Originally published in the Capital Bicycle Club newsletter, May 2012
For the beginner, getting started in cycling can often be a bit of a challenge. Although it’s probably true that once you learn to ride a bicycle, you’ll never forget it, however, what if that person hasn’t ridden a bike in decades? Today’s machines may seem as familiar as owning a personal spaceship. (I’ve personally shown people how to use gears they never knew they had!) The first year or two in anyone’s experience in cycling can often be filled with experimentation with new gear, clothing, and even food/hydration choices. And, yes, sometimes those experiments can be frustrating and expensive. There is help, though, and a way to get through those times a little easier now!
The Capital Bicycle Club has a new ride offering this year on Monday nights called the Beginner Ride. Michelle Kautzmann and Jenny Mercer are the co-leaders of this ride which is designed for those getting into or returning to cycling. Aptly named, this addition to the CBC schedule has the aim of teaching basic road safety skills, successful stopping, cornering, and other “on the bike skills.” Additionally, it aims to teach participants helpful tips on what to bring along for simple roadside repairs, weather preparedness, hydration, and nutrition. All of the things that can frequently derail a new cyclist’s first rides.
According to Kautzmann, she saw a clear need in the community for this type of ride through her work as co-owner of Joyride Bikes in Lacey, WA. More than once she met people getting into cycling and wished that she could spend more time with the new owner to make sure they learned all that the bicycle and cycling had to offer. Now, she’s got that chance to do just that with the Beginner Ride.
Just over year ago she started leading a small, but growing group of cyclists on the bike trail and road rides with the goal of helping them gain confidence and skills. As an accomplished cyclist herself, with years of racing and commuting to her name, Michelle had a lot to offer and soon created a dedicated following. To her, success comes in seeing someone’s face light up as they learn how to successfully lean into a turn, or come to a stop without the fear of falling.
Just as important is helping people learn how to successfully navigate travel through busy streets and parking lots to make sure they are seen by drivers and practice safe riding skills. To most people this doesn’t come naturally, and may be a huge hindrance to their enjoyment of cycling. Even though the bike trails are safe places for cyclists, it often takes travel through congested areas to get to and from them.
One of the first members and strong supporters of last year’s rides is Jenny Mercer. This year she is “all in” and loving the opportunity to share her excitement of cycling with new ride members. She was inspired to ride after watching Olympia’s own Capital Stage Race in 2011. She was hooked, bought a new bike, and wanted to learn all she could about riding it. She connected with Michelle for the rides and in addition to learning how to ride her bike, also fell deeply in love with cycling itself. Among the many lessons she learned from Michelle, it was learning how to ride for longer distances that got her hooked. If you’re just starting out, maybe you will too!
The Beginner Ride meets at 6pm on Monday Nights in the parking lot of JoyRide Bikes in Lacey (http://capitalbicycleclub.