Never too old to learn to ride a bike
Life-changing program gets parents pedalling
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/06/2022 (184 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
For Jubril Adeyemoh, it’s never quite worked to say that anything in his life is as easy as riding a bike.
The 39-year-old immigrant, who moved to Winnipeg two years ago, never got a chance to learn how to ride a bike in his home country of Nigeria. Arriving in Canada, he was struck by the many paths and trails Winnipeg had to offer.
“Where I live, there is a lawn, there is a walkway at the back of my house, and I see a whole lot of people ride bicycles,” Adeyemoh said.
“I’ve always wanted to also learn so that at least I can ride and enjoy the trip as well.”
He and his family were settling down and making community connections when Adeyemoh received a fateful email advertising a free eight-week course, provided by the Louis Riel School Division’s René Deleurme Centre and the Winnipeg Repair Education and Cycling Hub (WRENCH), for parents and caregivers who wanted to learn to ride a bike.
As the father of two young kids — one seven, one four — who regularly ride their bikes, he would jog alongside them or keep an eye on them in the park. They’d asked why he couldn’t ride with them, and he never had a proper answer.
Joining the cycling course, he realized he wasn’t alone.
“I won’t lie to you — a whole lot of other people came like me, that have not rode a bike in the past. And I was wondering if an eight-week period would be sufficient for us to learn,” he said.
By the third week, Adeyemoh said a measure of progress was evident.
When he surprised his kids with his new bike (provided by the program) and his new skills, they were delighted.
“Even though I am still not that very good yet, considering we’ve had about five or six weeks with it, I’m sure with much more practice I’ll get much better,” he said.
“But at least my children are very happy.”
The program, funded through a federal community health initiative grant, has been a success. WRENCH and the Louis Riel School Division put up posters but had no idea what the level of interest would be, school division spokesperson Melissa Brown said.
“Learning things as an adult is a little bit trickier, right? It’s a little harder. You have to get out of your comfort zone to take that chance and be vulnerable, and so we were really proud and happy that our community trusted us to take part in that experience,” Brown said. “That has been a little bit surprising, but very exciting.”
There are 30 adults signed up for the program, who started with striders —bikes with the pedals removed to build balance and confidence — and are now working on brief leisure rides.
Two other programs are in place for more intermediate riders. One is a bike mechanic course, also offered to parents and caregivers. The other is a leisure ride — meant to help encourage caregivers that are new to the community, or Winnipeg in general, to take to the St. Vital community trails.
Participants are mainly newcomers, but range from young parents to seniors, and everyone goes home with a bike and helmet to keep.
“Just seeing the response from our community has really just sparked our interest in how we can continue building on programming in the future and offer programs in the future years for our community,” Brown said.
“When you see an adult take a chance and learn a new skill and have that pride and there’s something so liberating about riding a bike, it’s just such a rewarding program.”
Adeyemoh is now looking into more advanced bike riding programs for adults. He’s taken to bike riding, but the chance to meet new people after pandemic-era social distancing while in a new country has been life-changing.
He said he knows other adults who would love to take part in a similar program, and hopes it expands to fit more people’s schedules and reaches more people like him.
“It was soft, it was gentle, it was fantastic. It was easy to learn,” he said.
“And I will say I have grown as a person, not to even add the fact that I made a couple of friends also by converging every Tuesday morning.”
Adeyemoh continues getting up bright and early Tuesday mornings to strap on his helmet and work on bike basics. What he’s gained goes far beyond pedals and wheels.
“I don’t know how I can actually express how I feel about it,” he said.
“But I’m so glad that I got that email, and I took the steps to take advantage of it.”
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.
Updated on Monday, June 6, 2022 10:13 AM CDT: Corrects spelling