Friday, June 7, 2019

BWL Column: It's never too late to learn to ride

BikeWalkLee Column
The News-Press, June 6, 2019
by Ken Gooderham

Is it ever too late to learn how to ride a bike – or ride it better?

Sure, if you’re a kid, learning how to ride is considered de rigueur – a virtual rite of passage of one’s childhood. The mastery of a new skill, a sense of newfound freedom, the launch of what (for some) becomes a lifelong passion – all common results of learning to ride.

And there typically are a variety of opportunities to learn to ride a bike, or ride one better, for kids. One good example we covered in an earlier column is the Wheel Lee Fun summer camp which begins next week, where riders ages 8 to 15 can learn and expand their cycling skills.

What about the adults new to cycling and seeking to learn to ride (period), to ride better or to expand their cycling skill sets? There may not be summer camps for that, but there still are a number of options.

If you need to learn how to ride, it’s never too late – and you have a number of ways to pursue that skill. One is to find a cycling instructor to teach you in person; local bike shops can be a good source for potential instructors. There are also a lot of resources online, both from websites (look for reputable ones to start, until you can discern the difference between savvy and silly on your own) and the ubiquitous YouTube, with more videos than you’ll have time to watch them.

If you already can ride but would like to ride more skillfully, it may come down to the skills you’d like to learn to guide your pursuit. Want to learn how to ride in a group? The best to learn is to do it, and local bike clubs often offer sessions on group skills as well as rides where you can practice what you’ve learned.

You can also look at cycling skills classes and instructors, often coordinated through state or national advocacy groups – such as Florida Bicycle Association and the League of American Bicyclists. Check out their websites for details.

Of course, while online you can search for tips or videos that can also boost your skills. These will help you see how to get better… but nothing beats actually doing it for the best learning experience.

Another important skill for cyclists is taking care of your bike – including making emergency repairs on the road. How much you need to know depends on how far afield you plan to ride… so if you’re just cruising the neighborhood, the best skill you may need is knowing how to get your broke-down bike to the local bike shop. But if you’re looking at longer rides, it’s smart to have some basic repair skills (like replacing or repairing a flat) that can enable you to make it back home safely.

For those, again you have choices. Bike shops frequently offer clinics to help new riders (and potential customers) learn the basics of bike maintenance; check your local shops for offerings. That’s also a great way to make new contacts with fellow cyclists and the local biking community, if you’re interested in that.

Have some basic mechanical skills? Then a little research and reading (as well as some careful wrenching) can expand your repair repertoire rapidly. (Just make sure you don’t make a bad situation worse by a botched repair, and that you have the tools necessary to get the job done.) Also, YouTube (again) has a ton of videos on bike repair to show you how it’s done.

Perhaps the best advice is to know what you don’t know so you can find someone who can tackle that on your behalf. Handling basic maintenance is one thing, taking on a major repair is something very different – particularly repair of a crucial component such as brakes, gears and chains.

After all, you want to spend your time riding, right? Not being broken down on the side of the road – or worse – from a repair gone wrong.

Ready to ride or run? 

Run? Still a few organized races for those willing to get up early to beat the heat. This Saturday, there’s the Cape Coral Elks 5K at Rotary Park in Cape Coral ( or The following weekend (June 15), the Fort Myers Track Club holds its annual Membership Fun Run 5K at the CenturyLink Sports Complex, Fort Myers (

Ride? Back-to-back Critical Mass rides this weekend, with the original SW Florida night ride in downtown Fort Myers Friday and the Sanibel night ride Saturday. Lights are required for night rides and helmets are recommended; details at Looking for summer activities for your kids? The first week-long Wheel Lee Fun camp kicks off June 10. Details at

Both? Upcoming events include:


Have a favorite route you like to bike, or a unique walk you’d like to share with others? Tell us about it at, and maybe we can feature it in an upcoming column.

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Ken Gooderham writes this on behalf of BikeWalkLee, a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County — streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Information, statistics and background online at 


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