Meet our instructors: Heather
January 29, 2019
Which courses do you most commonly teach?
Ride the Road courses in Elementary schools
Advance Your Ride (Instructor certification course)
Workplace Cycling Workshops
How did you get involved in cycling for transportation?
I had taken some time off work with some back problems and as part of my physio to get back to work I was told to ride a stationary bike. I felt like that was just way too boring so I bought a cheap bike and slowly started taking it places. My office was just a 5km ride, and my job was very sedentary, so I started biking there. It didn’t take long for me to choose longer and longer routes home. One year I bought a new bike instead of a bus pass and have not looked back since.
What made you want to become a cycling instructor?
I had recently left a career that was not making me happy and I was taking some time to figure out what I actually enjoyed doing. I knew I liked to ride bikes so I started volunteering with HUB’s Vancouver/UBC local committee. From there I learned that the organization was hiring new instructors; I didn’t even know teaching cycling was something you could do for work! I wasn’t sure what to expect but the idea of getting paid to help people become more confident on their bikes was too interesting of an opportunity to pass up.
What other activities, work, or schooling do you do?
I help manage a bike shop, Bikes For All. I do jigsaw puzzles, go swimming, read and write and tell stories. I’m learning how to rock climb and preparing for a spring triathlon. I love to bake and have mastered both the chocolate chip oatmeal and ginger spice cookie. I cuddle cats as much possible.
What skills make a good cycling instructor?
Being able to listen to what your students need. Understanding that everyone learns biking at different times in their lives and in different ways which means you have to be able to adapt your teaching style to whoever you’re working with. The ability to adapt in general is essential; to different people, weather conditions, and classroom settings. Whether it’s a community centre or a school, a workplace or a park, every single group is different.
What do you feel are skills you’ve gained or things you’ve learned through being a cycling instructor?
The constant reminder to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. You don’t know why people always do what they do out in the world but it’s important to remember that we are all doing the best we can with what we’ve got and we need to support each other, even if it’s just with a head nod as we pass each other on the bike path.
Being able to adapt to anything and everything thrown at me is probably the number one skill I’ve improved on, as well as the number one challenge I’ve faced - everything from a MODO truck not being where it is supposed to be, to hail storms and bears while out on a ride with young students- you just have to roll with it :)
What are some challenges you’ve faced as an instructor? Successes?
Every student with a smile on their face is a success story in itself, and there have been a lot over the years! Watching someone who never believed they could ride a bike lift their feet onto both pedals and take off, wobbling through a park, is amazing. I’ve taught people as young as 5 and as old as 74 to ride. I’ve seen women ride off laughing and screaming, getting to experience something that they couldn’t in their previous countries. Working with new immigrants and with adults who didn’t know the rules of the road here have probably been the most impactful times.
Every challenge I’ve faced while teaching has never felt like a challenge, rather the need to adapt to different people’s personalities, different learning styles, different physical abilities and changing weather patterns.
This is part 1 of a 5 part series featuring cycling instructors on our Bike Education team.