On yer bike!

Having been a keen fan of the Slung Low theatre company for a number of years, and been truly amazed with so many of their stunning outdoor productions, I was excited with their development of a Cultural Community College last year, providing a learning facility for people of all ages and backgrounds, across the widest range of things I’ve ever imagined, from gorgeous Asian cookery with Manjit’s Kitchen through to plastering, from learning to sing in a choir to woodwork skills.

Then Slung Low ‘upped their game’, and moved their base to The Holbeck, Britain’s oldest working men’s club, it boasts superb facilities – and has become the focus for Slung Low’s even closer developments with the South Leeds community.

I received their latest list of events, and amongst the wonderful array of events – was – ‘Cycling Skills – Bike Riding’  Hmmm. I’d best explain – I’m a portly build (!), nearly 69 years old, and have not ridden a bike for – um – 52 years! But – as the point of The Holbeck’s Community College is to encourage and help people to try things they’ve not done before – (or not done for a very long time!) – I knew that I simply had to pluck up courage and join the Cycling class and relive the fun I had as a teenager.

So, last Saturday I arrive to meet the two trainers from Bike Right – a professional cycle training company, and Nick and Anna introduce themselves to the assembled class of seven folks, ages ranged from 19 to late 60’s and included people who rode regularly – but wanted to learn how to improve their skills, to a lady whom had never ever ridden a bike, and wanted tuition to ensure she learned correctly.

Well, for  the first thirty minutes Nick carefully explained all the subjects that the day’s course would cover, and it was thorough. Bike Right had brought bikes for us all to use for the day, even helmets and hi-vis vests. We learned to check the basic components of the bike to make sure it was safe, how each of the bits worked and what they were there for, even how to check that our helmets were adjusted properly. We were shown the best way to hold a bike, and then the best way to get on, and off, a cycle too.

Next were the basic steps in the safety of a closed car park, peddling, changing gears, braking and speed control. Everything was well explained and comfortable, and the lady that had never ever been on a bike before was building in confidence.

We were then able to practice these new-found skills on Holbeck Moor – a superb traffic-free area where we also learned how to undertake emergency stops, check behind for other road users, and refine our cycling and awareness skills.

Back to The Holbeck for a lunch of pizzas provided by Slung Low (thank you chaps!) we then set off in two groups, each with an instructor, to really tackle the road environments, and with a carefully planned structure of manoeuvres we went through all the key skills and functions of safe cycling in traffic, incorporating the correct ways to handle road junctions, traffic, pedestrians, road courtesy and correct positioning on the roads.

At the end of the day, every member of the class had deservedly passed both Levels 1 and 2 of the Cycling Proficiency Certificate, we all had a much greater understanding of bicycles and how to ride them safely. Now, I’ve already ordered a bike, so what’s next at The Holbeck – let’s see – Yoga for beginners, Bridge lessons, Carnival Costume making, Plastering … where shall we begin?

Find out more at: www.slunglow.org/cultural-community-college-summer-2019/


This post was written by David Angove

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