to be quicker! Best time is 7 minutes, worst is two hours...

Fireweed
Posts: 6
Joined: 12 May 2010, 6:45pm

Re: Teaching beginners

Postby Fireweed » 2 Oct 2010, 8:14pm

I'm intrigued Bikecat, I have never taught a complete beginner to ride in 20 minutes!

Could you expand a bit on the leaning idea? Do you just tell them to lean in the opposite direction that the bike goes? Did it take a lot longer to get them going before you started maximizing this concept?

My biggest concern is going to far too fast, having someone fall off the bike and never try it again for another 20 years, if ever!

Thanks for the response :)

Bikecat
Posts: 31
Joined: 28 Oct 2007, 11:06am
Location: Bristol

Re: Teaching beginners

Postby Bikecat » 3 Oct 2010, 8:31am

Hi Fireweef

Aaargh no, not lean in opposite direction :| Steer in same direction!
Try it with your own bike. Stand next to it and lean it slightly. Then try turning the handlebars as you move it forward a little. What happens is that if you turn the handlebars towards the lean the bike comes back upright. If you turn the handlebars away from the lean the bike goes down.

I have always taught this way, for about 9 years now (old timer!)' I think the reason it works so well is that you are directly teaching the principle, not hoping that they'll 'get it' just by trial and error. The reason I hold the seat is to test whether they are balancing, and the handlebars to help them turn the right way if they need help. It also means they are very unlikely to fall as you are right there with them and can say' Brakes! Put your foot down!' if they get into trouble. This means that we can trundle up and down and across the wide area and they learn quickly or slowly according to confidence/self image. I gradually take my hand off the handlebar to the elbow where I can still influence the steering and thence to just the hand under the saddle. It's then a question of when to tell them that you weren't doing anything back there and that they were doing it for themselves.
I work for Life Cycle Uk in Bristol and we are considering running a course to teach instructors how to teach beginners.

Fireweed
Posts: 6
Joined: 12 May 2010, 6:45pm

Re: Teaching beginners

Postby Fireweed » 5 Oct 2010, 2:21pm

Thanks for the reply, Bikecat- I will certainly give this a try, as your technique makes alot of sense and would likely heighten the sense of control over the outcome for the client.

How do you support someone who, say, is quite heavy? I have memories of holding the bike seat for my kids and being exhaused from running behind them, over and over again- and they were much smaller than the average adult! I suppose the difference is that adults will actively try to balance whereas kids are happy to lean right into you for the ride.

I would very much love to take a course in adult beginner training. I think I have learned a great deal so far but it would be great to hear more about how others do it, and get some formal training... Will the course be open to anyone interested or is it only for instructors working through LifeCycle?

Bikecat
Posts: 31
Joined: 28 Oct 2007, 11:06am
Location: Bristol

Re: Teaching beginners

Postby Bikecat » 6 Oct 2010, 10:56am

Hi Fireweed
the course would be for anyone who would like to teach beginners. We are in the process of setting it up so watch this space! Alternatively call Tamar Thompson at Life Cycle UK.
Best wishes
bikecat

LANDSURFER74

Re: Teaching beginners

Postby LANDSURFER74 » 6 Nov 2010, 11:12pm

A course for teaching 'beginners ' to cycle .. what planet are you people on ... whats your next course "breathing for beginners".
No doubt an intensive course on "moving your limbs" is next!
Parents / grandparents/ uncles / aunts / the kids next door / etc., teach beginners to ride a bike!
Cycling Active had a 3 page article on how to mend a puncture ..wasted on my 5 year old grandson ...he can pull the wheel off and fix punctures without any help ... but could not read the article .... i blame the parents .. and the school!!!

Bikecat
Posts: 31
Joined: 28 Oct 2007, 11:06am
Location: Bristol

Re: Teaching beginners

Postby Bikecat » 7 Nov 2010, 11:57am

HI Landsurfer
Sure other people can teach people to cycle, but my biggest client group are middle aged people who never learned as kids. They are often terrified of falling off because that was their experience as a child or adult when they tried.
Even if you teach a kid you can save hours of back breaking work by teaching this princlple, (ie steering towards the lean of the bike) which works because it goes to the very thing you are trying to teach them - how to balance.
Most things in life are easier to learn if you go to the basic principle first and then take small steps towards everything else you need to learn!
all the best

jane769099
Posts: 2
Joined: 17 Oct 2011, 10:22pm

Re: Teaching beginners

Postby jane769099 » 17 Oct 2011, 11:08pm

I've taught loads of beginners of all ages, and all riding within the first hour's session (bar one - but she's very determined and now rides on road all the time). Like Bikecat, most of my clients are middle aged and were never taught as children - how brave of them to decide to learn as adults! Most of them have already tried with husbands/friends and not achieved much - so I guess it isn't all that easy to teach beginners. My other biggest client base are children whose parents never learnt to ride a bike, so don't know how to teach their children, although they are keen for them to have the opportunity.

Confidence makes all the difference. No need to remove pedals, but also don't hold the bike for them any more than you have to. They get a feel for the balance by doing it themselves - even if it's a 4-year old walking the bike to the playground. Stick with tarmac, and flat as possible.

I start by getting them to scoot the bike along a bit, swing it from side to side to feel the balance, use the brakes, etc. Then they try riding with me holding the handlebars (running backwards) and letting them get a feel for the pedalling, stopping and starting frequently. You can normally keep even a very heavy person up by steering the bike for them (steer into lean, as previous posts say). Once they're getting the hang of the pedalling, I hold from the back. Sometimes I explain the bit about steering into the lean - depends on the trainee. Lots of them do it instinctively if they get a chance to control the bike by themselves a bit. I hold the bike for them to feel what they are doing, to help them start off and give confidence until they can do it themselves. I tend not to do the thing that my Dad did with me - let go without telling me, so I panic and fall off when I realise he's not there!

Good luck with the course, Bikecat - sounds great.

Yael
Posts: 57
Joined: 26 Oct 2011, 7:48pm

Re: Teaching beginners

Postby Yael » 26 Oct 2011, 8:43pm

I've been working with beginners for almost a year, in Bristol-based Freedom of Movement project. We work with women, refugees and asylum seekers, who want to learn to ride. Some of them tried cycling before, some never did. It's even more complicated because many of them don't speak perfect English. I did Life Cycle's (standard) course and got some extra support from their instructors, but would definitely have gone for the beginner-specific course had it been available, as this is our project's main aim. I also taught a 3-and-a-half year old boy who was very confident on a balance bike - a very different experience, and running behind/alongside would be much more painful as they tend to be a bit shorter at this age so your back hurts. I learned a lot through trial and error, more error than trial I'd say... I'm sure the information is available in many places, so I'm sure I'm repeating things, but it's probably better than struggling to find information as I did.

I find that for us, language-barriers considered, experiential learning works best, combined with (almost Pavlovian) mantras - 'pedal ready', 'big push', 'foot down' - when repeated enough times, they work amazingly effectively... It usually goes a bit like:
1. Inspire confidence and introduce the bike. Get them to push it to the training ground as we're meeting somewhere else, 5 minutes' walk away.
2. Show them how to stop the bike when walking with it. Sometimes we show which lever operates which brake, usually we just simplify things and teach them to use both. It's a lot of information to take in.
3. Getting on and off the bike - away from 'the dirty side', holding brakes on, the usual. We have the saddle very low - so that they can have their feet almost flat on the ground - it's not ideal for cycling, but helps with confidence in the first stages - and we've only ever had one, panic-induced, fall. The bikes fall quite a lot, the trainees land on their feet.
4. Getting the pedal to the 2 o'clock position ('pedal ready') - and showing them you can do it with your foot and you don't need to use your hands...
5. At this stage, which I was showed by a CTUK instructor, we hold their handlebars, facing the trainees, and get them to let go of the brakes, start off ('big push') and run backwards for a few metres, then 'stop' and 'foot down'. It means you learn to run backwards, which is an important skill for you in case of a Zombie attack, but also you do the steering and they just get to experience the feeling of balance and control, while you engage their gaze and thus prevent them from looking down (which people are always tempted to do at first when they are trying to find the second pedal in-motion).

After doing this a few times we show them the 'steer into the lean' principle - demonstrating rather than explaining, again, language barriers. Then we move on to running alongside, one hand gently correcting steering, one behind saddle or around waist - it's really important to get consent for that, but also for letting go - I'd never let go without discussing it first. I'm trying to inspire confidence and trust. With some of the trainees I have to run alongside even after they've mastered balance - they are scared, and ask me not to leave them. I appreciate it, and admire their courage even more, because they are doing something that really scares them, and they stick at it. It means I'm slightly fitter and can run a little better, so I don't consider it wasted time and energy. Sometimes I find that people can learn to turn faster if I run in front of them, sometimes running backwards and engaging their gaze, while turning around the corner - by looking around the corner before making the turn, their bike appears to just turn of its own accord. Magic.
Also, with some trainees we try exercise bikes first - to acquire that perfectly-smooth pedalling motion, that's good because it isolates one of the skills. For some people it makes the process easier and quicker, a good idea I got from one of the Life Cycle instructors.

Bikecat
Posts: 31
Joined: 28 Oct 2007, 11:06am
Location: Bristol

Re: Teaching beginners

Postby Bikecat » 27 Oct 2011, 9:50am

Hi Yael
great post!
I have seen the running backwards idea and am glad it works for you. I always start from the side (one hand on handlebars one under saddle at the back). I get around the 'don't look down at bike' issue by adding one more idea to the 'pedal ready, let go brakes, push pedal down' mantra. Look ahead!
V