How a Severna Park mom made a career of teaching kids to ride bikes
By Patti Restivo
For Capital Style|
Nov 07, 2018 at 9:00 AM
PedalPower Kids “chief fun officer” Rachel Varn believes learning to ride a bike opens a whole new world of adventure for kids.
Every “now I can” moment — when students who have mastered balance, gliding and pedaling ride on their own for the first time — is exciting, says Varn, a 36-year-old Severna Park resident. And it sends a kid’s confidence soaring.
A certified League Cycling Instructor and parent of four, Varn left her job as a salesperson and franchise developer in the bicycle industry to teach privately. Inspired by local swim instructor Brooke Moore, who taught Varn’s 7-year-old daughter Rory, she founded PedalPower Kids in March.
Like swimming, Varn says, “Riding a bike is not innate, it is a learned skill.” Some parents may not be comfortable or have adequate time in today’s over-scheduled society to teach their children, and there can be “a lot of frustration between parent and child.”
PedalPower Kids lessons allow children to test-ride bicycles and aims to make learning to ride safely fun. Described by parents as the “bike whisperer,” Varn spreads the word about her classes and provides expert advice through social media.
An added perk to helping around 200 new riders so far, Varn says, has been seeing some moms and dads catch the spirit and take up biking as a family activity. More kids on bikes not only combats childhood obesity, she says, it connects communities and encourages self-reliance.
“Rachel’s program opens your kids’ minds to physical and independent things to do,” says Annapolis resident Chelsea Spears, 32, whose son Gage was riding on his own by his second lesson – at just 2 years old.
His brother Leo, 5 — who’d been “terrified” using training wheels — found his “now I can” moment at his first lesson; today Leo loves burning energy on PedalPower Kids bike club excursions.
Another mom, Annapolis resident Shannon Thomas, 42, enrolled her daughter Teagan with PedalPower Kids as an early 6th birthday present. After two lessons, the then-5-year old was riding with “priceless confidence”; Teagan explored a trail at Quiet Waters Park on a 90-minute bike club excursion with Varn in October.
“Rachel is so engaging; she is wonderful with kids. It’s heart-warming to see and the kids trust and love her,” Thomas says.