Meet Sydney Sotelo, our Adult Education Coordinator

Hello! My name is Sydney Sotelo, and I am very excited to be joining WABA as the new Adult Education Coordinator.

A true lover of all things outside, in my free time you can usually find me biking, hiking, rock climbing, backpacking, camping and playing outside with my dog, Waffle. For the past six years, I have worked as an Outdoor Recreation educator, helping people to get outside, learn new skills and invest in the natural world around them. I believe that public lands, parks, trails and paths can teach us so much about ourselves, and I am passionate about using the outdoors as a catalyst for personal growth and change.

I come to WABA with an eagerness to inspire others to try a new skill. I believe that with a supportive, encouraging environment, effective teaching and a whole lot of stoke, anyone can learn to do anything. I value hands on teaching as an opportunity to engage with others and create meaningful, transformative experiences. So, try something new! You might learn a little bit more about yourself along the way.

If you would like to get to know me better, learn more about my teaching philosophy, or just need to get over the fear of taking that first step to getting on a bike, feel free to reach out to me by email. I am happy to sit down for a chat and brainstorm new ways to learn! Check out all of our Adult Education classes online and feel free to reach me at sydney.sotelo@waba.org.

She won a free bike, will you?

You may not know Celeste, but she was a WABA bike education student last year. By attending a bicycle education class in 2017, Celeste was automatically entered to win the sweet bicycle you see above. Celeste signed up for a WABA Learn to Ride class because the time was finally right. She had lived long enough without being able to ride a bike. She was proud of her great life surrounded by friends, working as a professor and staying active within her community. What she didn’t have was the experience of enjoying life on two wheels.

This is where WABA came in.

In the span of three hours, Celeste was introduced to wearing a helmet properly, how to make sure her bike was properly fitted for her, and finally all about how to balance. After meticulous practice pushing with her feet, Flintstones-style, Celeste was ready for pedals. After a few wobbles and shakes (from nerves and still being new at the whole balance thing), Celeste was pedaling a bicycle all by herself for the first time in her life! She walked away from the class with a new found skill and the feeling of success. Little did she know that she was also walking away with a brand new bicycle.

Due to the generous support of a WABA member, the Adult Education team received a bicycle to raffle off during the Fall 2017 season. Anyone that learned to ride for the first time in a learn to ride class, brushed up on their riding skills in a city cycling class; or discovered the greater bicycling community in a community ride was eligible to win the bike.

By participating in a class you’re guaranteed to win (just not guaranteed to win a bike). You will win the feeling of being connected to an awesome community–the incredible local biking community! You will win new skills and tricks to find more joy and comfort while riding a bicycle. And, maybe, just maybe, you could win a bike.

So, what’s stopping you? Come and win in a class this spring. Check this space in the next couple of weeks to view the schedule. Or, enter your email address here and be notified when the schedule goes live.

Happy riding!

Everyday Bicycling Program Year in Review

The Everyday Bicycling program rode with a lot of bicyclists in 2017. Since the weather is supposed to turn colder this time of year the adult education team doesn’t offer many classes. Instead, we take a brief pause to scan behind and discover what worked in 2017, then set our sights on 2018 and beyond. Below are some highlights from the year.

A few hundred new bicyclists

This year our team of instructors led 30 adult Learn to Ride classes across DC, Arlington, and (for the first time!) Prince George’s County, and the City of Falls Church.

  • More than 400 folks attended a class and 80% of them were riding by the end of the morning!
  • That means 320 new riders are enjoying the trails and roads on two-wheels today!

Our season has wrapped up for the year, but if you know someone that still wants to learn how to ride, consider sharing the joy of life on two wheels by setting up a private class—many of WABA’s instructors enjoy teaching one-on-one.

Students learning to ride in Arlington

Riding confidently

More than 200 people (mostly grown ups, but also kids) attended a City Cycling class in 2017. In 3 hours time participants learned some skills and tips to enjoy the great trails and also how to make the commute with traffic less stressful and more fun. In addition to the confidence learned, community building was gained.

  • WABA ran 25 City Cycling classes in Montgomery County, DC, Alexandria and Arlington in Virginia.
  • WABA ran two family biking classes in DC – one discussing the challenges of riding with youth attached to the bike, while the other focused on the joys of riding with youth on their own bike in the city.
  • WABA ran a youth bike rodeo in Montgomery County.
  • WABA trained National Park Service Rangers that work along the Anacostia River Trail.

Want to bring a City Cycling class to your office for your employees? Email us: education@waba.org.

Building community

Navigating the streets in the region on a bicycle can be tricky, which is why WABA offers slow, no-drop community rides.

  • To date, WABA led 220 community members through the neighborhoods discussing ways to avoid the door zone and how to deal with tricky intersections.
  • We shared thousands of fun facts and trivia questions.
  • For the first time, WABA led a Community Ride in Fairfax County.
  • We’ve got one ride left on the calendar for 2017 – come and ride with us!

Bringing biking to work

The Everyday Bicycling team worked off of the bike too.

  • WABA shared the key components to start commuting by bike with more than 300 people in Everyday Biking Seminars at workplaces across the region. The point of this seminar is to encourage people to try a regular trip by bike instead of car.
  • WABA met with and had honest conversations with the supervisors and safety trainers of DC Circulator buses about using the road with pedestrians and bicyclists, through the creation and launch of WABA’s Bicycle Friendly Driver program.

Training the trainers

WABA welcomed 14 new certified bicycling teachers. The League of American Bicyclists certifies cycling instructors across the country, but about once a year, we run a special certification course to help us ensure that we have a varied and exciting team of instructors that are connected to the communities in which we teach. 

Planning for 2018

WABA is excited for all the work the team did in 2017 to make bicycling better for everyone in the region. By taking advantage of the best practices of this year and working from some new ideas to improve the program in 2018 – the Everyday Bicycling Program can’t wait for the weather to turn warmer. Hopefully, we’ll see you (or a friend) in a class or on a ride next year!

City Cycling Class Brings you More Joy When you Ride

Many people are familiar with WABA’s Learn to Ride class–to teach adults to ride a bike for the first time–but that’s just where the learning begins.

Whether you’ve been riding for four months or forty years, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll learn something new at a City Cycling class. Read below to see how Kemi, a Trail Ranger for WABA in 2017, appreciated her ride even more after picking up a few tricks.


“How do I put more pedal to the metal?” this was the question I asked during an orientation ride around the city as a new D.C. Trail Ranger.  I did not realize how embarrassing the question was until I heard the answer, “Shift the gear up”, said Ursula. I replied with a “Oh duh, thank you.” This said a lot about my cycling experience level coming into this Trail Ranger position. I hadn’t biked in years before getting on one of the Trail Ranger bikes for a quick city cycling lesson. To be quite honest, that first ride was a bit of a struggle. Getting used to turning, stopping, and starting, after the first ride I was afraid I was never going to be able to get the hang of it. Practice makes perfect.

My first ever shift was with the amazing Trey Robinson, he taught me everything I needed to know that first time and did a great job explaining a lot to me. Because I was training we took one trailer with things in it and headed to the Metropolitan Branch Trail. “Since it’s your first shift, I’ll take the trailer,” he said. “Sure,” I replied and we took off. We picked up trash, glass, and trimmed vegetation. Then it was time to make our way back, “I’ll take the trailer now,” I said with confidence; “Are you sure?” he questioned me, “Yes!” I replied with determination. My first time riding with the trailer was not as bad as I imagined it was going to be. I zoomed ahead and navigated safely through traffic, I nearly forgot that I had the trailer. We got back and Trey says, “Wow, you know what you’re doing, and they told me to take it easy on you.” I felt great and even more confident that this was going to be one of the best summer positions I’ve ever had.

Working with the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) taught me about the cycling culture in a city. It showed me that WABA is 100% necessary, without this organization and the work that they complete day in and day out we would not witness as many cyclists in the area. I have learned about the incredible work WABA does and what it means to all the many communities in the D.C. area, including: biking infrastructure such as bike lanes and trails, advocacy for safety, cycling classes, small bike business support, etc. All of these things have brought so many people from different walks of life together in order to support a wonderful mission.

This internship has really taught me a lot and most importantly it has provided me with skills that I can share to so many others like myself. I am adopting cycling as a great mode of transportation, exercise, and discovery, which is something I didn’t do before. Working with WABA has really shown me how easy cycling is and has given me confidence to continue to bike almost everywhere and express this sentiment to anyone who is as hesitant as I was. I really enjoyed telling everyone at outreach about city cycling classes so they can join me in riding more.”


Kemi became a confident rider on the job with city cycling as we covered urban riding, quick stops and other skills as employee training. We’ll be hiring Trail Rangers for the 2018 season in April but you can get the same skills in the course of a morning and no cover letter required!

City Cycling classes are scheduled to take place in multiple locations this fall. To view the complete schedule of classes click here. To get a discount code to register for free, email me. As with riding in general, the City Cycling class is more fun if you bring a friend. If you don’t, no worries, you’re bound to make a friend or two during the class. Happy riding!

Make a difference in your community – teach bicycle education

Are you looking to make a positive impact in your community? Do you ride your bicycle and think, “I’d like to see more people riding their bicycles safely and happily.” Do you have spare time on Saturdays and Sundays that could be better spent making bicycling better in the region? Then, you should consider applying to become a WABA instructor!

In 2016, WABA taught 483 adults how to ride a bicycle for the very first time and 311 adults how to ride more comfortably and confidently throughout the region. None of this could have been accomplished without the help of our amazing team of League Cycling Instructors (LCIs).

WABA is growing our instructor team and looking for people to teach with WABA to get more cyclists on the road in our region. WABA is hosting a LCI seminar in November. This seminar will be an intensive, fun and engaging course taught by experts and it will be free! Click here to learn more and apply.

Recently, I asked one of WABA’s Lead Instructors, Liz, why she applied to become a LCI four years ago. Not only does Liz teach for WABA, she also provides one-on-one instruction to many members of her community. Liz shared some very compelling reasons to to become an instructor:

I applied for the LCI seminar because I’ve always been enthusiastic about preaching the gospel of bike commuting, but now I could be paid to do so! Seriously, it seemed like a brilliant way to make some extra money doing something I was doing anyway. But once I started going through the process, I discovered that becoming an LCI is so much more.

The LCI seminar is, hands down, the hardest I’ve ever worked to get through a training program but is also the single most valuable professional development course I’ve ever attended. The things I learned there helped me communicate not only to bicyclists but also helped me communicate better and get more done in my day job. Knowing about how people learn and how to cater to more than one learning style makes every communication more powerful.

I keep teaching because it is joyful to see someone master a new handling skill or pedal away for the very first time. The WABA classes are a blast, but I also give private lessons and help friends improve their bicycling. I’ve found that many of my private clients are women who didn’t grow up in the U.S. who now want to learn to ride bikes to keep up with their children or get back into shape now that their kids are more independent. As a new mom, I can relate to this line of thinking now!!

I especially love the students who are nervous or scared or think they are too old to learn. How brave it is to try new things as we age! I admire every single person who reaches out to me or shows up at an Adult Learn to Ride class and takes a big step out of their comfort zone. They remind me to keep trying new things, and they are SO GRATEFUL for the few short hours of time I devote to them. And, somehow, I’m paid very well for this time that I’m lucky to spend with them. It’s a dream job.

If you’re interested in teaching for WABA or know someone who would be a great asset to our instructor pool, join us in bicycling better in the region.

WABA Rides in Fairfax County

Bicycling in the region is so challenging and fun in part because the bike infrastructure can change so quickly. Fairfax residents recently had the opportunity to appreciate and experience just how unpredictable biking can be on our first Community Ride in the county.

Specifically, WABA was asked by Connections at MetroWest to conduct a ride that started and ended at the community center on their property next to the Vienna Metrorail Station. The purpose of the ride was to show the community how easy and fun it is to get around by bicycle. Fourteen folks showed up for the ride with a variety of bikes and experience levels. The age of the participants–as well as the number of months since they last rode a bike–ranged greatly from 9 – 75.

After everyone was checked in and the waivers were signed, a few of WABA’s excellent, experienced educators (all of them certified as League Cycling Instructors) reviewed helmet-fit, explained how and why to do pre-ride bike checks, and gave out tips for riding in a group. Finally, it was time to set off and explore the community.

The first stop was Nottoway Park, a beautiful stretch of green space in Vienna with walking trails and a variety of courts and fields for games. As soon as we passed the park, a few participants in the ride stated, “I had no idea this was so close, and so easy to get to.” We proceeded to climb Tapawingo road, demonstrating how to ride outside of the “door zone” simply by riding in the middle of the lane. Once the group crested the hill, we wended our way through the neighborhood to get to the Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail.

Before riding on the trail, the group reviewed proper trail etiquette such as riding single-file, staying to the right, slowing down and giving ample space when passing slower moving trail users. We also stressed the need to plan ahead for the most unpredictable users of the trail: pets, children, and wildlife. After our time on the trail, we made our way back to our starting point where delicious cookies and water, generously provided by Connections at MetroWest were waiting for us.

WABA’s Community Rides are intentionally not fast or lengthy. On this ride, we covered 5.5 miles in about 90 minutes. These rides are specifically designed to explore communities, give riders the opportunity to become more familiar with riding, and to connect them more closely with their neighborhoods (and neighbors!).

Big thanks to the team at Connections at MetroWest for providing this opportunity, we can’t wait to go for another ride!

Would you like to explore your region by bike? Then come and ride with WABA.

Know Your Jargon: Filtering, Shoaling & Salmoning

Take a moment to stop and think about the last time you rode your bicycle in the region. Okay, during that ride, how many times were you filtered, shoaled, or salmoned? Do you know which of these is legal to do?

In a WABA City Cycling class, you will learn about filtering, shoaling and bike-salmoning. More importantly, you will learn bike handling tips and tricks to leave you feeling more confident, competent and comfortable, no matter if you’re riding on the beautiful recently extended Anacostia River Trail or on a hectic and busy downtown street like Florida Ave. The City Cycling classes are 3 hours long and tons of fun. In the beginning you meet all of the participants and share why you’re at the class and what you want to get out of it. Then, you get to choose between the “fundamentals” group or the “confidence” group. Both groups learn a lot and get the chance to practice new skills before going out on a ride. No matter which group you choose, you’ll leave more confident and capable on your bike. People who are new to our classes are strongly encouraged to choose the fundamentals group.

 

Each City Cycling class is taught by League Cycling Instructors, certified through the League of American Bicyclists. City cycling classes are offered throughout the region on most weekends in the spring. You can click here to view the entire list of classes being offered. All you need to bring is a bicycle and a helmet, oh and snacks and water.

If your bike is a Capital Bikeshare bike, great! WABA has a partnership with Capital Bikeshare so you won’t be charged any usage fees while using the bike for the class.

City cycling classes are supported and funded by local government agencies: Montgomery County Department of Transportation, DC Department of Transportation, Arlington County and Alexandria County.

Want to learn about future City Cycling classes?  Yes!





Happy riding!

Wow it’s so much more fun to ride my bicycle after that!

‘Wow it’s so much more fun to ride my bicycle after that!’ is essentially the essence of WABA’s City Cycling classes!

Our City Cycling classes offer a relaxed, focused, and welcoming opportunity for beginner and experienced riders alike! After class we often hear students remarking how much better they feel riding their bike – how city streets, bike lanes, and trails aren’t such a big deal anymore and most of all, riding their bicycle is more fun than ever! And smiles, look at these smiles!

Each City Cycling class offers two tracks that students can self-select into when they arrive to class. The basics track focuses on techniques to make your ride go as smoothly as possible. The advance track focuses on techniques to avoid uncommon, but occasional, sticky situations.

At class you will have the opportunity to:

  • Feel more confident on a bicycle
  • Realize your bicycle dreams
  • Practice moves in a controlled space
  • Gain feedback from certified instructors (and give us feedback too!)
  • Make friends, go for a ride, and leave feeling like “Yeah, I can bike there now!”

“I entered this class thinking I would only learn a few things, but I ended up realizing that I had TONS of questions I wanted to ask them (and that they were happy to answer). I came away from the class feeling super knowledgeable and confident and eager to get riding!” – Feedback from a City Cycling Alumni

Come join us for one of our upcoming City Cycling classes!

Visit our website for more classes including our Adult Learn to Ride Classes!

What is a Quick Release Anyway?

In bike news this week, Trek Bicycles has recalled nearly a million of their bicycles due to problems with their quick release levers.

First of all, if you have a Trek bicycle, go here to learn more about the recall.

Second, we’ve had a number of folks ask us the question above, what is a quick release anyway?

Well, the short answer is that a quick release lever makes it easy to install or remove something on your bike. Usually–such as in the case of the Trek bikes being recalled–this means a wheel, but it can mean other parts too. Most often, you’ll encounter a quick release lever while doing one of three things:

  1. Adjusting your seat height, like on a Capital Bikeshare bike
  2. Taking your wheel(s) off to fit your bike in a car or other small space
  3. Changing a flat tire

It’s important to know both where your bike has quick release levers and how to recognize when they’re correctly fastened. It’s not too difficult and once you learn, you won’t forget.

This is just one of the great pieces of bike knowledge you can get from our City Cycling classes, by the way. Check out our calendar for the next class near you. They’re just $10 to sign up in advance, or you can show up the day of class for FREE.

Now, let’s look at a quick release.

Go ahead and take a look at the center of your bike’s front wheel. It should look something like this:

 

Quick release lever in the “CLOSE” position. this is how you want yours to look. Image via www.crodog.org

 

Notice that you can read the word “CLOSE” printed on the lever itself. If your quick releases are properly secured, you should be able to read the word “CLOSE” on them.

If they’re not secured correctly, you’ll see the word “OPEN” like on this lever:

 

Quick release lever in the “OPEN” position. This is definitely not what you want to see on your bike. Image via www.jimlangley.net

 

Alright, so you’ve found your quick releases and checked to make sure that they’re closed. If they are, fantastic! You’re all set. Have a great ride.

But what if they’re open? You don’t want to ride with a quick release open, but you also want to make sure you close it correctly. First, don’t simply spin it down until it’s tight like a wingnut. That might keep your wheel secure, but it might also put the lever into your spokes. Try this instead:

  1. Hold the lever open with one hand and slowly tighten the nut on the other side of the wheel with the other.
  2. Every half turn or so, try closing the lever.
  3. If it swings closed with no resistance, tighten the nut and try again.
  4. You want the lever to meet resistance about halfway closed (perpendicular to the plane of the wheel)
  5. Then push the lever closed. It might be a little hard, but it shouldn’t be so hard that it hurts your hand.

Here’s a diagram:

 

Diagram of a quick release lever. Image via www.montaguebikes.com

 

Remember to check your quick releases before you ride. In fact, you can use the handy phrase “ABC Quick Check” to remember all of the things you should take a look at before you get going. “Quick” stands for quick release, but to get the rest, you really should come to one of our City Cycling classes, happening all around the Washington region this spring!

You can see the full calendar here, and if you have any questions, you can email education@waba.org.

 

Become a WABA Instructor

wabalci

WABA’s 2012 class of Instructors.

We are proud to announce the 2014 WABA Education Instructor training program. This is a unique opportunity to join one of the country’s most prominent and successful bike education programs that has been featured in The Washington Post and on NPR in 2013. You’ll get paid to teach adults and kids throughout the region how to make the most of their time on a bike.

Additionally, through the program, you will become certified as a League Cycling Instructor (LCI), enabling you to teach bike education anywhere in the country and/or to host your own classes as an independent instructor.

You’re invited to apply for one of a limited number of Instructor trainee positions this fall. The application is not long, but please take the time to think about your answers and use them as your opportunity to make the case for yourself.

Click here to fill out your 2014 WABA Education Instructor application!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a WABA Education Instructor?

WABA Education Instructors are enthusiastic local individuals who combine their love of bicycling and aptitude for teaching to help run one of the best Adult Bike Education programs in the country. Anyone can apply using this form, and from those applications, we will select 12-16 people to be our Instructor class for 2014.

Do WABA Education Instructors get paid?

Yes! Once Instructors have completed their Trainee period (seven hours of teaching), they are paid a rate of $50/hour for any classes they teach with WABA.

What is the time commitment for WABA Education Instructors?

The training program involves 3-4 mandatory events,  including weekly online assignments, a 9-hour class on a Saturday (tentatively scheduled for 9/13) and a weekend-long seminar (tentatively scheduled for October). We estimate that the total required time is somewhere around 40-50 hours (including time spent on homework) between August and November. Once you complete the Seminar, you will have to attend two WABA adult classes (totaling seven hours) as a Trainee. After that, however, your commitment level is up to you. Over 90 percent of our classes are held on weekend mornings and are 3.5 hours long.

What happens if I am chosen as one of the WABA Education Instructor candidates?

You receive the following:

  • A guaranteed spot in an Instructors-only Traffic Skills 101 class, tentatively scheduled for Sept. 13. ($75 value)
  • A guaranteed spot in WABA’s League Cycling Instructor (LCI) Seminar, tentatively scheduled for October 10-12. NOTE: This application is the ONLY way to attend this Seminar. ($300 value)
  • A WABA Instructor polo shirt. ($20 value)
  • A 1-year WABA membership OR renewal. ($35 value)
  • Payment at the $50/hour Instructor rate for any classes taught with us after you successfully complete your Trainee period.

And in exchange:

  • You must commit to the dates for ALL classes in the Instructor training program.
  • You must commit to completing your Trainee requirements (seven hours of instruction) in your first year as an LCI.
  • You must join the League of American Bicyclists, if you are not already a member.
  • You must complete the Traffic Skills 101 course with a score of 85 percent or higher.
  • You must agree to wear a helmet at all classes and while teaching.

We think that seems like a pretty fair trade.

What are the dates and times that I should know about?

July 8 – Applications begin
August 1 – Applications end
August 11 (Tentative) – Instructor Candidates notified
September 13 – Traffic Skills 101
October 10-12 – League Cycling Instructor (LCI) Seminar

What does it cost to become a WABA Education Instructor?

Completing the application form is free, of course. If you are selected as one of our fifteen candidates, you will be asked to pay for membership in the League of American Bicyclists ($40) in order to obtain your League Cycling Instructor certification.  Additionally, you are responsible for all transportation, food/beverage, and bike upkeep costs incurred while in the training program, and as a WABA Education Instructor thereafter (except where otherwise noted). WABA will cover the rest of the costs (see above list).

I completed WABA’s City Cycling course(s). Can I skip the Traffic Skills 101 requirement?

Sorry, but no. Traffic Skills 101 includes both a written evaluation and an on-bike evaluation that you must pass with a score of 85 percent or higher in order to be allowed into the LCI Seminar. While WABA’s classes cover some of the same material, the only way to take these evaluations with us is through this WABA Education Instructor training program.

What happens if I am accepted as a candidate, but fail to meet the 85% score requirement at the Traffic Skills 101 course?

It is possible for this to happen, though we will do our best to ensure that you reach the required score. If you do not meet the League’s requirement for the Seminar, we cannot allow you to continue. We will offer you a spot in the next LCI Seminar that is hosted by WABA, and will work with you to bring your score up.

Click here to fill out your 2014 WABA Education Instructor application!

Thanks for applying, and good luck!