Fun up your ride! (Part 2)
Try something new
Get out of your comfort zone and give another type of cycling a go. With Britain’s success in track cycling in recent years, the velodrome seems a logical place to add variety to your cycling.
“Try track cycling,” says Andy Tennant, track cyclist with team Madison-Genesis. “Feeling the G-force when you go smashing round the banking on the black line is amazing. It’s also a social thing and you will develop a new group of friends who you may be able to ride with on the road.
“There are taster sessions at most indoor tracks and you advance from there,” says Tennant. “I started on the outdoor track scene; these are much longer and bankings aren’t as steep. The instructors will teach you all the skills which will help you to enjoy it more when you get on the indoor tracks.”
Velodromes aren’t the only tracks you can try, either. “Cross-country mountain biking can be a fun alternative to road cycling,” says world champion cross-country cyclist Oli Beckingsale. “Getting away from the traffic and the same road loops will be a refreshing change, and trail centres have recently been popping up all over the UK and are a great place to start.”
Lee Valley Velopark is now open, offering you the opportunity to ride in the Olympic velodrome and on the BMX and mountain bike courses. You can also find beginners’ track groups and places to try BMX and cyclo-cross through www.britishcycling.org.uk.
Are you more of a team player than a solo artist? Then perhaps it’s time to get your mallet swinging…
“Bike polo is a fusion of team sports and cycling,” says Kevin Walsh, founder of the leagueofbikepolo.com. “Not like the ProTour teams of professional bike racing, where there’s a leader and a bunch of domestiques doing their leader’s bidding, but a team of equals with a common goal in which they share equally the rewards.
“Many bike polo players are cyclists, but have a history of playing football, ice hockey, field hockey, rugby, or other team sports, where the goal of the team trumps the goal of an individual player.”
It’s also great for boosting your bike handling skills. “You learn good balance and being able to hop around on the spot,” says Walsh. “With practice you might pick up bunny hopping over the ball to get in on your mallet side or to get into position as goaltender, and maybe even wheelie turns that are more like BMX manoeuvres than anything else.”
Getting into bike polo is pretty easy. Many towns and cities have clubs – you can search for them on Google or Facebook – and they often have an open door policy so you just turn up and have a go. You can use any bike you like and you can usually borrow a mallet – or try to make one yourself: londonbikepolo.wordpress.com.
But if you fall for the game you can get serious about it. “While most bike polo is played with random ‘throw-in’ teams, there are competitive tournaments,” says Walsh. “The best players are those who have found some real on-court magic with each other.”
From the London Hardcourt Bike Polo Association:
- Teams are made up of three players
- To score you have to use the end of your mallet (hitting with the side is called a shuffle)
- Don’t put your foot down (if you do, you must tap out at the side of the court)
- Any contact must be ‘like to like’ (mallet to mallet, bike to bike, body to body)
- First to five points wins (or whoever has the most goals when the time runs out)