Ashley Lowery, Deseret News
Chris Steinman, left, and Jason Bultman do some work on a bike tire at the Community Bike Shop in Salt Lake City on Aug. 2.

Supposedly no one forgets how to ride a bike, yet there may be some important things about cycling that people never learned.

What bike is right for your height? How is a bike properly maintained for optimal performance? How do you avoid an accident and safely ride with traffic?

As more people are turning to biking as the answer to trimming their fuel costs, the need for education is increasing, according to cycling activists.

"We've seen a tremendous number of people come in and say, 'I need a bike to get around,"' said Jonathan Morrison, executive director at the Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective. "I see more bikers out on the road — it's hard not to. There are some people who aren't prepared and others who are, but more training and education is something even experienced riders need."

Brent Hume, manager of Salt Lake City Bike Co., said that in the month his bike shop has been open, he has seen a high demand for commuter and other pavement-style bikes, so-called "urban bikes." What is not selling as quickly, however, is safety equipment such as helmets.

Morrison said that helmets can help protect bikers, but the key to safety on the road is predictability, so that motorists will know what cyclists are doing and where their next move will be. To train both new and experienced riders, the collective offers courses every Saturday through September.

The introductory nine-hour course offered through the collective is free and open to the public and instructs cyclists on topics such as selecting safe routes, roadside repairs, basic maintenance and practical skills for avoiding accidents. Interested parties can apply online at the collective's Web site, slcbikecollective.org, under the "Bike Ed Registration" link. Advanced classes are offered based on demand.

"The purpose of this course is to make people more comfortable and safe on their bikes," said instructor Bob Kinney. "Regardless of how long you've been biking or your experience level, you'll learn something in this class."

At one of the introductory classes, Mary Witlock, a Salt Lake City resident, said she had to spray the cobwebs off of her bike before the course because it had been awhile since she had biked. But she wanted to ride again, and also wanted to learn things she did not know before about safety and maintenence.

"I just knew I was never healthier than when I was on my bike," Witlock said.

During the course, she learned how little she had understood about biking when she had been a daily rider in the past. For example, as a youth, she was taught to ride against traffic as a way to be safer, yet now bikers are encouraged to ride with the flow of traffic to increase visibility and awareness amongst drivers.

Many cyclists believe that they already have the skill sets necessary to be safe riders in traffic and don't need additional training. But they still have concerns on the road.

"Cars don't realize how vulnerable you are on a bike," said Tara Benedict, a Salt Lake City resident. "You don't have a steel cover like them. If they realized that, maybe they'd consider more attention to bikers and not just consider us a pest."


E-mail: cnorlen@desnews.com