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Ride of Their Life Tips for teaching the Cycling merit badge.

AT FIRST GLANCE, the Cycling merit badge seems like one of those merit badges that just about any Scouter could teach (assuming he or she is registered as a merit badge counselor). Aſter all, you really never forget how to ride a bike. But a counselor who’s an avid cyclist can make the badge more than just logging miles and checking off requirements; he or she can introduce Scouts to a sport they can pursue for a lifetime. Brian Burnham is a

good example. An assistant Scoutmaster with Troop 845 in Chapel Hill, N.C., he has led Scouts on four cross-country bike trips since 2005. One of his Scouts went on to compete in triathlons and won the youth division of the first half-Ironman distance race (70.3 miles) he entered. Craig McNeil is another good

example. An early proponent of adding a mountain-biking component to the Cycling merit badge, McNeil, who lives in Littleton, Colo., has intro- duced hundreds of Scouts to the sport at Timberline District camporees. Scouting talked with Burnham and McNeil to get their insights on teach- ing the Cycling merit badge.

What to Ride High-end bikes can cost thousands of dollars, but Burnham says Scouts can complete the merit badge — and much more — without spending much money. “I’ve ridden across the

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Bike Maintenance Teaching bike maintenance might be the biggest chal- lenge for counselors who are casual cyclists. Burnham has recruited bike-shop mechanics to bring tools and repair stands to a troop meeting. “They give a 45-minute academic overview of what we’re going to do; then, the Scouts dig in,” he says. “Each one fully breaks down his own bike and rebuilds it by chang- ing tubes, setting up brakes and working on the drivetrain.” McNeil recommends doing the same thing. He also empha- sizes the importance of being able to change a tire. “When you’re out, you’re going to get flat tires,” he says. “It’s more likely to happen in the woods than on the road.”

U.S. four times on a bike that cost me $275,” he says. “I just give her some TLC aſter every tour, and then she’s ready to roll again the next time.” Basic maintenance is even more

important with bikes that go off-road. “Any kind of grit that gets into the bearings will affect the longevity of the bike if you don’t take care of it,” McNeil says. McNeil, who rides a full-suspension

bike that’s a few years old, says good used bikes (that aren’t too expensive) are easy to come by at local bike shops and through websites like Craigslist. “People who are serious riders tend to feel like they need to be the early adopters in getting the latest and greatest,” he says.

Essential Skills For road biking, Scouts must under- stand traffic laws, how to use their bikes’ gears effectively and how to communicate with fellow riders. But Burnham says the most essential skill might be what he calls “car man- agement.” For example, a rider can discourage a car from passing him in a blind curve by driſting away from the shoulder. Then, when it’s safe to pass and the car moves across the center line, he can driſt back to the shoulder to allow extra passing room. “It’s a little weird for young cyclists to do that, but it’s kind of cool to watch,” he says.

FIND MORE leader guides to a range of merit badges at

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