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LCI Spotlight: Helena Howard

The League certifies hundreds of League Cycling Instructors every year and there are thousands of LCIs across the country leading bike education efforts in their communities. In our LCI spotlight series, we share the stories of League Cycling Instructors doing what they do daily: educating, mentoring, and 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.

This month, we’re proud to feature Helena Howard (they/she), who serves as Education Associate with the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota (BikeMN). They’re also a member of Grease Rag, an FTW [femme, trans, and women] collective that organizes rides, open shops, and an annual winter biking skill share. Helena’s nominator calls them a “10/10 human,” and we couldn’t agree more! We first encountered Helena’s brilliant spirit in 2022 during a story on our second-ever BIPOC-led and focused LCI seminar that certified nine new League Cycling Instructors in the Minneapolis area, including Helena.

At the time, Helena shared insights on how they started their bike journey: “In 2016, I made a failed attempt to bike across the country (my first bike ride over 20 miles) and it sparked my interest in bike repair. Since then, I have worked as a bike mechanic, facilitated bike repair nights with Grease Rag, and currently, I organize and teach BikeMN’s Adult Learn to Ride program. I love biking slowly through the woods and riding in the winter keeps me from crying as much.”

Know an inspiring LCI we should feature next? Nominate a stellar bike educator here! 

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

I am a silly person who enjoys puppetry, clowning, crafts, and biking around Minneapolis. I manage BikeMN’s Adult Learn to Ride program which teaches beginner adults how to balance, pedal, and ride a bike.  It’s super inspiring to see an adult ride a bike for the first time, because they are accomplishing something that they thought they might never get to do. Most of our participants are immigrant and refugee women who were raised in places where girls didn’t ride bikes. Biking opens up so many opportunities including affordable transportation, access to parks and trails, community, and a new kind of fun.

If you are part of a community that is underrepresented in cycling (such as adaptive cyclists, BIPOC, or LGBTQ+ communities), please tell us about your experience and how it shapes your approach to cycling education.

People are sometimes surprised that I am a bike mechanic because I look different than they’d expect. This was frustratingly common when I worked in a bike shop, but now that I’m not a full-time mechanic I can usually see it as an opportunity to gleefully defy expectations and show them that anyone can fix bikes (including them!).

I especially love giving kids, BIPOC, and FTW riders the confidence to repair and care for their own rides.

What first motivated you to become an LCI?

I learned about the LCI program when I started working at BikeMN two years ago. We host at least one LCI seminar at our headquarters every year, and it’s part of our staff onboarding process to become certified!

Give us an interesting or funny fact about you.

I recently adopted a dog named Maple and am thrilled to discover that she loves riding in my bike basket!

What is your favorite thing about being on a bike?

I like it when another biker rings their bell as they ride by and I get to ring mine back.

What is your favorite memory from being on a bike?

My favorite adventures so far have been taking my bike on Amtrak to Glacier and Olympic National Parks. I think it’s the best way to experience the national parks — and you don’t have to worry about car parking or camping reservations!

Explore more resources from BikeMN’s Adult Learn to Ride program, including a new free zine that covers the activities and logistics of leading a class!