by Samantha Haiken
NHCAT has taught Learn to Ride classes at the Farmington Canal Trail free of charge since the
organization’s founding! NHCAT uses the Learn to Ride technique of the League of American
Bicyclists, which begins by removing the pedals from a bicycle, lowering the seat, and having
the participant glide down a gentle decline to get the hang of balancing on two wheels. Once
they’re ready, instructor puts the pedals back on the bike and then has the participant practice
gaining momentum by pushing on the pedals. Usually within an hour, the newly-minted cyclist
Recently, Karen Jenkins, a member of the NHCAT Board and a League Cycling Instructor, taught
Finbarr, or Fin, a high school student who spent this summer in New Haven. I chatted with Fin
after his lessons to find out what the Learn to Ride experience was like for him. He reported
that he liked that his instructor removed the pedals from the bike because that made it easier
for him to stop the bike’s momentum when he was first learning how to balance and steer.
Then, the instructor had Fin install the pedals.
It was tough to learn how to gain momentum on the bike once the pedals were back on, but he
got the hang of it soon. Karen showed Fin how to switch gears on his bike, use quick release
levers to change the height of the seat, and properly fit and position his helmet. He also learned
the classic ABC Quick Check: checking the air, brakes, cranks and chain, and quick releases, then
riding the bike a few feet to do a final check that everything is working properly.
By the end of the second one-hour lesson, Fin used the “power” take-off and pedaled away
along the Farmington Trail with his instructor riding behind him. He also demonstrated how to
come to a smooth stop by gently using the brakes instead of his feet as he did during his first
Asked to provide advice for future Learn to Ride students, Fin offers that the mindset of the
student is one of the most important factors in the learning process: those who don’t really
want to learn – who are just doing it because they think they’re behind everyone else and
should be able to – might struggle more with the lessons than those who are more motivated.
Fin rides scooters as well as his bike, and notes that while bicycles and scooters have similar
uses, bikes are more practical: they can reach higher speeds than scooters, and are therefore
better for getting around. He can now envision himself riding his bike around some of his
beautiful local trails.
If you’d like to learn more about NHCAT’s Learn to Ride course offering, reach out to
firstname.lastname@example.org. A League Certified Instructor will work with you to determine the best time
and place for your class and provide a bike helmet that fits you, free of charge.