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LCI Spotlight: David Dennis

The League certifies hundreds of League Cycling Instructors every year and there are thousands of LCIs around the country leading bike education efforts in their communities. In our LCI spotlight series, we are sharing the stories of League Cycling Instructors doing what they do every day: educating, mentoring, empowering. You don’t have to be an extraordinary athlete or overachieving student to be a stellar LCI, all you need is the conviction that life is better for everyone when more people ride bikes. 

Let’s kick off 2021 by continuing to recognize the role of League Cycling Instructors in growing the bicycling movement. If you missed our earlier installments, please catch up on the inspirational work being done by bike educators Mitchell Williams in Kansas City and Lisa and Sandy in Fort Collins. 

League Cycling Instructors are teachers, they are mentors, they are spreaders of joy. They could even be you one day! Every League Cycling Instructor was at one point someone who just learned to ride, someone who just started to commute by bike, someone gaining the skills to go more places by bike. What each LCI shares is a desire to help others experience the freedom and joy of biking. 

This month, we’re checking in with David Dennis in Santa Maria, California. David’s favorite thing about being on a bike is, “it makes me feel like a kid again.” When you consider that David’s first bike was a bright blue Schwinn Typhoon that he bought in 1965 for $52 that he earned on his paper route, you can really feel the power of biking to transport us across time and memories. 

Are there local bike groups you’re a part of locally? 

The Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition (SBBIKE)

Tell us a little about yourself and why you enjoy teaching others to bike.

I’ve been a lifelong cyclist and I spent 27 years as a high school teacher and coach. I never had a chance to teach second and third graders until I began working as an LCI with SBBIKE’s youth program at our local public schools. For me, teaching bike education is the perfect mix of teaching the classroom content and coaching the riding skills.

What first motivated you to become an LCI?

Christine Bourgeois and Ken Dahmen of SBBIKE told me how much fun it was and gave me an opportunity to volunteer with the well established youth program at our schools in Santa Barbara County.

What has been your greatest reward in teaching bike education?

Hearing second and third graders shout “I am doing it!” when they balance and pedal on their own for the first time.

What is your best piece of advice for an LCI who wants to teach a class but isn’t sure how to get started?

Start small. If you can’t partner with an established teacher or program, break it down to the different instructional aspects and prepare for the one you would feel most comfortable with. With Smart Cycling there is classroom instruction, bike adjustments, the parking lot bike handling skills, and an actual street ride. Get some friends and family to let you “try out” your instruction and refine it from their feedback. That might also help you get some volunteer helpers for teaching your first full course.

What is something you think that all LCIs should know about teaching bike education? 

Instruction will not always go perfectly. You need to proceed at a pace that works for your student’s understanding. Relax and adjust in a way that is always safe and comfortable for your students.

Know an LCI who should be featured next? Nominate a stellar bike educator here!