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Innisfree Wheelers & Cycling Ireland Bike for Life 2016


Innisfree Wheelers Cycling Club Sligo

Cycling Ireland Bike-for-Life Coaching Programme 2016

Tuesday 8th March 2016 was the registration night for the latest of our Club’s very popular Bike-for-Life (BFL) beginner/re-starter cycling courses, and it was very encouraging to see well in excess of 30 interested applicants turning up. However, from our experience of delivering BFL courses over the past two years, for most effective course delivery, and for on-the-bike individual coaching and guidance by two BFL group leaders, we had to keep the maximum number of participants to the first 15 to register, as advertised. This was important also from a safety perspective, where a spread of 15 riders on open roads, guided by two qualified CI coaches, is really an advisable maximum.

On registration, all of our BFL participants received a welcome pack containing a useful Cycling Safety Kit from the Road Safety Authority (RSA), an important Cycle Safety leaflet from The Sligo Cycling Campaign and a Cycling Ireland (CI) Bike-for-Life Log Book/Cycling Guide and Neck Buff. On of evening of registration, participants were requested to carefully read the Cycle Safety Leaflet in advance of their first coaching session, and to take note of the excellent illustrative drawings which give clear information of the recommended bike position on the road in various situations (right turns, roundabouts, etc.).

A number of participants indicated that they had some previous cycling experience, but most had no regular cycling activity in recent years or experience of any real distance cycling. Some openly admitted their nervousness of open road cycling and their wish to conquer that fear. We acknowledged everybody’s goals and concerns, and committed to addressing all over the next 7 weeks. To the disbelief of many, each participant was informed that the coaches’ aim for the group over the following weeks was to have everybody sufficiently trained and bike-fit, confident on the road, and ready to be able to successfully complete and enjoy the forthcoming 60Km An Post Yeats Tour of Sligo event on Sunday 1st May. We vividly described the great buzz that we both got on completing our first 60km event, and encouraged all to realistically consider giving it a go !

Our structured coaching program is directly based on Cycling Ireland’s BFL format, with progressive modules of 2.5-3 hours per session delivered within a 7 week timeframe. For this latest BFL course, we wanted to deliver something different, hence the overall goal of participation in the 60Km An Post Tour. All of our participants, 3 men and 12 women, ranging in age from 24 to 65, had, in some instances, not cycled in over 20 years, and all were interested in learning simple and precise bike handling skills, training techniques and generally developing their cycling confidence.

Sunday 13th March was a lovely dry day for cycling. All of our 15 eager participants turned up at the Sligo IT Knocknarea Arena for their introduction to the joys of leisure cycling, with their two bike-mad coaches already there and rearing to go. The Sligo IT Campus being also the regular ‘HQ’ for our well attended Sunday Club spins, our BFL Group’s introduction to the sight of a large number of Innisfree Wheelers cyclists, young and not-so-young, and clad in all forms of tight and dodgy looking lycra attire, was very amusing – what a lovely sight to behold !

As always in our first BFL module, before taking to the road at all, our session covered bike assessment (the essential safety ‘M-Check’) with participants swapping and checking each other’s bikes, cycling assessment, cycling competency, talks and demonstrations on basic bike maintenance, how to quickly remove wheels, recommended cycling clothing, proper and secure helmet fitting, the Rules of the Road, road manners and bike etiquette……the ‘dos and don’ts’ of all of that. We then moved the Group to a secure car park at the Sligo IT for cycling skills demonstration and 2 X 2 cycling practice that included safe double-braking, gear changing and techniques (‘big-ring’, ‘small-ring’), essential hand signals for safety at all times, 2-abreast riding, balancing while drinking and replacing a bottle on the move, the absolute necessity for loud safety calls (‘hole’, ‘single-file’, ‘car up’ etc.), followed by an initial open road spin of 4Km, where every skill and technique just learned was practiced.

On the conclusion of our first session, the group was given “cycling homework” for the following week – to commit to togging out, hail rain or shine, and completing 2 X 5km spins in their own time. We suggested Tuesday and Thursday evenings so that when participants returned for our second BFL session, they could complete a 20km open road spin with ease. As the weeks progressed, the homework was for longer, but very achievable spins, adding some hill work for further development. This progressive training was continued by the coaches, week on week, through the rest of the BFL sessions, and the route segments we used were always segments of the An post 60km circuit.

We are very proud of the accomplishments of our 15 BFL participants. Not having been regular cyclists at all just seven weeks earlier, an amazing 11 of our group completed the 60Km An Post Tour of Sligo, and many have since become full Club members and will take their cycling to further heights! We welcome our groups’ feedback, and use it to improve our BFL course delivery. Each participant was issued with a feedback form to complete and we have included some feedback below.

“I found it all fantastic – great for confidence building”.

“Teachers were very good – informative, made everything easy to understand”

“Very well presented and enjoyable”

“The lads were excellent at explaining the use of gears and other parts of the bicycle, puncture repair etc”

“The course was very well delivered. The members have improved their confidence, techniques and fitness. Thank you Paul and Martin for this amazing course”

“Excellent and really worth doing. Would recommend to all starting out”

Finally, we would like, in particular, to thank Lawrence from Cycling Ireland, our own Innisfree Wheelers Cycling Club Sligo, and the Road Safety Authority, Ballina, for all of the support we have received in preparing for, and hosting our Bike-for-Life courses to date.

Martin Keville & Paul Duffy



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