On Monday I travelled to Braintree in Essex for my Gold Challenge BMX events with http://www.braintreebmx.co.uk/. I was lucky enough to be joined by my sports mad friends Jon and Martin so I was really looking forward to the day ahead. And I wasn’t disappointed!
We started with a tour of the track and Jools, our coach, informed us that his aim was to get us round the track by the end of our three hour session. Given the height and steepness of the jumps, bumps and turns this seemed unlikely and, frankly, I was feeling pretty apprehensive.
Things didn’t improve at first as Jools started us on the basics. The BMX bike just seemed too small and fiddly for a man of my height. It was also surprisingly exhausting due to the fact that you spend the whole time on your pedals and can never sit down. However, as Jools introduced us to increasingly difficult parts of the track, the whole thing became more and more fun. By the end we were able to ‘race’ out of the starting gate and round the whole course. And we had big grins on our faces – just as Jools had predicted we would.
As ever, Jon captured the whole thing on film:
Though if you want to see some elite riders going round the same course a tad faster then take a look at this YouTube film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAMOE-P-NkA&feature=youtube_gdata_player
I also asked my friend Martin to write up his version of the day which I’ve posted below:
BMX is one of those sports I missed out on trying as a yoof – it looked like fun, and no doubt hard to do all the tricks – especially keeping those low-slung jeans up – but surely just getting round a little muddy track couldn’t be very hard? That changed when we saw the track for this first time: the jumps and bumps looked huge and unfeasibly steep – not to mention the wall-of-death banking and the hydraulic start gate.
Julian ‘Jools’ Allen, the inspirational character behind Braintree BMX expertly taught us the core techniques and body position through simple drills, and broke the track down into sections that we learnt as we practised the skills and got braver. As we began to string the sections together it became more and more fun. By the end we were riding complete laps, and didn’t want to leave. But we felt we’d kept the local kids off the track long enough, and before long they were showing us how it should be done as they raced their mates round, jumping and wheelying off the bumps we’d trickled over. (And anyway my lungs were about to pack in – who would have thought that a 40 second lap where you don’t even pedal much could be so physical?)
This is grass roots sport in the UK at its best. As well as the very active club (now over 100 members), the track hosts weekly race meets, and national level events for all age groups – from 6 and under to 40 and over! It is open to the public, and clearly well-used. Essex council helped with the land and the original track, grants from the Essex 2012 legacy (among others) financed the redevelopment, and many of the parents were also involved in the project. Jools organised the contractor, designed the track, supervised the construction, and runs the coaching team – he gave us BMX medals at the end, but I think he deserves one himself.
As a grand finale, Jools leapt the 25 foot final jump that we’d ridden over as separate bumps. Even the kids were impressed.