Watching the BMX riders at the 2016 Rio Olympics riding at full speed and flying over those bumps made up my mind that I should give BMX cycling another go.
The last time I tried it was was four or five years ago. It was a wet, damp day and I remember skidding on a curved bend in the track. Covered in mud and with cuts on my hands and knees, I decided to never try BMX again…
BMX cycling began in the 1970s in the United States where kids in Southern California rode their bikes on dirt tracks. The inspiration came from motorcross stars. The sport is hugely popular in the UK where it was first introduced around about the 1980s.
Since then, BMX racing has become more popular than freestyle BMX, eventually becoming an Olympic event at the 2008 Beijing Games.
Mat Hoffman is one of the best freestyle BMX in the world. Nicknamed ‘The Condor’ he is known for nailing dangerous tricks such as a 900 in events.
So on a sunny, winter morning, I decided to take my bike out and go for a normal bike ride through Brixton and Tulse Hill. I rode through Brockwell Park, where the BMX circuit was free and waiting for me to do my stuff.
I began going around the track slowly, wary of skidding or falling again. It was fun but I felt I should speed up. Luckily the track was not damp and wet like the last time, so it was easier to go around the bends with ease.
I was not able to do fancy tricks or anything like that but being able to ride the track at full speed was an enjoyable experience – much better than the last time, that’s for sure…
Learning from the experts
A coaching session was just getting under way, with young riders doing some practice laps to get them warmed up.
“Seeing them flash past made my earlier efforts look like a Tata Nano compared to their Bugatti Veyron”
I spoke to one of the coaches, Andy, who has been training BMXers for six years. He told me: “BMX racing is really competitive and a lot more goes into the sport rather than just riding a bike around a lap.
“The training consists of strength drills, a lot of cardio such as star-jumps. Riders can get serious injuries if they do not train right, follow the right diet and other small factors. Essentially they are athletes.
“I have seen many riders have their careers ended early because they did not listen to their trainers, but sometimes those injuries can come from during the races itself. It’s can be dangerous but it’s a competitive and fun sport to watch as well as participating in.”
As we talked, the riders began doing some fancy tricks as well as trying to beat their personal bests in a race. Seeing them flash past made my earlier efforts look like a Tata Nano compared to their Bugatti Veyron.
Give it a go
Andy decided to organise one big race with all the riders, and asked me if I wanted to join in. Despite my nerves, I said yes.
The race began and the other riders went flying out of the blocks as I tried to keep up with them.
My main aim was not to fall off and totally embarrass myself in front of everyone. Luckily, I didn’t and crossed the line in fifth.
I would really recommend anyone to give it a go. It can be so much fun to try and be extreme and reckless with a bike. It is also always good to try a different sport now and then.
There are some places around London where you can try out BMX racing. Brockwell park in Tulse Hill, South London is one place where you can try it out. Burgess Park also has a track.
For more information about how to get into BMX, visit the British Cycling website. Feature image courtesy of Phil Connell via Flickr Creative Commons.