How to Run a Bike Rodeo

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Planning a Bike Rodeo

An adult woman standing with a bunch of kids behind her lined up ready to ride.
Bike rodeos offer kids a chance to try out their cycling skills and learn how to ride safely. (c) Ginny Scroggs

Looking for a way to entertain a group of kids that is also educational at the very same time? A bike rodeo is a great choice for elementary and middle schooers, because it teaches them safe riding habits and hones their cycling skills. Plus they have a ball in the process!

At the minimum, all you'll need is a flat, paved surface such as a parking lot where the kids can ride safely, some cones, and chalk or tape for marking some of the games.

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Find a Couple of Helpers

An adult volunteers helps a line of scouts on bikes.
Having plenty of adult volunteers helps a lot. (c) Ginny Scroggs

You'll want to recruit a couple of adult helpers, depending on the size of the group. You can figure on needing one grown-up for every eight to ten kids.

These are people that will help run the stations and keep track of the kids.  Parents of the participating kids are obvious choices, and you can reassure them that they don't have to be bike experts to help out.

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Emphasize Bike Safety.

A staff member from a local bike shop gives a safety talk.
Often, your local bike shop will provide a staff member to give a safety talk. (c) Doug Schaeffler

You'll want to start things off with a brief talk about bike safety. Things to cover include rules of the road, things to check before riding your bike, the importance of wearing a helmet, etc.

Many times, the police department or your local bike shop will be more than happy to send out someone to do this for you.

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Teach Proper Hand Signals.

A man demonstrates the hand signal for a right hand turn.
It's important to review rules of the road, including turn signals. (c) Ginny Scroggs

As both cyclists and future motorists, it is important for your young participants to be familiar with the use of hand signals.

A bike rodeo gives them the chance to learn and practice these signals until they understand when and why they should be used.

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Check Fit of the Bike Helmets

An adult checking a kid's helmet for proper fit.
Have a knowledgeable person check helmets for proper fit. (c) Ginny Scroggs

All participants should be wearing appropriate helmets that are properly fitted. The bike rodeo should include a station where this is checked and adjustments made as necessary.  In general, bike helmets should fit snugly, not too loose or too tight, and come down just over a kid's eyebrows.  They should neither sit too far forward or too far back.

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Select Events.

Kid riding a bike, trying to stop right on a chalk line.
Stop-on-a-dime is another game that helps develop bike handling skills. (c) Doug Schaeffler

Select events that focus on basic bike skills. A game called "Stop on a Dime," for instance, helps kids develop the braking ability to anticipate the time and distance needed to stop at a given point.

Give each kid a score sheet and assign points for successful completion of each event. Adding an element of competition is a good thing, and helps keep the kids serious about what is being taught.

Click here for a complete list and explanation of events you can use at your event.

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Include Some Fun Events

Boy on a bike throwing a newspaper at a clothes basket.
Playing newspaper boy is a lot of fun. (c) Doug Schaeffler

Be sure to include some fun events in your bike rodeo. A real hit is an event that allows kids to play at being a newspaper delivery boy.

If you choose to include this one, all you'll need is six to eight targets (clothes baskets, large tubs, trash cans, etc.) and an equal number of rolled newspapers, plus a bag that can be slung over a shoulder to hold the papers.

Lay the targets out one after another in a course, and have the kids ride the "route" trying to throw a newspaper from the bike in each target.

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Have a First Aid Kit on Hand

Kid with a banged-up elbow.
Be sure to have a first aid kit. (c) Doug Schaeffler

Be sure to have a basic first aid kit on hand. You never know when you'll need the band-aids or gauze pad for a scraped up knee or elbow.

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Conclude the Event

Trophy award
Getty Images/Noel Hendrickson

Conclude the event by tallying the score sheets, awarding simple prizes to the winner. This can be stickers or other goodies provided by the bike shop or police department, or another prize like a small bag of candy.

Then, cap off your bike rodeo with ice cream or another treat for all the participants. Be sure to include yourself and your volunteers.

As a postscript, a week or two after the event, send thank-you notes to your helpers and the bike shop/police for their assistant. Include a photo or two of the kids having fun if at all possible. This feel-good gesture will make them very likely to agree to help again if asked.