A Tomboy a heart, I have always wanted to try BMX riding. Somehow, I missed the opportunity when I was a child and, at the age of 51, I thought I was probably too old to get a chance to ride a BMX bike. Then I spotted an advert for a women-only BMX taster session at Knightswood, Glasgow…
The session was organised as part of a Glasgow Women on Wheels Festival. The four-month event this summer has been celebrating cycling for women and girls.
It launched on August 10, just as the inaugural Women’s Tour of Scotland got underway. The festival’s aim is to encourage women and girls to take up cycling, keep cycling, improve skills, learn new skills related to cycling, meet other women and enjoy some fantastic cycling opportunities.
The programme, which finishes next month, includes free taster sessions in mountain bike, BMX, led rides and bike maintenance classes, as well as a film night, yoga for cyclists, speaker events and more.
Here are a few things I discovered about BMX riding:
Age is no barrier: The session was attended mainly by girls aged between about nine and 12. But there was also a mum, who had tried a previous taster session and was keen to come back for more. Another mum was persuaded to join in, too, when she arrived to drop off her daughter.
And there was Vicky and I. I had asked Vicky to chum me to the session because I had been worried I would be the only over-40 rider there.
In the end there were four ladies and four girls. That made me feel more comfortable.
We had the track to ourselves. I was nervous that the track would be filled with fantastic (but intimidating) young BMX riders and that I would feel nervous and silly in comparison. We were the only group on the track and, at once, I felt happy to be there.
The track is huge. I had a small pump track in my mind. The track at Knightswood is the only permanent venue constructed for the European Championships in Glasgow and it is Scotland’s only world and Olympic-standard BMX track and the second in Britain. The main track is 400m long and 5m wide. There is also a smaller pump track.
Learning is fun and quickly progressive: The session was taught by Dasha, a Slovakian former world champion BMX rider. Her step-by-step instruction was superb. I quickly picked up the basic techniques for riding a BMX bike on a track.
The bikes are tiny. The BMX bikes really are as small as I had imagined. You do not sit on the bike seat, but spend most of the time standing up on the pedals.
I was better than I thought I would be. I have spent my life riding bikes and so I am pretty capable. My bike skills and balance are not advanced but it seems I am fairly competent on two wheels. I quickly learned how to ride the BMX bikes and the tricks for getting around the track. There is a lot more to learn but I have the basic skills now.
BMX riding is physically tiring. The session seemed easy to start with as we learned the basic skills but once we progressed to riding the full track I found that just one loop left me out of breath and sweaty. I used a range of different muscles and by the end of the evening I had enjoyed a good workout.
BMX riding makes me smile. I could not stop smiling and I whooped internally every time I managed to get over a tricky bump or ride a bermy corner. It was very exhilarating and hugely up-lifting.
I arrived feeling nervous – and I left wanting more. I enjoyed the BMX as much, if not more, than I had hoped I would. I am now accredited, which means I can pop along to the track whenever there are open sessions and ride a hire bike. I will be going back.
Check out the Glasgow BMX Centre. You can book “Come & Try” sessions and once you are accredited you can pay to ride at “Rock Up & Ride” sessions.