Sunday, May 20, 2007

Tough Kids: Part One

We had our first Tough Kids class yesterday, a preparatory event for the Tulsa Tough weekend. Malcolm McCollam received 300 donated bicycles for the Little 100, and he needed only 200. We had 100 bicycles give away to area kids who attend both the Tough Kids class and the kick-off for the Tulsa Tough on June 2nd.

The class was scheduled from 10AM to 2PM. Instructors and volunteers were there earlier to set up some tents for registration and the mechanics. We were lucky to have about 10 instructors and volunteers, so the day really went smoothly. Kids and parents started trickling in at 9, and we were underway just after 10. We had a full class of 50.

We did the usual parking lot drills: learning to scan for overtaking traffic, the rock dodge, quick stops, and quick turns. The quick stops were difficult for some of the kids on coaster brake equipped bikes. I rode one of the Schwinn Little 500 bikes around the parking lot, and frankly, I'm not comfortable with coaster brakes, either. The bikes handle like any other road bike, not a track bike, though they strongly resemble one. Perhaps I have fixed gears so firmly ingrained in my bicycling consciousness that a coaster brake is just too foreign. The very idea of back pedaling just seemed wrong somehow.

Allow me to belabor the obvious. Teaching kids is much different from teaching adults. First, the kids regarded the parking lot drills almost as a challenge. They were eager to try them. Adults are put off by the quick turn in particular. They're hesitant to make the attempt since they 'know' counter steering is somehow dangerous. So in teaching adults, we have to get past what they already 'know' in order to do this drill. Also, kids don't need a wealth of explanation. Providing too much detail only confuses them. Jordan said, “Yeah, and it's boring!” They like it short and sweet. On the other hand, it's much harder to keep a group of kids focused on the lesson. Gary Parker, a retired teacher, said, “Welcome to middle school, Ed!”

I told my group that the important part of the instruction was to learn some new skills and to have fun doing it. The kids seemed to enjoy it because it was fast paced. No one had a chance to stand around for long and get bored, except for a couple of teenagers. Then again, when it's painfully obvious that they'd rather be anywhere else but in a parking lot on a Saturday morning with a bunch of totally un-cool bike geeks, well, the carefully studied appearance of crushing boredom is entirely understandable.

Several parents asked about bicycling events in the area, especially events for their kids. Brian and I talked with some about the various tours. There was one teenager asking about racing opportunities. I told him about the Tuesday evening criteriums. It would be helpful to have some handout information on area tours and races for these requests. Those teens are the next crop of cyclists.

We need to add to the instruction for the next event. We need to emphasize the dangers of sidewalk riding because some of the kids rode away from the event on the sidewalk. We need to explain lane use before going on a group ride. I had one boy who swerved from the curb all the way across the centerline, regardless of traffic. I, um, admonished him loudly, and told his Mom about it after the class. “Good!” she said, “Sometimes that the only way to get his attention.” Besides the name tags on the front of their shirts, it would be good to have a piece of masking tape with their names attached to the back of their saddles too.

I learned some new things, as is almost always the case. I saw some kids beaming from the praise they received. It's exciting to see them develop physical skills, and watch as they improve on each attempt.

And I learned from Ren that 'dude' is a non-gender-specific term. Personally, I would not be comfortable calling a female-type-person 'dude' so perhaps that's an indication that I'm out of touch, over the hill, or otherwise middle-aged. Of course, she could be pulling my leg. How would I know?

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Blogger Paul Tay said...

4 hours is not anywhere near enough to counter a lifetime of bad habits. I suppose it's a start.

L.A. has a great not-for-profit travelling bike program started by Pat Hines that goes to the schools. Too bad we always wait for a few more roadkills before that happens.

Ya think that kid in the first pix might put his helmet on the right way?

9:39 AM  
Blogger Fritz said...

Nifty that you're doing this. "Tough Kids" -- what a neat name!

Since the quick stop depends on front-wheel braking I can see how coaster brakes are a challenge. Are these bikes equipped with a front brake at all? I tried the Raleigh "Coasting" and the coaster brake was weird for me also. I tried thinking of it as a fixie but that doesn't work -- after a stop, I tried lifted the rear wheel and tried backpedaling to get my pedal into position, but the coaster prevents that. Of course, without a front brake lifting the rear takes effort.

Saw the "car driver safety video" at Treadly & Me -- hilarious!

11:18 AM  
Blogger Ed W said...

This event was the first of its kind in the area. I hope we can use it to provide leverage for similar events in the future, and I hope we can expand on the instruction.

As for the kid with his helmet backward - I'm not sure if he was doing that deliberately or not. Regardless, it made a good photo.

The name 'Tough Kids' goes with the premier regional cycling event, the Tulsa Tough. The kids who attend the Saturday classes and the Tulsa Tough kick-off, get a free Schwinn Little 100 bike with Tulsa Tough decals. The forks are drilled for a front brake, if I recall right, but none is installed. I'll get some detailed photos of the bikes too.

I'll write a report on the next class to be held this coming Saturday.

5:35 PM  

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