I survived my second bike class! Well, I guess technically it was my third class since I took the "How to Ride A Bike Class" twice. Saturday I took my second course from REI Outdoor School that was called "Beginning Bike Skills." The purpose of this course was to teach us how to become more confident on the bike and learn basic skills like turning, shifting, safety, and riding on multi-use trails.
We met in the parking lot behind REI where both classes (the other being the "How to Ride" class) started out together, then branched off separately into our respective groups. I was thrilled to see that my class consisted of 7 students and 3 instructors, which meant we’d each, get a lot of individual attention.
After a round of introductions we were fitted for the mountain bikes and helmets that they provided. One of the instructors who had taught me a few weeks ago remembered me and which bike I used...the extra small one.
We went through a brief review of bike safety; i.e., Quick A-B-C's, etc, and then piled into an REI van. The instructors loaded the bikes into a trailer attached to the van and drove us over to the Shoreline Amphitheater where we spent rest of the class time riding around 2 huge empty lots that are used for parking during concerts and events.
We spent about 2 1/2 hours learning about the gears on a bike, how and when to shift, calling out actions when riding in a group, etc. We went through lots of drills like riding between ropes (which I ran over) and cones (which I promise I didn't knocked down), going up and down slopes, starting/stopping, etc.
At one point in the class one of the instructors spoke about "general rules of the road" when it came to pedestrians and runners. I found myself thinking, "Do the pedestrians and runners know these rules that you speak of?! Because no one ever told me..."
As I went through the drills I found the personal attention extremely helpful. I purposefully would hang back and be the last one to go or ride in the back of the group because I felt less pressure and knew that there would always be an instructor hanging with the last person. They gave me a lot of helpful tips and tricks.
Yet 2 hours into the class I still did not love it. I had a lot of anxiety about certain drills (like riding downhill!) and would get "shaky" on the bike. The instructor who had taught me before noticed and pulled me aside to check in to see how I was feeling. When I started to tell her how I felt I realized that I was just over thinking things and making it harder than it needed to be. She smiled and told me that's exactly what she was trying to get me to realize, then told to just have fun and not be afraid. I felt much better after that and started to actually enjoy myself...
The goal of the class was to get us comfortable enough to head out for a ride on the popular Bay Trail at Shoreline Park. It's a multi-use trail that is very crowded on weekends. In all the classes they've held, they said they only had two classes that were advanced enough to actually go on the ride yet they were hopeful we'd be the third. Talk about pressure!
Privately, I was dreading it. I had been on many outings in this area and knew how busy the trail got with kids, dog walkers, RUNNERS and I was scared just thinking about it. But sure enough, they told us we were all more than prepared for the outing so off we went.
First we had to cross a street and got to practice calling out instructions in-group rides. Then we had to climb a hill. I'm so used to muscling up hills when running that I started to do the same thing on the bike until one of the instructors reminded me I could change gears. It made it so much easier; I felt like I was hardly working!
Like the drills I hung behind at the back of the group with another girl and one of the instructors. He would walk us through everything, telling us when to shift gears and what gear to shift it to. He would tell us when to speed us, when to ride our brakes, etc. It was exactly same way I learned how to drive a stick shift - I loved it! There was one steep downhill followed directly by an equally steep uphill that was next to the water with no guardrail. I left the ego at home and got off my bike and walked it down, then up. Then was no reason for me to risk any type of crash.
We eventually came to the Boat House and stopped to regroup, use the restrooms, drink water, etc., then headed back. All together we rode about 5-miles. It was such a huge accomplishment for me and I am so happy about! I didn't crash into anything or anyone - definitely a confidence booster!
The next class for me to take is the "Introduction to Road Cycling" class. They said I don't need to have ridden a road bike before to take it, but I do need to be able to be pretty confident with turns and be ready to ride on an actual road - like with vehicular traffic. I think I need more experience so I'm going to plan on spending some time practicing before taking that next class.
These REI Bike School classes have been such a great experience in helping me learn how to bike ride. I still have a LONG way to go but I definitely feel like I'm facing my fears and slowly conquering them, which is a good thing because next weekend is another challenge - my very first Open Water Swim Clinic. I'm hoping the momentum carries over into next weekend...eeek, wish me luck!