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Organizing an event for the first time can be overwhelming but at least for doing a
bicycle rodeo there is a good knowledge base to draw upon. The intent here is not to
detail what to teach at the stations used in a bike rodeo but to give you some tips that will
enable to effectively, choose your venue, schedule your event, know what to do when
volunteers don’t show and how to make certain stations more efficient. There are guides
available to teach about the stations. This will give you some tips to help make your
rodeo run smoother.

   What is a Bike Rodeo?

   The bicycle rodeo is a skills course that can be used to test or teach a bicyclist the
   skills they need to safely bicycle. Because of how much time each person actually
   spends in the learning process it is also a public relations event. While I believe it is
   more a public relations kids do learn at rodeos just not as well or as much as they
   would in a bicycling course.

   What Age Groups Participate?

   At rodeos open to the general public I rarely see kids older than fourth grade. It is
   pretty common to see kids on training wheels on bikes with 12” wheels.

   What about the Parents?

   If possible make it clear the rodeo is not place to just drop off your child with their
   There are stations you can set up for the parents that discuss the limited field of view
   kids have and concepts such as selective perception. Parents should be encouraged to
   go around stations with their child so they can see what skills their child needs help

   Who Should Sponsor a Bike Rodeo?

   Based on years of experience the most successful rodeos are those with a targeted or
   captive audience. The rodeos I have helped with that have the biggest consistent
   turnouts have been with Boy Scouts for their own pack or at a school organized by
   the physical education teacher during school hours. Rodeos organized by the school
   PTA also have a pretty consistent turnout. The rodeos run by the Scouts or PTA
   typically have 75-100 kids participating.

   The next best organized rodeos I’ve participated in were organized by the local police
   and/or parks and recreation departments, a local Safe Kids coalition or the public
   outreach department at a local hospital. Typically, these organizations have the local
contacts to make the rodeo an event with food and prizes. In some instances they
have combined with the local chamber of commerce.

Avoid having rodeo sponsored by a store or shopping mall unless you are of the
mindset that teaching even one kid something about bicycle safety is worth the hours
of preparation. I have assisted with a few rodeos organized by stores or restaurants
and have had zero kids show up. If I get a call from someone with a retail business or
shopping mall I will try to steer them in another direction. If I am unsuccessful I will
train the volunteers but not help the day of the event.

Should it be Only a Bicycle Rodeo?

There is a balance that you need to consider. When planning your rodeo you should
probably have plan to have other fun and or informational activities there that will
compliment the rodeo. I have helped with rodeos that were part of larger events and
the results were never that good. When people attend a large event it is unlikely that
they will bring bikes. If you have a set of bikes in good condition in a variety of sizes
and with quick release seat posts the rodeo is viable. Annually for about five years I
conducted a bicycle safety area at a child oriented show that was held in the
convention center. We had bikes and helmets. Over the course of the weekend we
would expose about 1500 children to bicycle safety. Was this public relations or
education? I would say both. Two years later one the kids at that event saw me at a
bike rodeo at this school. He told after that event he bought a helmet with his own

What is the best location?

I can’t tell you what the best location is. If you were to read the various bicycle rodeo
guides you might think the best location is a big open field or parking lot with plenty
of room to set up and this may be. The only time I had the opportunity to do
something in an are like that it was part of pre- Super Bowl activities and it was
highly controlled. We brought in two hundred kids for two schools, spent two days
prior to the event fitting the kids with brand new bicycle helmets, brought in forty
bikes and had drinks provided by the NFL and the National Highway Safety
Administration. It was highly controlled and we only had one hour to put all two
hundred kids through four stations.

This is the only time I have ever had a completely unobstructed paved area to put on a
bike rodeo. Typically, you are in a parking lot with a twenty foot aisle between the
parking spaces. Although I have had to put on rodeos in circular driveways and
behind shopping centers. The point is I have never had the ideal and have always had
to modify the station design and/or the order the stations went in.
Figure 1: This has been my favorite bike rodeo site it has plenty of room
        and shade.

    That said there are some elements I like to see in rodeo site. They are:

    1. Parking for the volunteers
    2. A good linear flow. Parking aisles about 200 feet long. Two aisles are best. This
       gives you plenty space between stations so the kids can ride from one station to
       the next.
    3. Nearby electric – could be on a light pole.
    4. Restrooms nearby
    5. Shade
    6. Intersections with stop signs in place.

        What Hours Are Best?

    Every rodeo I have participated had registration starting at 9:00 or 9:30 in the
    morning and every one has been over by noon.. The one mistake that is usually made
    regarding the hours is the rodeo is advertised to be going on between 9 and noon.
    This means if someone comes at 11:45 or even 1:55 you should be able to put them
    through the entire rodeo. What usually happens is the last group of kids is done with
    the rodeo by 11:15 and your volunteers leave their stations shortly after that.
    Someone then comes for the rodeo and you don’t have the people at the stations. To
    remedy this advertise a set registration time. You will not only know when the last
    kid or group of kids are done but if someone from a bike shop is checking the bikes
    they can get back to the shop and do business.
   Rodeo Props

The first set of props I made out of ¼” foam core board. I used foam core because it
was light weight and reasonably durable. I painted the props and coated them with
polyurethane to water proofing. This worked fine for the props that were to be hand
held but not so well for prop fences or bushes that could be blown by the wind. On a
very windy day I began using a parked car as a visual obstruction and have used a
park ever since. To get a stop contact your local traffic engineering department. Most
likely they will have a portable sing they can lend you for the event. The may also be
a good source for parking cones.

After a couple of years the foam core props needed to be replaced and I decided to
replace them with rodeo posters But these are no longer available.

Course Layout

    As I mentioned above you need to be flexible with the layout. There are two
    rodeo guides
I have found to be helpful in this area. The one I have been using is The Guide to
Bicycle Rodeos which is available online through KE publications for $6.50

Another well thought out guide can be found for free on the internet at This one borrows heavily
from The Guide to Bicycle Rodeos but, based on my experience, some of the station
designs are unrealistic due to space constraints. I think you will find the station
layouts easier to modify the Guide to Bicycle Rodeos

How Do I Lay Out A Course?

For your first rodeo you should be done with a guide book in hand and I almost
always go to the site prior to the event to see how things will fit. The first rodeo I
ever did was in small parking lot at school. With the guidebook in hand I began
modify the layouts to fit the space.

 When I first started doing rodeos I used the same chalk dust that is used to line ball
fields. This meant I needed a way to dispense and more importantly a source for the
chalk. When I did a rodeo at a school or with a recreation department this was not an
issue they would supply the dispenser and the chalk. When I worked with other
organizations it was an issue. Also because of the humidity the chalk dust didn’t
always flow evenly . Overtime I started using flour to line course and to dispense the
flour I cut a plastic ½ gallon jug to form a scoop. I will fill the scoop with flour and
while walking backwards with the scoop I shake the jug lightly to get powder out.
One five pound was is just barely enough to line the stations.
When laying out the course keep in mind the flow and if possible give the kids room
to ride between stations and have a location at each station to gather for instructions.
For stations that require the kids to ride up it is important to give them twenty to forty
feet to get their bikes started and get their balance. I try to minimize the amount
things to set up. See if there is an existing intersection with a stop sign you can
incorporate into your layout. Also, keep in mind that the typical parking space is 10’
wide. This will come in handy when trying to determine how much space you have
and where to put certain stations.

Setup should take about forty-five minutes for eight stations


This is the most critical part of conducting a rodeo. I typically tell people that you
need fifteen to twenty people to conduct a rodeo. This is just for the rodeo. If you
have trained your volunteers prior the rodeo they should get there thirty minutes
before the start for quick review of what they will be doing.

Inevitably, volunteers will be late or no show. Move your volunteers from some of
the last stations to the front. Depending on how many stations it could take forty-five
minutes to get to the end stations. If not all your volunteers show cut back on the
number of stations.

Tips for Station Set Up

The Bike Check

Aside from registering bikes this station is the slowest but there are ways to speed this
up. If you have electric available find out if the bike mechanic will be bringing an air
compressor. If they are set the bike shop up near the. At this station you should be
looking for loose handlebars and seats, making the brakes work, and inflating tires.
At this station I have at three people working it one actually doing the repairs and one
going down the line inspecting the bikes and putting air in the tires. The inspector
walks down the line and twists seats and handlebars, checks brakes and air. If the bike
only needs air they are sent to the air station and then to next station. If the inspector
finds loose handlebars or seats they are left turned so the mechanic can easily see the
problems. If brakes are not working and cannot be fixed the bike cannot be used.

The Helmet Fitting Station

I will make the helmet fitting station the third station. At most of the rodeos I’ve
conducted there is one station that is a discussion of types of hazards, colors of
clothing etc. I put the helmet station after it.
For the helmet station to prevent the spread of head lice be sure to have some sort of
disposable barrier between the helmet and the child’s head. Check with community
outreach of your local hospital for surgical caps.

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