Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mentoring Articles and Resourses

Here is a link to a website with a few great articles focusing on mentoring practices and ways to connect with kids.

On the side panel scroll over "Publications" and click on "School Safety and Mentoring Guides".

Articles to take a look at:

1. Foundations for Successful Youth
2. Building Relationships: A Guide For New Mentors
3. Training New Mentors

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cross Country Adventure

I stumbled upon this site this morning and found it to be pretty neat. It highlights the journeys of two brothers traveling via bicycle across the United States, of course there is much more to the story, but my words are just that, words. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Balancing Act

Bear with me as this blog post will come full circle, or at least I hope for that to be the case, by the end.

As many of us know from experience actually showing up is half the battle. Whether it be showing up to work, the gym, the dreaded trainer collecting dust in the cellar during the summer months, cleaning up the kitchen, or picking up the leaves during the fall. Whatever it be, sometimes just getting up and out the door is the part we dread the most. We have all been there and have come up with excuses: "I can get it done tomorrow", "I'm not feeling well", "It's to cold", or "I'm just too tired today". Again, whatever it be, we/I have said it.

Now, is it okay? Of course, sometimes we just need a break from everything. We need to take time to relax. However, when making excuses becomes part of your daily routine its time to analyze a bit. Why are you making excuses? Do you really have zero time to get to the things you want/need to do? It is all about the balance (this is the part where I'll start bringing everything together).

Finding a balance in your daily routine is essential. Finding time to work, play, and relax is tough to do, but once you find a balance things seem to fall into place. All of a sudden, you are sleeping better and just plain feeling better about things. I got to thinking about "the balancing act" recently after feeling a bit worn down after a few long weeks. Nothing was wrong or bothering me, I was just tired. Finally, on Sunday, after a day full of football, cheese-it's, and rest, I feel "back to normal".

So, some of you may be thinking that this sounds more like Caleb's theory on front hubs (follow this link to see what I'm talking about:, but as volunteers, finding a balance between everything going on in your life on top of volunteering at the CBC, can be challenging. Be sure to take some time and enjoy.

Until next time....

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Your riding in that???

Cold Weather Ride Leader Briefing

Five of our regular CBC kids arrived thinking they were ready for a Saturday road ride on sunny fall morning with the temperature at 34 degrees and windy. The safety issues that they presented: no socks, blue jeans, summer shorts, no gloves, no eyewear. As ride leaders we realized we needed to educate the kids about the conditions for hypothermia, clothing selection, and cold weather cycling safety. Most importantly we tell kids that taking care of themselves, takes care of the group.

How Body Heat is Lost: adapted from

1. Conduction - the movement of heat from a warmer object to a cooler one when they are in direct contact with one another. The rate of heat transfer between two objects of different temperatures depends upon several factors including: the temperature difference between the two objects, the total surface area where the two objects are in contact, and the efficiency of the insulation that is between the objects. Place insulation between you and the object you are touching.

2. Convection - two objects in contact that are moving relative to one another. For example, when your warm face is exposed to a blast of cold air the speed of that air matters. If the cold air is moving slowly it may not cool your face very much at all. However, if the air is traveling 60 miles per hour you may actually receive a frostbite wound in a matter of seconds. Wear a windproof outer shell.

3. Radiation - transfer of electromagnetic energy between two objects. For example exposed human skin acts as a radiator. The more total area of exposed skin, the more energy is radiated to the environment, assuming that the body is warmer than its surroundings. To minimize the amount of radiative heat you lose to your environment make sure all exposed areas of your skin are covered including the head, face, neck, and hands. Cover all exposed areas of your skin.

4. Evaporation - When water evaporates its change in state from liquid to a gas takes up a great deal of energy and lowers the temperature of the surface on which it occurs. In cold environments, evaporation can be a killer as it consumes a large amount of energy and warmth from your body and transfers it to the outside world. In addition, when the clothing you need to stay warm becomes wet it looses much of its insulative value and exposes you to the risk of hypothermia. Sty dry and avoid deep heavy breathing.

Safe Clothing adapted from Biking 101 by Toronto4Kids

Remember the saying to wear clothing that is BRIGHT, LIGHT, AND TIGHT.

Wear bright colored clothes that will help kids be visible (no dark clothes at dusk, at night, and during the low contrast light times of the year). Reflective outer shell clothing is the best and even better if it keeps the wind from penetrating. Lightweight clothes will avoid becoming overheated and dress in layers during the cold weather seasons. Make sure pant legs are not too loose-fitting [especially wind pants] or flared as they can get caught in the chain while riding. Wear shoes that grip the bike's pedals (avoid shoes with heels, or flip-flops that can all create problems while riding). Kids should never ride barefoot!

Wear full finger gloves and remember to test that you can adequately engage your brake levers and adjust your gears with gloves before you head into traffic or down hills. Consider wearing eyewear since the cold wind blowing into your eyes can cause tearing and in turn impair your vision. Gray tinted sunglasses will also help while riding into the east into the morning sunrise or the west into the setting sun.

Consider the common saying that "cotton kills." The reason why has to do with moisture management in cold and cool conditions. In fact, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wearing cotton when you can stay dry and warm. The problem results from the challenge of staying dry and warm when cycling in cold weather. Problems with cotton occur when the cotton gets wet. Cotton does not wick moisture and can become abrasive when wet. Because cotton holds so much moisture, it can hold that moisture against your body and sap body heat from you. Wear wool or synthetic fabrics. Adapted from

Wear a cycling cap or balaclava under your cycling helmet. Remember to make sure your helmet sill fits properly. Review the helmet fitting guidelines - eyes, earns, mouth. Some kids place their hoodie hoods under their helmets which impedes there peripheral vision and forces their bike helmet to sit too high on their heads.


Remember to stay hydrated which cyclists often forget during the cold seasons. Use an insulated water bottle or remember to blow the water in a hydration tube back into the bag so water doesn't freeze in the nipple or tube.


It takes time for the body to be warmed up so on colder days set aside extra time for a dynamic stretch to get the blood pumping. Although it may seem like a waste of time, you will notice the effects the following day. It could be as simple as a walking lunge, butt kickers, knees to chest, or elbow to opposite knee. All of which will stretch the major muscle groups used while cycling, get your heart rate up, and pump blood to key areas of your body.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Left to Right, Clean, Grease, Right to Left

If you can follow the title than you have successfully disassembled, cleaned, inspected for broken parts, greased, and reassembled any of the rotational systems on a bicycle. It is all to often that we will hear a kid in the shop ask where his lock nut disappeared to or where her axle went and our response to them is normally, "If it wasn't on a rag than it was recycled." Now I understand that this may seem a little harsh, but to think about it makes one realize that it is teaching them the correct, more organized, and easier way of taking something apart and then putting it back together.

We try to teach each participant to, when they are disassembling a component on their bike, place all of their parts on a rag from left to right just like reading a book. For example:

What we don't like to see is a jumbled mess or parts spread out all over the shop, for example:

Although the above picture does have all of its parts on a rag, they are not organized and for a participant who may not know which part goes first, it may get confusing when reassembling the system.

The moral of the story is to keep things organized whether it be at the shop, at home, or at school. Keeping things on a rag from left to right is just our way of teaching that!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Seat Posts

I saw this question and answer on what is the right seat post to install on a frame and thought it made sense. From

"How does one determine the proper size seat post for a frame that comes without one. I've measured the inside of the seat tube with no tension on the binder. I understand that the post has to be smaller in diameter than that measurement but how much smaller?

They should be very close. Go with the next size down from what you measure. i.e. if the post measures as 27.32, go with a 27.2. Keep in mind that the very top of the seat tube often gets crimped in a bit, and will actually measure smaller than if you could measure the tube an inch lower, so it can be a bit tricky.
"Beer can works great for a shim."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sticking to the Game Plan

The CBC staff has recently been discussing ways in which we can help kids follow trough with personal goals and helping them realize how it feels to accomplish something that they thought might be too much or too hard. During the summer, we had many folks set goals for themselves including:

1. Complete the Trek Across Maine
2. Make it to the 500 Mile Club
3. Complete a bike to ride to and from work, school, or friends houses
4. Sleep over night at a friend’s house
5. Finish a ride longer than 5 miles

these are only a few. The thing to remember here is that it is easy to set goals, but much harder to follow through with. Coming up with ways to keep kids focused and determined is essential when helping them reach a certain goal. Some ideas:

1. Have them write things down. Write out goals as well as ways to stay motivated. Write down what your going to do when you achieve a goal-- celebrate with friends, have an ice cream, take a nap...
2. Revisit these ideas a few times per month. See where they are at with everything.
3. Set small goals to achieve something bigger. For example, finishing a bike in one day might be unrealistic, but getting the brakes to work is reasonable.
4. Set realistic goals.
5. Most importantly, be supportive through the good and the bad.

I got to thinking about goal setting and following through with plans recently when a participant at the CBC, who had set a goal for himself, wanted to, for lack of a better word, quit. His initial goal was to build a bike and instead of paying the $5 he would do chores around the shop to help pay off his bike.

The day he completed his bike, he had not yet completed his end of the deal, but instead brought in the $5 to pay for the bike. At first, I thought it to be okay, but after I really thought about it, I sat him down and explained to him what I was thinking. Of course, the tears started rolling and the participant thought he would never come back. After a while, we came up with a plan to stick to the original goal. He showed up the next day, worked off his bike, and rode it home that night.

Not only did he build a bike, not only did he work it off, he achieved a goal and
it is experiences like these that we look forward to as volunteers and staff.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Colder Weather, Freezing Water

As we change seasons and shift to cooler fall weather, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. It may not be cold at the start of a ride, but remember, when you are on your bike you are traveling a lot faster and you must factor in wind. Be sure to layer up, you can always take layers off.

2. It is getting darker sooner. Be sure to plan your ride around sunset. You, as well as the road you are riding on, is less visible in the dark. Follow this link to view sunrise and sunset times for the month of September (

3. Keep an eye on your tire pressure. As the temperature cools down, you may lose a bit of pressure in your tires. It does not necessarily mean you have a flat or a slow leak—remember heat causes air to expand and the opposite occurs in cooler weather.

4. Give your bike a once over. Check the bikes rotational systems. Although we did not have much rain this year, there is still a chance that you have some water mixing around in there.

5. Continue to stay hydrated! You may not feel or look dehydrated, but do not leave anything up to chance. Remember; eat before your hungry, sleep before your tired, and DRINK BEFORE YOUR THIRSTY.

6. And last, but certainly not least, continue to have fun! Enjoy the different, colors, smells, and changes of fall! Follow this link to view the CBC's fall schedule ( Hope to see or hear from you all soon!

On a more serious note, we have noticed a few participants and adults replacing their plastic water bottles with the solid aluminum water bottles. The problem with this is that water bottle cages are not designed to hold these longer more narrow water bottles. If the water bottle were to fall out it could cause serious injury. Unfortunately, a friend and supporter of the CBC has been dealing with a lower back injury for two years because of this.

If you must carry an aluminum water bottle, carry it in your back pack or in your ride bag as this is a much safer place for it. Or stick to the old fashioned plastic water bottle and if your worried about it not being as cool, come over to the CBC and decorate it yourself. An uncool water bottle is a lot cooler than not riding!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Engaging Youth in Our Programming

At yesterday's staff meeting, we continued our discussion within the guidelines of the Youth Program Quality Assessment (YPQA) and reflected on how we might better engage the youth we serve. The YPQA divides "engagement" into three categories:
  1. Youth have opportunities to set goals and make plans
  2. Youth have opportunities to make choices based on their interests
  3. Youth have opportunities to reflect
Here are some notes from our discussion:

1. The staff agreed that we do a good job of giving our participants opportunities to make goals in the time they spend at the shop -- fixing a bike, helping someone else, doing homework, or creating Bike Part Art, just to name a few. When a kid picks out a bicycle they'd like to work on, we do an initial inspection to determine whether the project is appropriate for the skills and amount of patience they have. If it's in rough shape, they often decide to pick out an easier bike to fix. We agreed that we could always do a better job to help kids follow through with their plans, and it is important to appreciate their enthusiasm and support it with out own interest and guidance. How else might we help youth set goals and make plans? What other activities might work to incorporate into our programming? (remember, we aren't restricted to bike-related activities...)

2. We give our participants a regular opportunities to make choices based on their interests, whether it be to make music, dance, make videos and art, or repair bicycles (and the list continues...). Although bike repair is our central activity, we work hard to encourage participants to pursue their interests or passions, whatever they may be. On some Fridays, we often have an informal talent show to showcase our participants' unique skills, and often our volunteers become introduced to a participant through a shared interest. How might we better give our participants opportunities to make choices based on their interests?

3. We agreed that kids don't often get the chance to reflect during the time they spend at the CBC, with the exception of during informal conversations with staff or volunteers. Our drop-in program is often a bit hectic (with many people and projects going on at once), so it often isn't an ideal atmosphere for reflection and contemplation. We have experimented with different ways to gather participant input and to prompt reflection, but it has been a continuous challenge. How might we create and maintain opportunities for youth to reflect?

Feel free to leave a comment to join the discussion -- your thoughts will help the CBC to continuously improve, and to provide an even better place for helping youth to grow!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Some odds and ends...

The CBC is back from the Trek Across Maine and we all had an amazing time -- check out out Facebook page for some awesome pictures! You can find it here: .

We've noticed lately that some of our participants are having trouble using Shimano Rapidfire shifters (such as on some of our mountain bike and most of our tandems). Check out this useful link for a refresher:

Hope you all have a great holiday weekend!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Risk Management Notes -- Group Rides

This summer, CBC staff and volunteers will be leading more bike rides and extending our programming hours. There is always an element of risk to anything we do, especially when we're working with tools or out for a ride, so it's important for our policies to be carefully considered. During a staff meeting a couple weeks ago, we discussed how to better manage risk on our bike rides and in the shop. Here are our notes (Thanks to Bronwyn for typing them up!)

: Ideally, we should have two or more adults on group rides (the ideal ratio is 5:1 kids: staff). This is important in the event of a medical emergency – at least one person to manage the emergency, one person to manage the other riders, and one person to manage the scene. Also, it’s important to have a ride leader and a ride sweep and one roaming rider. Take into account the complexion of the group and make conscious decisions about the number chaperons cycling. Consider the skills, conditioning, ages of the kids and the weather.

Be assertive and be OK with saying “No” if there are simply not enough chaperons to have a safe ride. It’s also OK to give a reason later.

Equipment: Mechanically unsound and un-checked bikes are not allowed on group rides. All bikes must pass an ABC Quick Check. Use bikes appropriate for the ride. For example no BMX bikes on a long road ride. No BMX bikes on a mountain bike ride. Preferably all road bikes and/or tandems on road rides. Properly fitted helmets are also required. Pay special attention to emergency forms and health-related prescriptions. Discourage jeans and shoes with loose shoe laces.

Protocols: We must have the emergency contact information for every participant - kids, staff, parents and volunteers. Make two copies of the emergency contact information: one for the ride leader to carry on the ride and one for your emergency contact person at the shop. Inform your emergency contact of your route and program their number into your cell phone.
Be aware of any medical issues (asthma, epilepsy, diabetes…). Document any medical issues on the emergency list and alert volunteers before the ride. Also, remind volunteers of confidentiality. Participants must have any inhalers, medications or other health related prescriptions noted on their medical sheet with them on the ride. If we know about a medical condition (aka if it is listed on their medical information form), we are liable.

Swimming: It’s OK to say “no” to swimming if you’re uncomfortable with the situation. We’re not lifeguard certified. Prefer to use swimming venue that have lifeguard or our public swimming locations.

Environment: Pay attention to weather, road conditions, and traffic. Stick to safe routes and adjust according to group complexity. Insure that the riders have the proper clothing for the weather conditions. Find shelter if the weather conditions worsen and riding becomes too unsafe– call contact back at the shop and let him/her know.

Background Checks for people 18+: If a parent/guardian is working with a child, we do not have to do a background check because a) we have all their information and b) they are primarily working with their own child. If there is someone 18 + working with frequently working with a friend, ask if he/she considers him/herself a volunteer and/or would like to volunteer here in the future. If the answer is “no,” that could be a red flag for follow-up.

Bike-to-School: If a child show up in a bike is not physically sound, he/she is not OK to ride with us. Call the parents and let them know.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Bike Repair Common Misses (Part Two of Two)

Here are some more common misses -- watch out for these when you're fixing up your bike...

What's wrong with this picture?

Front/Rear Brakes
  1. Spring tension not balanced (one pad rubbing on rim)
  2. Pads not centered on rim (hanging off or rubbing on tire)
  3. Brake pads not toed-in (to prevent squaky brakes)
  4. Brake pads down or dried out
  5. Missing parts (especially where they come in contact with the frame)
  6. Missing cable cap
  7. Used derailleur housing, not brake housing (derailleur housing is more rigid)
  1. Dirty
  2. Dried out/corroded/not lubricated
  3. Too much lubrication (picks up dirt)
  4. Tight links (watch for a 'hop')
Front/Rear Derailleur
  1. Limit screw not set properly (not reaching gears on extremes, or overshifting and dropping the chain)
  2. Frayed/corroded cable
  3. Sharp bends in cable housing (makes it hard to shift)
  4. Cable cap missing
  5. Used brake housing rather than derailleur housing (will often cause indexed gear systems to not work properly)
  6. No metal ends on the cable housing
  7. Barrel adjuster all the way out/not present
Handlebars, Stem, Grips, and Levers
  1. Bar end plugs missing
  2. Stem loose
  3. Stem higher than maximum height mark
  4. Levers not secured
  5. Levers not positioned properly (especially for hand size -- for younger riders, often the levers need to be brought within easier reach)
Seat and Seat Post
  1. Seat post rusty/ungreased (ever encountered a stuck seatpost?)
  2. Seat post higher than safety marks
  1. Wheel reflectors not positioned close to rim/loose
  2. Front and rear reflectors broken/not angled properly

What other issues have you encountered when fixing up a bike?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bike Repair Common Misses (Part One of Two)

We see a lot of bikes come through the CBC, and after a while you start to recognize some common problems. Here's the first part of a list that we have compiled of these common issues that can make a bicycle unsafe to ride:

Sadly, this bike might be beyond hope.

Frame and Fork
  1. Bent derailleur hanger drop-out
  2. Collision damage (see above), bent frames
  3. Excessive surface/interior rust
Bottom Bracket, Cranks, and Pedals
  1. Bearing play
  2. Loose of missing lockrings
  3. Crankarms not securely fastened
  4. Bent chainrings
  5. Pedals not securely fastened
Front/Rear Hub
  1. Locknut missing
  2. Locknut not tightened against cone
  3. Hub not centered with axle
  4. Bearing play
Freewheel or Cassette
  1. Worn (sharp) teeth
  2. Dryness, corrosion
  1. Lockring not securely fastened
  2. Bearing play
Front/Rear Rim and Tire
  1. Valve stem not straight
  2. Tire underinflated
  3. Tire bean not seated in rim
  4. Wheel not centered
  5. Quick release levers closed backwards
  6. Safety catch washers missing
  7. No valve cap
  8. Bald (from skidding)/cracked or dry-rotted tires
Next Post....
Front Brakes
Rear Brakes
Front Derailleur and Cable
Rear Derailleur and Cable
Handlebars, Stem, Grips, and Levers
Seat and Seat Post

What other common problems have you noticed on bicycles you are fixing?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Bike ride season kicks off this week!

After many false starts (and signs of warmer weather), April is finally here and our bike riding season is beginning. If you're looking for some opportunities to mentor, have fun, and get exercise all at the same time, you're in luck! We are planning many regular rides for which we will need volunteer chaperones.

The Bike and Walk to School program kicks off next week (on Wednesday, April 7), and will continue each Wednesday until the end of the school year providing a safe and healthy way for students at Biddeford Intermediate and Middle Schools to commute to and from school.

Here's the schedule:
For Biddeford Middle School students,

Wednesday Mornings
6:45-6:55 Gather at Emery
6:55-7:00 Briefing
7:00-7:15 Ride
7:15 Arrive at BMS

Wednesday Afternoons
2:40-2:50 Gather at the BIS bike racks
2:50-2:55 Briefing
2:55-3:10 Ride/walk
3:10 Arrive at Emery/CBC

The Biddeford Intermediate School program will have a walking component this year. Here's their schedule:

Wednesday Mornings
7:25-7:35 Gather at Emery (bikers) or CBC (walkers)
7:35-7:40 Briefing
7:40-7:55 Ride/walk
7:55 Arrive at BIS

Wednesday Afternoons
2:40-2:50 Gather at the BIS bike racks
2:50-2:55 Briefing
2:55-3:10 Ride/walk
3:10 Arrive at Emery/CBC

Dillon is coordinating this program, so if you are interested in volunteering or have any questions you can contact him at

Also starting this week, the CBC Girls' Group will begin their season of bike rides to fun destinations -- this week's ride will be an introduction to the tandems at the parking lot across the street, and it's a great opportunity for volunteers especially to learn how ride a bicycle built for two. Bronwyn is coordinating this program, so if you're interested in volunteering or have any questions you can contact her at

We hope you'll join us as a volunteer this spring!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring Riding Links

Here are some links to get you ready for the Spring riding season:

Information about tandems -- terminology, riding tips (from Sheldon Brown)
-The CBC has 5 tandems for use on rides

How to treat road rash (from,6610,s-4-22-19638-1,00.html
-Treating road rash with Preparation H wipes? Genius!

Safety, crash prevention, and code of conduct form (from the ALA-ME's Trek Across Maine, and we also use it)
-The CBC uses this sheet as part of the Bike to School program's permission form

What are some other links with good information about bike riding and safety?

Spring Bike Riding!

With the temperature rising and longer days, spring is definitely on the horizon -- at the Community Bicycle Center, that means ride season!

We'd love to have your help as a chaperone on our rides -- the Bike to School program (which provides a safe way to bike to and from Biddeford Intermediate and Middle Schools) will operate on Wednesdays this spring beginning April 7.

Our Girls Group on a ride last Fall!

On Fridays this spring, 3-5pm, our Girls Group will go on road rides to fun places in the area, and a group will also go on mountain bike rides in Clifford Park.

If you are interested in helping as a volunteer on rides this spring (and please do, it's a lot of fun!), stop by the shop or contact Dillon for more information (207-282-9700,

Friday, March 5, 2010

How to fix a flat

At this week's Bike Monkeys class we talked about one of the most important skills for a bike mechanic to know -- how to fix a flat tire. A flat tire is a relatively common problem that can be a real bummer out on the road or trail, but with some simple know-how you'll be back on the road in no time. Park Tool has a great step-by-step guide that shows the best technique -- check it out here:

Bummer! Hope you know how to fix that...

Some tips to keep in mind to help prevent flat tires:
-Check and maintain your tire pressure
-Make sure the valve stem is always straight -- if it's angled, you're risking a hole that can't be patched
-Always use a rim strip between the tube and the rim
-Be on the lookout for obstructions (a big bump can sometimes be enough to cause a flat!)

What other tips can help prevent flat tires?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tips while working in the shop

Each year, the CBC hosts the "Bike Monkeys" program, an intensive bike mechanics training class for 6 young people. At last night's session, we continued our conversations about rotational systems, finishing up bottom brackets and moving on to the front hub. We had a lot of fun, and a few tips and concepts were brought up that you might find helpful.

The first has to do with keeping your workspace organized: Fixing bikes requires a lot of disassembling, cleaning, and reassembling -- in a hectic shop, it can be a headache when parts get lost. Try keeping all your parts on a rag -- it'll keep those bearings from rolling around, and it's helpful for remembering how a part goes back together.

No parts lost here!

Secondly, never recycle a part before you find a replacement, even if it's not working properly -- often a worn-out part is better than no part at all.

This cup and spindle are really worn out, but do we have the parts to replace them?

Thirdly, use the appropriate tool, in the appropriate way. There are lots of tools in the shop, and lots of If you have a question, just ask! We staff are here to help you.

Fourthly, and lastly (for now) , think about where the tool is going to go if it slips. Injuries may occur if a tool accidentally strikes you or another person.

What other tips have helped you work more efficiently and safety in the shop?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Volunteering with the CBC's Bike Art Program & the Biddeford Art Walk

In these colder months, we have seen many of our participants have participated in programming that doesn't directly involve bike mechanics. The Bike Part Art program, facilitated by Ann Thompson (Wednesdays 2-5), has been particularly popular, serving to increase confidence and promote self-expression. In addition to creating beautiful art, participants are quite proud of their creations and their relationships with the Community Bicycle Center. Volunteers are always welcome to help with the Bike Art Program (any afternoon, not just Wednesdays!).

If you enjoy art and would like to help with a community event, come join us at this month's Biddeford Art Walk, Friday, February 26 (5-8pm) at the North Dam Mill off Main Street. It is a wonderful opportunity for children and youth who participate in bike center programs to interact with thecommunity and demonstrate the skills they have acquired. Tasks during the Art Walk may include setting up, taking down, escorting children around the venue to meet the other artists and participants or to view performances, facilitating inclusive art making activities or talking to interested folks about the mission and programming at the Community Bicycle Center. We invite you to join us for any part of the evening for a wonderful night downtown!

Our display board at the January Art Walk -- check out the animal heads made from bicycle seats!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Leading an Adult Bike Ride

I have led a adult group ride for my cycling club for several years and wanted to share some of my thoughts. Some of them may be applicable for group rides of younger folks.

A group ride leader is part Nascar race spotter and part cowpoke on the trail. During a Nascar race, a spotter will sit at the top of the grandstand with a view of the track. The spotter is in contact with his or her driver and will be communicating constantly with the driver. You can hear "Wreck in turn 3, go low", or "Junior's on the inside!" coming over the radio during a race.

I will sometimes give out warnings like "watch out for car doors" while riding along a beach in the summer, or "there's usually sand on the road coming up" to give a heads up to my group. I try to focus further down the road than the rest of the group to spot problems as soon as possible.

In the old westerns, the cowpoke on the trail is watching the herd, looking for strays. While my riders don't usually stampede (except for the coffee at the end of the ride) I usually will try to keep track of the cyclists. Every ride will have cyclists of different abilities and mindsets. I will usually announce a drop policy which can vary. I might issue a "no drop policy" if its a ride on an unfamiliar route. If a rider is off the back, I'll ask the riders in front to soft pedal until everyone is riding together. If the route is familiar, and especially if its hilly, I will give locations where everone can get back together, usually at the end of a road. Hilly roads are almost impossible to keep riders together.

When a ride starts, I'll get a count of the number of riders. I'll also look for new faces and in the first few miles of the ride try to guage their fitness (I'm not sure if rider profiling is legal, but...) to figure out if they will be scooting off the front, hanging in the pack or out off the back. If a new rider is off the back, if no one else is back with him or her, I will drop back and help them catch up, or give directions back to the start if the rider is not up for the group ride. Younger riders will need an escort if they have to turn back.

Riders off the front can be troublesome too, often going all out in the wrong direction. I may be able to "bridge the gap" and reign them in, but often I will have to let them figure it out for themselves. Young riders should be able to be chased down fairly easily, but I would recommend not giving them much of a lead.

This was an excercise mostly in blog posting, but I hope folks will give some thought to the dynamics of a group ride as we get back on the roads this spring.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Some bike crash stats and common biking errors

According to the League of American Cyclists (League Cycling Instructor Manual version 2/14/05), and somewhat surprisingly, 83% of all bike crashes do not involve cars. Falls due to loss of control, flats, mechanical failure or hazards constitute 50% of all crashes, bike vs bike crashes 17%, dog vs bike crashes 8% and other crashes 8%.

Among cyclist vs motorist crashes, the causes are varied:
  • Wrong side of the street riding -- facing traffic (14%, cyclist at fault)
  • Left turn in front of the bicyclist (13%, motorist at fault)
  • Right turn in front of the bicyclist (11%, motorist at fault)
  • Left turn from the right side of the road (11%, cyclist at fault)
  • Failure to yield from driveway (9%, cyclist at fault)
  • Running a stop sign or signal (8%, cyclist at fault)
  • Running a stop sign or signal (8%, motorist at fault)
  • Error while overtaking (8%)
  • Opening a car door in the path of the bicyclist (7%, motorist at fault)
  • Failure to yield from driveway (6%, motorist at fault)
  • Bicyclist swerves in front of a car (5%, cyclist at fault)
  • Motorist doesn't see bicyclist (3%)
  • All others (5%)

After a car hit rider Felix Sellier, 1920 Tour de France
(uploaded to Flickr Commons by Nationaal Archief)
Surprisingly, car vs cyclist collisions make up only 17% of all bike crashes!

During group road rides with our participants (mostly 10-14 years old), we've definitely noticed some common mistakes that have led to some close calls (and a few accidents). Avoiding these common mistakes (and reminding others) helps to keep everyone safe -- here goes:
  • Riding too close to the road lip between the road and the gravel shoulder resulting in lose of control as the front wheel crosses the lip.
  • Loss of control and crashing as the front wheel crosses into a gravel or sandy shoulder. This risk happens most often with narrow tire road bikes.
  • Riding too close to the rider in front so as when the front rider slows down or brakes the following rider slams into the front rider.
  • Not understanding that all passing of other riders happens on the left so forward riders get startled as a rider unexpectedly passes on the right.
  • The front tire of a rear cyclists crossing into the rear tire of the forward cyclist resulting in the rear cyclists bike going down. Never ride with the possibility of wheels touching.
  • Hitting mailboxes with a fist causing erratic bicycle movements followed by crashing.
  • Pulling out into traffic without checking for fellow cyclists and/or cars behind resulting in following cyclists and cars having to jam on their brakes.
What are some other common mistakes you have noticed among group bicycle riders?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Confidentiality Policy

As a volunteer at the CBC, you will at times have access to "confidential information." Confidential information includes contact information (phone, address, email), family information, medical reports, identification numbers, and judicial records.

The CBC has an officially-worded confidentiality agreement (that is included in the volunteer orientation packet) with which every volunteer and employee is required to abide.

Here are some tip to keep in mind regarding confidentiality:
  • If you are telling a story about an experience at the shop, make sure to conceal the identities of our participants (keep anonymous/vague and change names).
  • Sometimes participants or other volunteers will ask for phone numbers and other information. Don't give out any information unless you have the permission of the person who owns the information.
  • Don't leave confidential information on desks, car seats and on countertops.
  • Label folders or file cabinets that contain confidential information with the names of the people that have access to that information.
If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The CBC's Physical Boundaries

At this week's staff meeting, while discussing the results of our recent evaluation (based on the HighScope model for Youth Quality Program Assessment) we came upon some interesting questions: What are our physical boundaries? Does the CBC include the grassy area outside our doors? Should we let kids play outside unsupervised during our open shop time?

On the one hand, children need safe places to play, the grass outside the shop is almost certainly safer than other places in town. Even if a staffperson isn't standing there at all times, there is always a responsible adult nearby. On the other hand, parents expect the CBC staff to keep their children safe, and in the case of accident or injury not having an adult with them could be seen as irresponsible.

At the end of the discussion, we arrived at a compromise that the staff is comfortable with. But we're curious -- as a volunteer, what are your thoughts on the issue?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Featured Tool -- Freewheel Grease Injector

A couple months back we received a donated tool
that none of us had ever seen -- one that injects grease into a freewheel without requiring you to take it apart. It fits on most freewheels, and is great for those bikes that are old or have been left out in the elements -- really handy in a shop like ours.

Here's how it works --

1. Remove the freewheel from the hub, and clean it with simple green and a rag or brush
2. Thread the injector onto the freewheel
3. Load the grease gun with grease (using a tube rather than a tub really makes this step easier!)
4. Attach the grease gun to the injector, and push the plunger down
5. When grease starts coming out the other side, you're done!
6. Rethread onto your hub, and enjoy the awe-inspiring silence of your freshly greased freewheel!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Learning Styles: Ways We Learn

Here at the CBC, we constantly strive for children to be proud and recognize that they are capable of problem solving and self reliance. As they work to fix bikes and participate in shop programs, it’s important to remember your role as a volunteer. Don’t do the work for them – instead, encourage them to get their hands dirty and try something new.

We have noticed that caring adults will often problem solve and perform repairs for kids for several reasons: 1) they are learning the skills themselves, 2) sometimes we don’t have the words or teaching skills to explain a task, 3) the task can be physically too challenging for a child, or 4) the task is too challenging for the child at his/her current skill level.

The aforementioned fourth reason will be discussed in a future blog post through the concepts described in the book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, 1991). Csikszentmihalyi describes that optimum learning occurs when we have the right balance between the level of challenge for a task and our level of skill at performing the task. Basically this means that sometimes we give kids a task that is too challenging given their individual skill level so we need to figure out a way to lower the level of challenge. Sometimes need to perform part of the task for them until they develop the necessary cognitive, developmental, and physical skills to complete the defined repair challenge.

So getting back to learning styles, we must match teaching style with each child’s preferred learning style. There are several learning styles models that can be found in the literature. One of the most basic describes the differences between auditory, visual and kinesthetic learners (
  1. Auditory learners remember by talking out loud, like to have things explained orally and may have trouble with written instructions. Auditory learners may talk to themselves when learning something new.
  2. Visual learners easily remember visual details and prefer to see what they are learning. They prefer to write down instructions and may have trouble following lectures.
  3. Kinesthetic or tactile learners prefer activities that allow them to do what they are learning about. Tactile learners like to touch things in order to learn about them and like to move around when talking or listening.
Here at the CBC, we want kids to learn how they learn best. Don’t let their displays of frustration or desire to “get the bike finished” before the end of the day pull you into completing the task for them. Let your own anxiety of dealing with their disappointment pass – it’s always ok to take a break!

Here are some more specific ways people learn, and some ideas and questions you may ask kids to help them get to know their personal learning styles better:
  1. Watching a demonstration (a.k.a show-n-tell)
  2. Experimenting without instruction (a.k.a. trial-n-error)
  3. Hearing the instructions verbally: step-by-step
  4. Seeing the instructions written: step-by-step
  5. Viewing the instructions through drawings or pictures
  6. Viewing and hearing the instructions through video clips
  7. Some people want to know “why” these steps
  8. Some people don’t care to learn the “why” for these steps
  9. Does the learner need to see how all the parts inter-connect?
  10. Is process and outcome feedback needed along the way: encouragement and what’s wrong?
  11. Does playing learning games help?
  12. Does learning alongside a partner help or does one person take over?
  13. Does changing the learning environment help – quiet space, music?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Preparing for a Group Ride and the Ride Leader Bags

When out on a group bike ride, it's important to be prepared for any problems that may arise. Injuries or illness, though usually minor, are always possibilities (especially with younger, less experienced riders), and the bikes themselves often need to be tweaked on-the-fly.

The CBC has three packs (two rack-top bags, one fanny-pack) with supplies and tools for group rides. Since the extra weight can throw off a cyclist's balance, usually it's best for an adult chaperone to attach it to their bike.

Included in each pack are:

-Emergency contacts list (double check to make sure emergency info is logged for each rider, and all have submitted permission forms)
-Non-rider emergency backup contact phone numbers
-Cell phone with In Case of Emergency(ICE) numbers programmed
-Accident/incident report forms
-Emergency whistle
-Snack money and/or energy bars
-First Aid Kit
-Bike repair tools, including: multi-tool with chain rivet, tire levers, 15mm wrench, pump and/or CO2 cartridges & dispenser, spare tubes: 26x1.50 and 700ccx23c and 24x1.50, patch kit with glue and patches, rag, duct tape

Before each ride, it is important to:

-Plan route & anticipated stops (bring a map if possible)
-Identify number of bikes & number of riders
-Assign point person & rear person
-Review Rules of the Road with the group, including: Safe road riding; hand turning, slowing, stopping, and hazard signals; and verbal signals: “Passing on your left” &” car back”
-Check to see if anyone needs to use the bathroom before the start of ride

We have cameras and extra batteries available for use on rides, also extra cable locks. Depending on the weather, rain gear and a dry bag can also be good to bring:) Each rider needs to have a bottle of water and a helmet (we have extras), and must be dressed appropriately. If anybody needs to borrow a jacket, gloves, or a hat, we have those too.

Most importantly, enjoy the sunshine and the fresh air!

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Community Bicycle Center's Rights and Obligations, and the 5 Absolute "no's"

As a volunteer and member of the CBC community, you serve an important role to help support safe and supportive programming. Six rights and obligations should always be kept in mind --
  1. Right to be Respected
  2. Right to be Safe
  3. Right to Learn
  4. Obligation to be Caring
  5. Obligation to be Honest
  6. Obligation to be Responsible
When working in the shop or going for a ride, it is important to focus on the behaviors we want to live by rather than the behaviors we do not want to see, hear, or experience. Try to always recognize and praise positive behavior, and treat each participant as the person they are capable of being.

That said, there are five 100% "no's" that receive zero tolerance at the CBC.
  1. Smoking
  2. Drugs, alcohol
  3. Hitting, violence, abusive anger, threats
  4. Knives, weapons
  5. Stealing
Any occurrence of these behaviors must be reported to a CBC staff member, who will deal with the issue according to our behavior management plan. Although volunteers can verbally discourage destructive behaviors, only staff members may have a participant take time away or tell a participant to leave. More about our Progressive Behavior Management Plan in a later post...

Keep warm out there, this weekend is going to be a cold one!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Winter Riding (and Happy New Year!)

Depending on where you live, you may have noticed the weather getting colder and the roads icy-er -- it's not your eyes deceiving you -- winter is here! You may think that it would be crazy to bike in weather like this, but it turns out that lots of people do, including many of the kids and volunteers that come by the shop. Winter riding, if the rider and the bike are properly prepared, isn't unpleasant -- in fact it's alot of fun!

If a kid comes by with a bike they've been riding out in the snow and salt, there are a few basic things you can encourage them to do to be better prepared.

For bicycles:
-Clean the chain and oil the chain regularly, and consider using a wax-based lubricant (this will help shed the grime build-up and improve chain life)
-Swap out those bmx slicks for a set of tires with more traction
-Make sure that all the bearing systems on the bike are properly adjusted -- a loose bottom bracket, for example, will let in lots of dirt and moisture, leaving you with a headache!
-If possible, store your bike inside. Don't let it end up like this:)

When out on the road:
-Ride predictably and cautiously -- stay constantly aware of road conditions and other vehicles
-Wear bright clothing, and use lights at night -- remember, the sun sets much earlier in winter
-Obey traffic signals and laws, and wear a helmet
-Layer up your clothing, and don't forget gloves, ear coverings, a wind breaker, and long socks

How else might bicyclists ride safely in the wintertime?