Meet our instructors: Darren
February 13, 2019
How did you get involved in cycling for transportation?
As soon as I had my balance figured out (thanks to my dad pushing me up and down our street), I rode to school in grade 1. My school was over a fence through a cul-de-sac and my bike commute took 3 times longer but I didn’t mind- I loved my bike. Due to a fear of bike theft, I took a hiatus from riding until deciding to ride from Richmond to Granville Island while I was an art student. The trip was so empowering I vowed to bike everywhere, and I’ve bike-commuted wherever I’ve lived, be it Paris, Montreal, or Harbin (China).
How long have you been teaching transportation cycling courses with HUB Cycling?
I began teaching in the fall of 2017, after completing my AYR training, I got to assist/shadow one of HUB’s Coordinators during a Learn2Ride program on a sunny day in Richmond; it was the easiest entry imaginable.
What made you want to become a cycling instructor?
I needed a little part-time work and, being a HUB member, saw the instructor job posting. I already teach and ride so I thought, “why not combine the two?”
Which courses do you most commonly teach?
I usually teach Ride the Road, taking groups of students out in their neighbourhood, but lately I’ve been teaching Learn2Ride with the new contract in Surrey. Lots of rainy days in schoolyard puddles! I’ve also taught private lessons; Ride the Road programs with new immigrants to Canada (exciting!); Family StreetWise courses; and Workplace Cycling Workshops.
What does a typical day look like during the instructional season?
There are NO typical days teaching for HUB, which is one of its great attributes. Every time my alarm wakes me up, it’s to a new day, new location, and a new assignment. One thing that is consistent is the stellar crew I get to work with- they all have a great, infectious positive attitude.
What other activities, work, or schooling do you do?
I teach animation at Emily Carr University of Art + Design as a sessional lecturer which means I have a little spare time to teach for HUB. My wife & I have 3 adult kids (+ 2 grandkids in Quebec City) so travel has been a big agenda item the last few years. I also play guitar in a collaborative music project.
Are you involved in the cycling community more broadly in Vancouver? I.e. community bike shops, recreational cycling community, cycle touring, cycling advocacy?
I like to enter a half dozen bike events a year like Pacific Populaire; Canada Day Populaire; Gran Fondo Whistler; MEC events; Tour de Whatcom; as well as fundraising rides. The last few years I partook in the Ride Don’t Hide event supporting mental health.
What skills make a good cycling instructor?
I think it’s really important to be completely prepared and then to be prepared to throw that out to adapt to a new situation. Every cycling student has different needs and their confidence grows at a different pace, whether they are adults or children. Typically, I’d arrive with one expectation, pick a new strategy before the session starts, and then have honed in on something else entirely before the session is complete.
What do you feel are skills you’ve gained or things you’ve learned through being a cycling instructor?
Talking with people and learning from their experiences has broadened my thinking. I have much more empathy talking with a cyclist afraid of traffic, or someone who thinks they “should” have mastered their balance by now, or those who have had to challenge their own aggression on a bike. I don’t think I’ve ever been judgmental, but it’s taught me to be more open and accepting of all people and where they are coming from.
What are some challenges you’ve faced as an instructor? Successes?
I treat challenges as learning experiences. It’s an incredibly complex matrix of details involved to get a program to successful fruition. If something goes wrong, it’s usually a detail I’ve missed (and learn from) or an unforeseen circumstance that gets added to the plan or something like that. There’s the occasional ‘surprise’ on the road from certain impatient road-users but thankfully those are far and few between. There’s nothing like the thrill to see the looks of people’s faces when they accomplish something on a ride. That never gets old.
Do you want to share anything else with us that you think would be interesting to know about you as a cycling instructor?
One fellow instructor called me ‘maturely immature’ which I think has me sussed. Biking is a blast, and I think it’s sad not everyone knows this, or that they’re prevented by their fear of the road. I hope I’m always thought of as “maturely immature’. Besides my love of Marx Brothers-like brand of the absurd, biking will always keep me zany. Cautiously zany.
This is part 3 of a 5 part series featuring cycling instructors on our Bike Education Team. We’re hiring Bike Instructors for our spring season, for more info click here.