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Bicycle Rodeos - How to run an event.

Just like bicycle education is more than a shove down the driveway, a bicycle rodeo is more than just an obstacle course. This "Guide to Bicycle Rodeos" is intended to give you the tools to run a successful event that provides a strong educational component for the participants. All the information contained here may be reproduced.

When we remember back to our first bicycle, we remember that it provided fun, freedom, independence, transportation and responsibility. The bicycle is the most efficient machine known to mankind. The bicycle is playing a role in many of the issues facing us today, heath & wellness, environmental concerns and transportation. As more and more Americans rediscover the bicycle, it is critical that all users understand how to safely drive a bicycle.

Why run a bicycle rodeo, Well it first and foremost teaches bicycle safety if run properly. With time constraints it is an efficient, effective and concise way of presenting bicycle safety. The practical aspect of the training is a powerful tool. But most importantly, children have fun while learning.

Simply stated, it is education by practice. It is a bicycle skills event which provides an opportunity for bicyclists to practice and develop skills that will help them to become better bicyclists and avoid typical crashes.


An effective bicycle safety education program must have skilled instructors. Children can often time see right through those who don't know what they are talking about. The challenge then is where to find adults with bicycle safety knowledge?

Some ideas:

  • Parents
  • Other teachers/staff
  • Local Bicycle Club
  • Police officers
  • Local youth agencies
  • Service clubs
  • Bike Shops

An effective bicycle safety education program is designed to address the behaviors that most often result in crashes.

These behaviors include:

  • Riding out of a driveway without stopping
  • Failing to stop for stop signs
  • Suddenly swerving without looking back
  • Riding on the wrong side of the street
  • Riding at night without proper lighting and reflective clothing

We must understand that a vast majority of accidents (50% or more) do not involve cars or others, but the child simply loses control of the bike and crashes to the ground.

  • Starting and stopping
  • Scanning
  • Avoiding hazards
  • Making turns
  • Entering and crossing the street
  • Riding under control and predictably








A well balanced committee is an extremely beneficial asset. It should be made up of representatives of the school/organization sponsoring the event, local community resources and parents. This needs to be a working committee, so be very clear when recruiting members of the committee.


After reviewing this section you will need to identify those things that you will need to pay for. Then obviously you need to identify a way to pay for them.

  • Who will recruit volunteers?
  • One person for each station who is familiar with the purpose of the rodeo and that specific station.
  • Someone to help move kids from station to station to avoid long lines.
  • Sometimes local bike shops or your local bike club will provide a person with some tools and cycling expertise for inspection station. Need at least 2 people.
  • Volunteers and staff need to be oriented to the objectives and procedures of the stations prior to the day of the event. Set up meeting date.
  • A well-fed volunteer is a happy one. Consider having coffee, juice, donuts, etc., available.

Where will you hold the event?

• School
• Park
• Other


Determine types

• PSAs
• Newspaper ads
• Newsletters
• Handouts
• Emails
• Web Page
• Banners
• Signs
• Other

  • How many children do we expect?
  • What do children need to bring? Bike, Helmet?
  • Pre-registration required?
  • Waivers needed for participants
  • Education materials/handouts
    • Will you create new
    • Use existing
  • Helmet giveaway? (# riders expected?)
  • How to fund it?
  • Certificates of participation to all who complete the course?
  • Random drawing to include everyone who completes the course?
  • Will there be refreshments for children? If so how do you fund it?

  • Need at least 90' x 100' of space to layout course
  • Paved is preferred, but it can be done on the grass
  • Age groups?
  • 90-120 minutes depending on number of participants
  • For course setup: 
    • Tape measure or roller tape (a wheel)
    • Paint, chalk, traffic cones
  • For the stations
    • Pencils and clipboards
    • Basic tools, tire pump for the inspection station
    • Cardboard cars for stations
    • Stop sign (cardboard or real) for station
    • Sponges
    • Inspection forms
  • For general use: 
    • Tables for registration
    • Chairs
    • Name tags for volunteers
    • Marking pens
    • Signs to identify the stations
    • Certificates?
    • Refreshments?
    • Educational information (brochures)
  • Planning Committee - Ideally the planning committee should first meet 4-5 months before the event. The first task is to secure the volunteers needed to effectively run the event. As in all committees responsibilities should be delegated among committee members.
  • Volunteers Orientation - An orientation session should be held before the event for all volunteers. Resist the idea to do it the morning before the event. There is simply not enough time and volunteers won't show up on time creating a problem. Ideally the orientation needs to be held between the course being marked and the event being held. If it is a Saturday event, than Thursday is a good night for the meeting.
    Marking Course - The course should be marked early in the week before the event to eliminate any last minute glitches.
  • Set Up - The morning of the event the tables, tents, etc should be set up by a Set Up committee.
  • Clean Up - Probably the most important, but often times overlooked are the Clean Up crew. Make sure this is not left to chance or else you will be the one doing it by yourself.

Your Planning Committee needs to decide if it is going to have exhibitors at your event. Some possibilities include:

  • Event Sponsors
  • State/county agencies
  • Youth groups - YMCA, Boy & Girl Scouts
  • School groups
  • Police department (bike registration?)
  • Fire department
  • Bike shops
  • Refreshments
  • Others






One inherent problem with Bicycle Rodeos is that their very nature leads to a bottle neck of participants in the beginning. Rodeos are managed easiest when the participants are segregated in to groups.

The general flow should go from one registration area to multiple bike inspection points. From the bike inspection they should flow into their assigned groups. During this "holding" phase in their groups it is a good time to talk about helmet fit, bike fit, hand signals and rules of the road.

Groups may do any of the 3 stations in any order. The Rodeo leader should signal when the groups are to move. The Slow Race should always be the last event and all riders can participate at the same time (although still against other group members). This increases the excitement and fun of this culminating event.







Time does not allow for repairs to children's bicycles. Air in the tires and simple bolt tightening is about all that time will allow for. It is important that a check list be completed and given to the parent for follow up.

Although best done by someone with bicycle repair knowledge, the inspections in a pinch can be done by anyone with a little mechanical knowledge. Below are the important areas to check.

1. WHEELS - Are they straight? Do they wobble?
2. SPOKES - Are any bent or broken? Are any loose?
3. TIRES - Do they feel firm? Are they wearing out? Is the tread clean?
4. PEDALS - Are they wearing out?
5. CHAIN WHEEL (OR SPROCKET) - Is it bent or damaged?
6. CHAIN - Is it snug? Are there any broken or damaged links?
7. BRAKES (COASTER OR HAND) - Do they stop bike fast and smoothly?
8. FRAME, FENDER, FORK - Are they straight? Do they rub any other part of the bike? Are
the nuts and bolts tight?
9. CHAIN GUARD - Is it bent?
10. SEAT (OR SADDLE) - Is it tight? Is it level with the ground?
11. HANDLEBARS - Are they tight? Are the handgrips tight?
12. BIKE FIT - Is the seat height comfortable for the person? Is the handlebar height comfortable
for the person?

Tools Needed  (one set for each inspector)
  • Tire pump
  • Crescent ranch (6" and 9")
  • 3 prong allen wrench (4mm/5mm/6mm)
  • Pliers
  • Flat head screw driver
  • Philips screw driver
  • Clipboard and inspection form
  • Pen or pencil

You can download a sample Bike Inspection checklist .alt











  • Bikes too small (far left) or too large (far right) are not safe.
  • If a child's bike does not fit them you should speak with parent and encourage them to get a bike that does fit the child.

For more detailed information on bicycle fit review the Bike Fit article.







Everyone should wear bicycle helmets each time they ride. Helmets are the single most effective way to prevent head injuries resulting from bicycle crashes. The helmet must fit the person's head now, not a helmet to "grow into." For more information on how to properly fit a helmet review the How to Fit a Helmet article.







Children need to be encouraged to use turn signals (it is the law).
Simply they need to get used to point in the direction they are going.





This is a good opportunity to review the basic rules of the road with the children.

  • Stop at stop signs and traffic lights
  • Signal all turns
  • Stop and look before entering roadway
  • Watch for cars turning
  • Ride predictably, no swerving or curb jumping
  • Yield to pedestrians and call out when passing
  • Ride single file and on the right
  • Wear bright visible clothing
  • Most importantly just pay attention






THE COURSE - General Procedures


  • It is most efficient when children move as a group from station to station.
  • Children will be assigned their starting station at registration.
  • There will be 3 stations plus the final station (Slow Race) that all will participate in together.
  • When groups are instructed to move, they will move to the next designated station.
  • Simple rules for groups:
    • Ears and eyes forward
    • No horsing around
    • Stay in line
    • No extracurricular riding of the bicycle
  • It is important that all children try each skill.
  • Children will spend approximately 20 minutes at each station.






























To teach bicyclists how to start and stop their bicycles safely and efficiently


Demonstrate how to get started; allow space for everyone to try it.
Discourage stops that are executed by dragging feet.




Teach bicyclist to look behind for traffic without swerving or falling.


  • Send participant through the course first. Ask them to concentrate on staying in a straight line and to avoid the obstacle at the top of the course.
  • On the second run through the course, tell them you are going to call their name (or say "look") and they are to look over their left shoulder and tell you what number you are holding up. IMPORTANT THAT IT IS LEFT SHOULDER BECAUSE BICYCLISTS MUST RIDE ON RIGHT SIDE OF STREET AND NEED TO LOOK OVER LEFT SHOULDER TO SEE CARS.
  • On the third run (if they've demonstrated proficiency), ask them to scan, and then signal.
  • On the fourth run reverse directions and have them signal the other way.




    Teach bicyclists control and balance, and how to avoid hazards while riding.


    Lay sponges out at the top of the course. Vary configuration of sponges on each run.

    • Sign with numbers 1, 2, 3
    • Sponges for "rocks"











    Teach children to stop at the end of their driveway and look both ways to determine if it is safe before turning onto the street.




    Teach bicyclists to stop at stop signs; wait for traffic; look in both directions; position pedal for a takeoff; and go when there is no conflicting traffic.



  • First time, children should ride out to edge of street. Stop and look left, look right and look left again for traffic. Then make a right turn and continue to corner with stop sign. Again stop and look for traffic and then go straight through the intersection.
  • Second time through volunteers should hold up cars so that children will have to identify cars and wait for them to pass before continuing on.
  • When children finish the course have them circle around to end of line heading out the driveway.
  • Ask children what obstacles may be at the end of their driveway that they need to look around.




    Cut out cars (2)
    Stop sign

    You can download templates to make your own car alt and stop sign alt.







    FIGURE 8




    The objective is to develop the rider's ability to maintain balance in both a clockwise and counter-clockwise direction as well as controlling the bicycle, slowing and interacting safely with others on the course.

    • Each rider is to ride their bicycle around the figure 8
    • They are to stay inside the lines
    • Riders will stay on the course until the leader instructs them to exit
    • The first time through only one rider should be on the course at one time. After every one has been through once, then begin to add multiple riders on the course at the same time which will bring into play the skills needed for being alert, slowing and speeding up.
    • Ultimate goal is to have everyone on the course at the same time. (probably 8-10 max)







    SLOW RACE (always the last event)



    The objective is to teach balance and control of the bicycle, plus a little fun.


    • Riders must stay in lane, can not put foot down, last one to finish line is the winner.
    • Give them 2 or 3 practice runs.
    • The course should be laid out on a slight downhill if possible.
    • If time allows and you are comfortable with the concept, children can compete in a tournament to see who is the "slowest" of them all.
      • Children should be placed in age groups to compete against children of their age range.
      • Age group winners, plus one of "Rodeo Staff" compete for World Championship of being slow.
    • Children with training wheels must compete against each other. Rules are the same except they must keep their bikes moving at all times.


    Cones to mark lanes





    Bike Rodeo Layout alt



    Bike Inspection Checklist  alt


    Stop Sign Template alt


    Car Template  alt

    Certificate of Achievement




    League of Michigan Bicyclists




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