Some observations from a Cycle Confident instructor…
“I really think this will be life-changing for me”
This comment was the verdict of a trainee at the end of a recent 1-2-1 cycling lesson. During the session we had planned and ridden her commute, a journey she had, until then, made by public transport. Cycle training had given her the knowledge, skills and, crucially, the confidence to consider making this journey by bike. This in turn will enable her to unlock the benefits of cycling to work, which all the evidence suggests will make her happier, healthier, less stressed and certainly better off.
Of course not every lesson prompts such a positive response, but I think this captures something of why being a cycling instructor is such a rewarding job. If you are considering the profession, chances are you’re already convinced of the potential that cycling has to improve lives. Training to become an instructor will enable you to realise that potential in others.
So, that’s the rose-tinted vision dealt with.
What about the practicalities…
In order to become a qualified cycling instructor you will need to complete a 4-day instructor training course with a registered Instructor Training Organisation (ITO) such as Cycle Confident. To attend, you’ll need to be 18 or over, reasonably fit, and a confident cyclist with your own bike.
The course will introduce you to the National Standard in cycle training. This is essentially the framework that underpins all cycle training, and sets out a series of “outcomes” – skills and abilities needed by cyclists to ride safely in different situations.
Having successfully completed the course you will have attained Provisional National Standard Instructor status. You can start to work as a provisionally qualified instructor, and to do so you’ll want to register with one or more cycle training providers in your local area. To become a fully qualified instructor requires a post course assessment to be carried out within six months of completing initial training – your ITO will help to arrange this.
There are a few other things to consider once you’ve decided to undertake the initial training. All National Standard Instructors must have appropriate insurance cover when delivering cycle training. A number of organisations provide this cover, including CTC, and British Cycling who offer it as a benefit of membership. You’ll also need an appropriate first aid qualification to enable you to deal with any minor bumps and bruises (not unheard of) and to know what to do in the event of a more serious incident (thankfully, extremely rare).
Much of the training is delivered in schools, under the name Bikeability. Before you can start working with children and young people you will need to complete a DBS check (what used to be called a CRB check). Again, your ITO will facilitate this process, but all of these practicalities can take several weeks to complete, so if you’re serious about starting work as an instructor it’s best to get the ball rolling as early as possible.
What’s the job actually like?
Working as a cycling instructor is immensely fun and rewarding. It can also be challenging and frustrating. And sometimes wet and cold.
The flexibility of the work means it can suit those looking to fit cycle training around other commitments, but it can also be intermittent and, to a degree, seasonal. The vast majority of cycling instructors are freelancers, so if this isn’t something you’ve done before, be prepared for a certain level of uncertainty and also the associated admin, including doing your own tax return.
Most of the work falls into two broad categories – Bikeability sessions delivered in schools, and 1-2-1 training sessions.
Individual lessons can vary greatly, from teaching complete beginners to sessions with seasoned cyclists who want advice on a particular commute. Seeing someone ride unaided for the first time, or helping a previously nervous cyclist to gain confidence to ride on the road, both offer plenty of job satisfaction.
School Bikeability courses
School training will tend to take you into a given school for one week, and in that sense can offer more reliable blocks of work. Instructors work in pairs and, as a freshly qualified instructor, you will be supporting the lead instructor. Each group of kids brings its own challenges, but even in the space of a week you’ll be amazed at the progress they make.
I learn something new from every instructor I work with, and that’s another nice aspect of the job – it’s a great workforce to be part of. Cycling instructors are generally a positive and helpful bunch, perhaps because they’re doing something they love, so if you want to see more people getting more out of cycling, why not join them, and start changing lives for the better!