Three Rivers was introduced to today’s guest blog contributor, Hani Roble, in 2021 through Community Engagement’s Camping 101 Weekend program at Baker Park Reserve. Shortly after, Hani organized a biking class series with Three Rivers, an experience she recounts in this blog post.
I began biking around 10 years old when a neighbor introduced me to it. I enjoyed the freedom of being able to ride around the neighborhood.
This was an opportunity that wasn’t common among many girls in my community. Growing up, Somali girls have a set of rules, expectations and norms instilled in them. Although we got to play and enjoy our childhoods, we rarely got the opportunity to ride bikes. For some, it wasn’t an activity they even considered doing because it was rare to see an adult Somali woman on a bike.
But that is changing. Last year, with the Learn to Ride program, I helped organize a group (also called a cohort) of 12 Somali women who were newly learning how to bike.
Although I was familiar with Three Rivers, I first met the staff on a weekend camping trip. It was a much-needed getaway, and the warm, kind and welcoming staff left a lasting impression on me. I inquired on how I might get more involved at Three Rivers and continue to learn and gain experiences in the outdoors.
A few weeks after the trip, one of the staff from the camping trip approached me with an opportunity to organize a biking class, and I couldn’t let it pass. I had expressed to her that I recently purchased a bike but had not yet gotten it out on the trails. This ended up being the perfect cue to initiate a discussion around organizing a cohort to help women learn to ride bikes, because it already aligned with bike outreach and engagement efforts that were underway within Three Rivers. I quickly connected with other women in my family and community and asked them if they would be interested in our biking class. The response was overwhelmingly positive and with response and their willingness to learn biking—in a short period of time, we filled the entire class with 12 participants.
Participating in the cohort
For six weeks, our cohort we met two times per week for about 2 hours each session. Practice sessions and lessons were held in coned-off parking lots at Hyland Lake Park Reserve and French Regional Park, and our first real bike ride occurred on the trails within Hyland. The first week of our lesson, we went over the basic rules, safety and terminology of biking and bikes. The welcoming and knowledgeable staff reviewed and helped us understand the different features and functions of a bike and we worked on starting to find our balance while gliding on the bikes. The women were very motivated and eager to learn.
Over the next weeks, the staff and the women quickly formed a team, bonding as we traveled down the paved paths. This positive environment made the experience enjoyable for everyone. We talked on breaks and quickly became a family. Through a few falls and sweat, we worked on each skill until we were all biking by the end of our session.
At our second-to-last session, one of the women was super committed to practicing how to maneuver her bike and use her brakes—up until that point, she had been working on finding balance on the bike but had not yet learned how to pedal; once she learned how to pedal, her drive and focus increased significantly. Three Rivers staff had set up practice cones in the parking lot to practice how to weave in/out to avoid things on the trail, and this participant fell multiple times trying to practice on her own. Even when we took a break, she was still out in the parking lot practicing, falling and getting back up without hesitation. The group cheered and encouraged her and one another as we worked through these more advanced skills.
As we progressed, all of the women had an aura of confidence and achievement around them. Everyone in the group could all feel the effects of learning. We shared stories and lessons learned during our last session together and more than one woman mentioned how this experience made them believe in themselves even more. The participant who had been dedicated to pedaling and getting back up after the falls the previous week shared: “I learned that I need to have more patience and empathy for my children. How can I expect them to learn something new on just the first try? Sometimes it takes more than once to learn something new, and that’s okay. As long as I am able to continue getting up and trying again without being scared, I can also afford to let my kids try as many times as they need to learn something new.” Another participant named Amal declared with enthusiasm, “The sky is the limit now!”
Being a part of this series was very fulfilling. I saw firsthand how this activity made an impact on people’s lives.
Not only did we learn skills, but we created lasting connections. Biking has always been a big part of my life and this course was a great way to meet people whom I can share this passion with. I look forward to biking with my new friends in the coming years.
For anyone who is interested in biking, remember that you are never too old to learn how to bike. Apart from physical benefits, there’s something liberating about sitting on a bike and pedaling. It is a great way to foster independence as you maneuver your bike just the way you want. The feeling is indescribable. It’s a great way to build confidence while enjoying nature.
About the Author
Hani Roble is a mother of three beautiful kids; a wife; and a nurse. She volunteers at homeless shelters and enjoys being a mentor for young girls. She enjoys the outdoors and likes exploring Minnesota parks on her bike. On a Sunday afternoon, you will catch Hani at home cooking for extended family or friends.
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