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A Waikato man riding his bike more than ever has found cycle skills courses helpful to upskill for the varied road and traffic conditions he encounters.

Two e-bikes are cradled on the carrier on the back of the car at a house in Pirongia. The autumn sun is shining. Birds sing and the kettle boils. Ray Armstrong is looking happy, fit and relaxed after returning from his morning group ride.

Ray and his wife Ruth belong to a social ride group which meets every Wednesday in Te Awamutu. The group rides out into the countryside around town and often ends up at a café afterwards.

Ray, a retired farm manager and Ruth, a former teacher, also join up with friends to ride cycle trails further afield — Northland's Twin Coast Trail was the latest.  

"There's not a dull day. That's what life's all about," says Ray. "Getting out bike riding is keeping us fit. And its very social, we've met a lot of new people."

Recently the couple heard about a series of cycle skills courses and attended the lot.

The free workshops were run by Cycling New Zealand in collaboration with Waipa District Council and Sport Waikato. Held once a week during evenings, the courses covered much of the content in Grade 1 and 2 of the BikeReady system. Coverage included:

  • Electric bikes — how to get the best out of riding these
  • Bike handling skills — for people returning to bike riding or wanting to improve skills: cornering, braking, stopping and using gears
  • On-road biking skills — the confidence and knowledge to safely navigate urban and rural roads and shared pathways
  • Bike maintenance — including how to fix a puncture

The workshops were practical courses, included on-road riding and were adapted for local people and places. In addition, Ray and Ruth attended a Ride Leaders workshop which gave them skills to plan and lead group rides.

Ray Armstrong.

"It was worthwhile doing all of that," says Ray. "Our instructor showed us all the things on the road you must do, like taking control of the lane when you need to and using your hand signals to turn — letting people know what you're doing."

Ruth adds: "You got the feeling that the council was behind bike riding and approved of bikes in town."

She says one of the important things she took away was to ride a bit further out from the edge of the road and make herself more known to drivers. And she says that sense of awareness goes two ways.

"You can't just be aware of yourself and your riding. You need to be aware of what is happening on the road. For example, if I slow down here, that horse float can pull out from the side road first. You have to be aware of other people using the road."