Like units all around the country during the global pandemic, Pack 170 had to adapt to new social norms and some of our Scouts stopped attending meetings. Combined with having the largest graduating class of Arrow of Light Scouts in recent memory (14), we knew that we had to focus on recruiting this spring so we got to work.

Every year, Pack 170 has two derbies; Pinewood Derby in January and Raingutter Regatta in April. With the pandemic still threatening the safety of our Scouts and their families, blowing into the sails of a regatta boat was not a good idea so we considered other options for our Spring derby. We looked at Space Derby, a fun but underutilized Cub Scout derby, but we didn’t have the launchers/tracks for it and little time to build them. There also wasn’t enough time to build the cars for a Boxcar Derby. Although it doesn’t have “derby” in its name, a bicycle rodeo is a derby-style event and it was a perfect fit. Our Scouts had never done a bicycle rodeo so it would be fresh. Cub Scout aged children are learning to ride a bike and it is critically important to emphasize safety early in the process. Besides, what kid doesn’t love an onstacle course?!

I mentioned that we needed to focus on recruiting, and we did that by opening our bicycle rodeo to members of the community. Our Scouts were encouraged to share it with their friends and our families shared it on social media including community Facebook  pages.

Safety is a top concern. of course. COVID precautions were in place and enforced for all participants. It helped that our Derby Chair, Nicolas Rietsch, is also our Pack Health & Safety Officer. We followed our pack’s written COVID safety guidelines which incorporate all BSA and government requirements. We did temperature checks on arrival and recorded the results. Masks were worn at all times, especially when social distancing could not be achieved, which was most of the time. The whole event was designed to teach and practice bicycle safety and that takes a lot of adult supervision so we enlisted parents and leaders alike throughout the rodeo.

The event started with the Cedar Park Police Department presenting a short talk on bicycle safety, maintenance, and control. The officer engaged the kids and held their attention. Following the safety brief, kids could choose the order in which they participated in the 3 events: Obstacle course, Turtle drag race, and Open riding.

S.T.E.M. Fact

A bicycle is an engineering marvel. It is self-stabilizing when at speed, meaning it tends to balance itself. One of several reasons is the gyroscopic effect of the tires. So why did I fall so many times while learning to ride a bike?

The obstacle course was very popular with kids lining up and coming back again. The course was laid out so the riders had to demonstrate both safety and proficiency. We laid out a course that required riders to execute both wide and tight turns to the left and the right, including an intersection. We added instructions that required them to come to a complete stop and look both ways before proceding. Riders were also directed to wave with their left hand and then their right to demonstrate control of the bike while steering with only one hand.

Our Lion Leader, made sure that the Lion’s had a great time too. Of course, they could bring their bikes or trikes to ride the course, but they also ran the obstacle course in their own version of a Boxcar Derby. They really did a fantastic job building their cars. It made me wish I had my own boxcar to run with.

The Turtle Drag Race is my favorite because it requires an exceptional degree of control and balance to ride a bicycle at nearly a dead stop. That’s right, it is the slowest time that wins in this event.

S.T.E.M. Fact

Pedalling causes less strain than most other forms of exercise, it uses all of the major muscle groups, and it improves strength and stamina. Cycling increases cardiovascular health and decreases stress levels and body fat. Take a daily bike ride with your family, starting today!

Open riding was just as much fun as the other rodeo events. Riders were able to practice riding together in a group, watching each other and the road ahead for clues as to where the group was going. They tested their own skills like quick braking and avoiding road hazards. A lot of them just wanted to feel the breeze on their faces. The best part is that it all happened naturally without adults directing the actions. We were just there to ensure it was all safe but the kids created the program on their own.

Of course, we recognized the top finishers in the two judged events, obstacle course and Turtle Drag Race. Because it was a community event, we awarded certificates for first, second, and third at the event itself. 

This was a great community mixer that generated interest from the community, not only in the event, but in Cub Scouting and in Pack 170.  Our Scouts had a blast and we made some new friends. Who could ask for any more than that? But do you know what was really amazing?… It was all pulled together on very short notice by the community of leaders here at Pack 170, and especially our derby chair.