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Preparing the Herd

It's great to have friends in the right places. 

I have four pals who happen to be expert bike mechanics (three of whom are professionals), and I asked them to help us go through our Riding For Focus Specialized hardtails on Tuesday night. We were joined by six middle school students as we prepared the bikes for the fast-approaching riding season. Our newly created repair space with five stations was abuzz with activity as we tightened headsets, trued wheels, adjusted cable tensions, lubed chains and inflated tires. 

The bikes are holding up well, so we were able to blast through them pretty quickly. Lee Huston, the owner of our fantastic retail partner shop, Center Street Cycles, was great to have on hand since he built the bikes. Lee is a standout teacher, patient, clear and a humble mechanical genius. We also had Matt Viara and Mark Wheeler from Bath Cycle and Ski and Tom Mills, the husband of my Riding For Focus teaching partner, PE teacher Barb Mills. 

Looking around the room at…
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Routine Maintenance

Living in Maine, we have some real thermal challenges in the winter months. There are more than a few of us who own fatbikes and push through the season with toe-warmers, overboots, goggles and bar mitts, but taking teenagers out into the arctic conditions without proper clothing and studded tires is a non-starter.
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Our friends at The Chewonki Foundation, our amazing partner in many place-based, environmental learning initiatives,  reached out to us after we received the Riding For Focus grant from The Specialized Foundation. They were excited about the program and asked if there was a way they could get involved with it. I had met a teacher from Sacramento while at the RFF training in August who offered expert advice and resources for building a school-based bike repair program. Using his list of re…

Under A Blanket of White

The weather this past fall was so uncharacteristically warm that it was hard to imagine we would be where we are now. Daily high temperatures have been in the single digits since Christmas day, and lows have dipped into the negative double digits some nights. The undulations of the pump track have been transformed into a graceful sculpture by the blowing and drifting snow, rendering it both beautiful and unridable.

As the owner of a fatbike, I have been able to make use of the local snowmobile trail network, but the latest snowfall still needs some more compaction before it will be ridable again. 

In the meantime, we have been thinking about the spring's Riding For Focus programming. We are weighing the benefits and limitations of a single morning session, and contemplating adding a second session in the afternoon. All those beautiful bikes are itching to be ridden, so we are trying to creatively carve more time out of the day. 

We are also in the beginning stages of planning our in-…

The Riding For Focus Newsletter

The City of Bath, Bath Middle School and Center Street Cycles are featured in issue #8 of The Riding For Focus Newsletter! It's a great roundup of what we've been up to this year, with a focus on the power of collaboration and community support. You can view it here. It's a perfect way to kick off the new year.


Winter is Here

We extended our riding season as far as we could, and now winter is here. In reality, winter got here a few weeks ago, but we pushed back against it, not ready to give up our daily rides yet. The final ride of the season bathed us in the warm light of the sunrise on an otherwise frigid morning. 

As luck would have it, the last two days of our scheduled session were rainy and icy, so it was a perfect opportunity to wrap up some loose ends. On Monday we washed off and dried the bikes, and put them away for the season. It was cold enough outside that the water from the hose froze on some of the bikes on contact.

By this time, our system for moving the bikes in and out of our tight storage space had evolved into a well choreographed routine. Kids delivered their bikes to the door of the space, and I stacked them up in just under four minutes.

On Tuesday, we went over the answers to the Road Readiness Written Test as a group to try and clear up any misconceptions or missing information. I too…

Thank You Notes and Slippery Bridges

The way our schedule has worked this fall, we have had to be very careful with our time. Every minute has counted! So it's been a challenge to find a time to write thank you notes to the folks who helped us with the pump track. Finally on Friday morning I pulled out the cards that had been written by students so we could all sign them. After signing the cards himself, a 7th grader offered up his back as a writing surface for the others. This was kind of emblematic of the way we have grown as a group from riding together this fall. 
Students all help each other bring the bikes out to the corral when they arrive each morning, and work together to put them back into our storage room after our ride. They have learned to be patient with each other, to cheer each other on, and to help each other out. There are times, still, when kids are jockeying for position and trying to squeeze by each other, but these make for teachable moments. 
The temperature on Friday was just below freezing, but…