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Posts Tagged ‘Bike Handling Skills’

Every kid should be able to ride their bike to school. This right of passage, ushering in new freedoms and new independence for kids also brings with it the prospect of new angst and worry for parents.  Between 1969 and 2001, the percentage of school-aged students who walked or biked to school in the United States declined from 41% to just 13%. Traffic and safety concerns are cited as the primary barriers to parents feeling comfortable in allowing their children to bike- or walk to school.

The Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School (ANCS) is taking the lead in creating a safer environment for students to ride their bikes to-and-from school; now through a partnership with the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, ANCS  is providing middle school campus students with the knowledge and training needed to develop safe cycling habits and strengthen on-bike decision making skills.

Safe Routes To School (SRTS)

ANCS is the recipient of a $500K federal grant for a Safe Routes To Schools (SRTS) project to enhance walking and bicycling opportunities for students and the communities around each campus.  In conjunction with the Georgia DOT and the City of Atlanta Department of Public Works, which sponsor the project, ANCS will construct and improve campus-area facilities such as sidewalks and crosswalks and address safety issues by various programs—all designed to make it easier and safer for students to walk or bike to school.

Confident City Cycling 

On October 19th, 2011 ANCS has arranged for students to participate in the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition’s Confident City Cycling Course.  This compact yet comprehensive class covers everything students need to know to learn to “drive”  thier bike safely and confidently in a city neighborhood environment. It includes bike handling skill drills and an instructor-led ride with feedback to reinforce what students learn in class.

Our Family’s Experience

Woody Gap North Georgia Cycling Six Gap 6 Three Gap 3 Youth Atlanta Bike Bicycle.Since starting 6th Grade at ANCS this year, my 10 year old son Liam has ridden his bike nearly every day.  We rode together for the first couple of weeks optimizing a route that balanced distance, traffic and safety.  Our route includes the crossing of 3 fairly major thoroughfares.  Two of these crossings he handles solo, but for the third and busiest he has coordinated a meet-up with other students to safely cross en-masse.  Liam now rides by himself most days and I have noticed a new (though far from perfect) level of situational awareness in him on our rides together.    He has even modified his route slightly on his own to avoid a dog that enjoys chasing kids on bikes!    I look forward to the additional skills and knowledge that Liam will gain through his particiaption in the Confident City Cycling Course at ANCS!

 

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Silver Comet Trail Hurricane Lee Cycling in the Rain Atlanta By Bike

Hurricane Lee Spreading the Love Across Georgia. Thanks NASA Guys.

Cycling website Velominoti is “The Keeper of the Cog”,  the road-wizened rules of cycling by which we must abide. Liam, Ethan and I received our schooling today in Rule #5- Harden the F- Up [all rules here] See those nifty little spirals coming out of the hurricane, fanning across Georgia?  Those are called “rain bands” and they carry massive amounts of water in them to drop on cyclists heads- and can even spin off neat little tornadoes.  I did not know this before today.

Silver Comet Trail PATH Atlanta By Bike Junior Cycling Hurricane Lee
A Wet Ride All Day Long. Rolling By Mile Marker 12

We had planned to ride the Silver Comet Trail today for most of the week- before we had even heard of Hurricane Lee.  Yesterday I asked Ethan how far he wanted to ride. He replied “We should do a Century”.

Liam interceded “Dude, a Century is 100 miles”.

Ethan, looking insulted at Liam’s insinuation that he did not know how long a Century ride was, shot back sharply  “I know- can we do one on the Silver Comet tomorrow?”

Liam now jumped on the wagon too “Yeah, Dad- can we?”

Silver Comet Century Riding Atlanta By Bike Family Cylcing Junior Cycling Bridges

Looking Over The Edge. Many Scenic Bridge Vistas Along the Silver Comet

“Yes we can”  I replied, shocking them both by my acquiescence, secretly sparing them the details of the pain and suffering involved in such an undertaking.  I was aware that rain was in the forecast for most of the day, but so were cooler temperatures in the seventies…good for long distance riding.

The Silver Comet is a 61 mile long paved rail conversion running from just outside Atlanta to the Alabama State Line where it continues another 40 miles as the Chief Ladega trail.  Together, the Chief Ladiga and Silver Comet travel over 100 miles, forming the longest paved trail in America.  Doing an unsupported Century is no easy task, and there is a cyclist-friendly c-store at mile 35 on the trail that can be strategically used for resupply again at mile 65 after the turn-around at mile marker 50.  This means that we only had to carry enough nutrition to make the c-store, resupply, ride another 15 out to 50, 15 back to 65, resupply again for the final 35 home. 

Silver Comet Cycling Hurricane Lee Atlanta By Bike

Feed stop at Mile Marker 20. Cooler Heads Prevail.

The light drizzle at roll-out from the parking lot at Cooper Lake was actually pretty refreshing.  The sensation of the rain slowly infiltrating my shoes, shorts and rain slicker came with a silent resignation- it was just going to be a wet day, no need to try and stay dry.  The boys were in high spirits as we careened around the few joggers and other cyclists who also wanted the path to themselves.  Noticeably absent were the joggy-mommies that usually pack the first few miles of the Comet- jacked into their i-pods and oblivious to nature, their slumbering spawn and other people trying to get around them.  Yay!  

We settled into a nice cadence, I figured if we could keep the average speed around 14 miles per hour, we should be able to have a sub-8 hour finish including breaks- putting us back at the car around 4 pm.  We maintained this pace for about 20 miles when Ethan fell unusually far behind.  Liam and I pulled off at the rest stop and Ethan arrived less than a minute later- heaving his bike into the bushes nearly in tears in a full blown tantrum.  He then kicked Liam’s bike into the mud and the mushroom cloud meltdown came.  He did not want us to go that far ahead and we were going to fast and he wanted to stop.  He wanted to go home.  My heart sank.

As a parent, and especially a cycling parent, I always struggle between the line of  challenging the boys and being too pushy.  This was neither- Ethan was just scared that we would leave him.  He was wet and fatigued. I told him we could slow down, but all he had to do was say something next time.  I assured him we would not leave him behind and that, NO we could not go home now.  We had a little discussion about digging a little deeper and pushing a little harder- especially at the moment we most didn’t want to.  That is when the rewards come.  This is when the good stuff happens. Was he willing to do that?  This broke the ice and we continued on in better spirits.  I am glad we didn’t call it quits…yet.

The rain bands from Hurricane Lee would arrive in waves- washing over us constantly, but varying between a light drizzle and white squall downpour.  The boys took pride in the growing piles of road grime and grit accumulating on their bikes- debating who’s was dirtiest.  We made a game of shouting “It stopped raining!” as we passed under a bridge or traversed a tunnel.  We were fully soaked and loving it!  Soon we were back in our cadence and I would routinely perform a visual check to make sure the boys were in the right gear for the long haul- middle ring in the front, and low enough in the rear to keep a nice spin on the very gradual grade changes.  They both gravitate to mashing big gears.  The Silver Comet is an old rail line and with the exception of a few bridges and road crossings there are no grades greater than 2%.  This is nice, but it means you are pedaling all the time- no big gears.

Silver Comet Trail Atlanta By Bike Cycling Silver Comet Centrury Food

Shelter From The Storm. Gas Station Refueling Stop in Polk County

Approaching the C-store at mile marker 35 we hit the wall… a wall of rain.  It came down in buckets and our speed dropped to 5 or 6 miles per hour as the runoff on the path was higher than the rims of our wheels.  Visibility dropped to nil as we made the shelter of the gas station canopy and entered the store to buy food and drink.  The lady at the counter said it was supposed to get worse as she eye-balled us quizzically.    I ran through the scenarios in my mind.  If we could only go 5 miles per hour we could not reasonably finish the ride on this day.  It was time to head back to the car from here with 70 miles in our pocket and hope for the best.

Then the storm sirens came- these indicate that there is a tornado warning in effect.  Not a tornado watch, but a warning that a tornado is imminent.  The eerie howl emanated from a distance over the tree tops, sounding at first like a motorcycle topping out 3rd gear.  Then the sirens were not so distant and looking back from whence we came, I knew what that low-black sky meant.  Being stuck out in the middle of podunk Georgia during a tornado with my kids was not on our agenda for that day.  The boys were machine-gunning me with questions about what we would do when suddenly the sirens stopped and mechanical voice came through the air telling us that this was a “REAL emergency and we needed to seek shelter now”.  Shit. Shit. Shit.       [this is what it sounded like]

Silver Comet Trail Path Tornado Atlanta By Bike

The Boys Keep a Sharp Eye Out for Twisters from Inside the Mountain.

I remembered that there was a long railroad tunnel about a mile down the path.  It sure beat hugging a tree or lying in a wet ditch for shelter and I explained the plan to the boys as we began our sprint toward safety.   Inside the tunnel under the mountain we were probably as safe as we could be.  I viewed the prospects of us being sucked out into the afternoon sky as remote.  As the sirens continued their creepy whine in the distance, the boys  busied themselves with spotting twisters from the mouth of the tunnel.  It was dry, we were safe and could get safer fast by moving to the middle of the tunnel. We had food and water and could sit this out for awhile. 

We repeated this drill- next time under a bridge on the way back to the car, but we arrived safely and with a bigger adventure completed than we could have dreamed of when we started.  Even though we did not make the Century, we pushed hard and made good decisions that we were all happy with.  Still dirty with grime, but in dry clothes and shoes we discussed our near-miss with Hurricane Lee over large stacks of pancakes and hot cocoa (coffee for dad) at the IHOP near the trail head.  I am very proud of the boys for their accomplishments today- and thankful that we all lived to tell about them.  Well done boys- you own Rule #5.

Silver comet Trail Map Cheif Ladiga Youth Cycling Junior Atlanta by Bike

Three Counties in 70 miles (35 out-and-back)

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Linus Bike Grocery Getter utility bike commuter bicycle

G.G. with a rack of groceries.

Regular readers could probably sense a little guilt in last week’s Other Bike update-  while the situation has improved, money has been tight for me this past year.  I have gotten very accustomed to doing more with less and splurging on a bike did come with a little remorse.  However, I am really enjoying riding the new Linus  bike which I have done almost every day since her purchase.  I say her- because today she earned the name GG which is short for Grocery Getter. 

This morning I rode GG with Liam on his bike to school.  He has been expressing some hesitation and a little fear about crossing a busy intersection on his way to school and so I have been going with him until he becomes more comfortable and confident with the crossing.  As we were riding he mentioned several times that he could “get it from here” and then began quietly  dropping waaaay back from me as we got closer to the school (where other kids were walking).   I have been recognizing the beginning stages of P.U.E. Syndrome, or Parental Unit Embarrassment Syndrome  in Liam since the start of middle school last month.

Parental Unit Embarrasment Syndrome

Dale Price used "Costume Therapy" to overcome the affect that P.U.E. syndrome was having on his teenager.

Top research into P.U.E suggests sensitivity to Liam’s budding desire for independence and acquiescence to his presentations of symptoms that may include redness of the skin, looking at the ground and shortening temper.  I also came across an alternative approach that seems to have worked for one family to overcome the ravages of P.U.E   that is credited with tightening the father/son bond.  Dale Price, of American Fork, Utah, has spent the past school year waving at his high school son’s school bus every day while dressed in costumes as a lampshade, Elvis, and Santa, just to name a few.  While riding a bike in costume may pose some technical challenges I believe that adaptation of Dale’s principles holds a lot of promise. 

Dale and his son were even featured on Good Morning America:

http://abcnews.go.com/US/embarrassing-dad-170-costumes/story?id=13783709

Let it begin. 

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In my previous post Brownwood Bike Rally 2011, I had written about having made “Go Team Eddie” signs that we held up to send my Dad pictures of.  He was not able to make the race due to his declining health and the pictures cheered him greatly.  I am visiting Jeannie (his wife) in Rochester and found the those pictures on their computer. Enjoy! 

 

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As I write, it is the evening before Liam and I head up North Georgia to ride with the Sorrella Cycling Team for a loop around Three Gaps.  This will be Liam’s first ride in the mountains.  I wrote about my growing affinity for the challenging riding in the area between Dahlonega and Helen  after a solo ride along this route in  A Day of Cycling in North Georgia several weeks ago.  The basis for my nervousness is multi-faceted; but primarily centers around visions of Liam missing a turn on a winding descent and catapulting over a guardrail, him crossing the center line into oncoming traffic…the list of things that could possibly go wrong goes on ad-infinatum.  These are fears…they are things that are possible, but not  probable.  These fears are also compounded by the fact that I, by my own admission and at times to my own detriment,  am not always the best judge of what is “safe”.  This is called self-doubt.   So I struggle tonight with the basic curse of any responsible parent: fear and self-doubt. 

Lake Tahoe America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride AMBBR TNT Team In Training Atlanta Youth Cyling

Liam Riding up Emerald Bay, "America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride" 2010

Then on the other side of my invisible ledger, I also have to give weight to the fact that Liam is a very strong (but young) cyclist.  He often takes the lead on our weekend Kirkwood Sunday Rides when there is a question on the route.  His bike handling and situational awareness skills are solid and he is not prone to erratic or irresponsible maneuvers while riding…not always the case off the bike.  In fact, none of my fears or doubts have anything to do with whether or not Liam has the ability complete the ride- that is up to him, and to his credit he is eager and willing.  He has put in a lot of miles this year and he should be physically up to it.  I have to remember that he blew everyone on the Team-In-Training group away last year by riding up Emerald Bay for our 25 mile tune up ride for the 2010 Tahoe Century.  In fact, since the start of this year’s Tour De France, which he has missed watching only a few stages, I have seen a new willingness and ramp up in his riding- venturing out several times this week on his own. 

I wish that  this angst I am feeling could all be neatly tied up with a bow and make the decision definitive one way or the other- but that is almost never the case with anything worthwhile in life.  Things like love and passion and courage are never a sum-total of an equation; there is always a stepping off point where we must move through our fears and self doubt about what lays ahead and go with the information we’ve got.   My job as a father is to (safely) deliver a well-balanced, intelligent young man into the world in a few years.   I think that this challenge and riding in general is a move in that direction- so I am stepping off.   

A side note- this is all in MY head.  Liam is just pleased as punch to climb 6000 feet!

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We had quite a group today for the Because-We-Know-You’re-Not-At-Church ride out to Stone Mountain with the Kirkwood Sunday Riders.  Today was just one of those days that made me glad to be a cyclist- we had a ton of people show up (27) and most of them had never ridden with Kirkwood Sunday Ride,  so it was nice getting to know a few folks.  For mid-July the weather was incredible- about 80 degrees and overcast so there was no overheating.   Liam and Ethan were with me after being on vacation for the past ten days and it felt really good to roll out with them at my side.  The boys are becoming so confident and at-ease on the bike, I am enjoying watching them enjoy riding and beginning to pick up skills.

“I don’t need stained glass and a steeple when I got spokes and a giant rock.” -Lisa

Kirkwood Sunday Ride- Rolling Deep Out To the Rock

Rolling out from Le Petite Marche in Kirkwood,  the large group started to naturally form into smaller ability based groups for the ride.  I hung a bit with Paul- it was his first group ride ever and he was really enjoying it.  I also got to ride a bit with Rachel who trekked in from Peachtree City (by car) for the ride this morning.  My friend Wes made the comment that it was a really nice group of people- and it struck me that he was right.  I think the fact that you have a group of generally health-oriented people out for a great morning ride with the endorphins kicking will suppress even the biggest grouches.   We all collected for a specacular group shot before heading back to the ‘hood for a straight-out invasion of our favorite brunch place Le Petite Marche.  French toast sammies!

Liam’s Corner

Today was awesome because there were so many people.  The hard part was going up a big hill with my chest hurting- but I made it.  All the people were really nice- but Rachel was the nicest person there.  It was the funnest ride- I think I did well because I wasn’t last.

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This is not the actual Western Auto Store. Note the line of bikes in front though!

With all of the bike riding I do, it seems strange that I have not thought about my first bike- or learning to ride it in years.  But  I was watching a YouTube video about a really motivated & excited kid after he rode his bike for the first time. The rush of memory came all together- the name of the store, the type of bike, what we were doing when I got it- everything. 

I remember shopping for my first bike with my Dad after getting our haircuts- we still went to OK Barber even though we had recently moved to Victor, NY which was some distance away from OK Barber just outside of Rocherster.  I was 5 or 6 years old at the time so it was probably 1978 0r 1979. Tony “Boloney” had been cutting my hair since I was born and I still go see him  for a trim when I get home.

The Schwinn Store (remember those?) was across the street from the shop and I remember my Dad suggesting we should go look at bikes for me.  Walking in the door and onto the showroom floor of gleaming shiny bikes I recall that almost all of the them were of  that particular “70’s bowling ball” pallet of metallic blues, oranges, browns and yellows and greens.  They were all huge.   The particulars were not particularly clear, but we left without a bike- my Dad assuring me we would look someplace else. 

My First Bike: A Western Flyer "Buzz"

That someplace else was the Western Auto Store just down the road.   Right there in the middle of an automotive store was a row of varying sized kids bikes- continuing a line of lawnmowers and tillers.  These bikes were red and blue and pink…normal colors. I spotted mine right away-  a red Western Flyer with a Banana seat and chopper bars….and it was mine. 

After recieving basic instructions about pedaling and ballancing in the parking lot of Eastview Mall, my Dad would run beside me- one hand on the handle bars and one on the back of the seat.  After a few laps he moved behind me and just held the seat; allowing me to steer for myself in crooked and wobbly fashion. 

Then came the moment of truth- he told me he was letting go!  I fell immediately.  And Cried.  But- you gotta get right back up o there- so off we went with my Dad holding the seat and me steering like a drunken monkey.  All of a sudden I heard “You’re doing Great!” form way too far behind me- he had let go without telling me.  I teared up and danced the line between absolute joy and stark fear- but I kept riding straight.  Then I fell.   Eventually I stopped falling so much.  

To me there is a nostalgic and endearing quality to the quirky variety offered by certain chain stores- of which the now  I mean really, can you imagine walking into a modern Autozone or NAPA store and asking about their bike selection?  Though I doubt this was the case- perhaps there was a certain marketing genius of offering bikes in the event you could not get the car running.  On the more peculiar side of odd product pairings: the local hardware store that developed the best ski offering in town (Muxworthy’s).

I had fun putting this together and finding the pictures.  The Western Auto picture is from another blog I encountered (thanks Harriett) visit it [here

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