The kids who get their thrills on two wheels

The Tigers Childrens Motorcycle Display Team
The Tigers Childrens Motorcycle Display Team
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The small but powerful motorcycle revs up as the crowd sit in quiet anticipation.

Then suddenly the bike roars into life, tearing its way down a narrow pathway to a ramp rising sharply into the sky.

As he mounts the platform, the rider stands up out of his saddle and in another split second his machine is sailing several metres above the ground.

He flies confidently over not just one, but two cars parked end-to-end before finally touching down to the rapturous applause of the astounded onlookers.

But the biggest shock is yet to come.

The rider comes to a halt and removes his helmet, revealing not the face of a seasoned daredevil but a that of a 12-year-old boy!

Meet the Tigers Childrens’ Motorcycle Display Team, where age is no barrier to bravery and anything seems possible.

‘Lots of birthday parties are missed because of this,’ says Annette Trenchard, 39, deputy chairwoman of the Tigers’ committee.

‘There are a lot of other fun activities they could be doing but don’t because they would rather ride a motorbike.

‘They absolutely adore it.’

Since it started about 35 years ago scores of youngsters aged from five to 16 have learned to ride with the Tigers.

Weekly training sessions throughout winter and spring build up to a show season when the group puts on demonstrations at events across the country.

Last year was the Tigers’ biggest season ever, taking part in 13 events including the Southsea Show, the HMS Sultan Summer Show and the Brighouse Charity Gala in Yorkshire.

Tigers chairperson Andrew Napier says: ‘The show is in basically in two halves.

‘First there is the slow speed half, where each team does a lot of different manoeuvres, mostly flat on the ground. Then we move into jumps for the second half of the show.’

Stunts include riding side-by-side, doing ‘crossovers’ and figures of eight where riders pass perilously close to each other at speed.

The more spectacular stunts are the jumps - riders learn how to launch themselves through rings of fire and over cars.

Another trick is jumping over people lying on the ground just next to a ramp. Last year the Tigers had the chance to jump over champion trial rider Dougie Lampkin and superbike star Troy Bayliss.

Earlier this month a rider even jumped over Caroline Dinenage when she visited the team.

Annette says the Gosport MP had a remarkably steady nerve.

She says: ‘I don’t think she was particularly keen on laying down in front of a ramp but her sons who came along said: “yeah, go on mum.”

‘She didn’t flinch, I was quite impressed.

‘It’s always great when people come down and see us. We’re proud of what we do even though we’re a very small club and we have a passion for it.’

Annette says not all the Tigers’ parents are motorcyclists themselves, although they all had a role to play.

‘Everyone gets involved and it is a real family environment,’ she says.

Each season, the Tigers’ young riders meet to choose, by vote, a charity to raise money for.

Last year they made £1,500 for Children in Need.

Annette says: ‘It’s great for the children in the Tigers because they work so hard and sometimes I don’t think they realise what they’re doing it for.’

New Tigers members start off on low-powered 50cc motorbikes before moving up to 70cc machines, which are all owned by the club. When they progress to the senior team theyare obliged to buy their own bikes, which can be as powerful as 125cc.

The youngest of the group’s 18-strong squad is five-year-old Bailey Drayton, of Portsmouth.

Bailey will be one of the group’s two mascots this season, wearing special tiger onesies.

Another rider, eight-year-old Ash Tyrrell, of Denmead, says he really loves being part of the Tigers.

He says the biggest thrill he gets is doing jumps at shows.

Ash says: ‘I did my first jump at the Southsea Show last year.

‘I jumped through fire and over a toy car and a person lying on the ground.

‘It was really exciting.

‘No-one else in my family rides motorbikes.’

The Tigers train every Sunday on a piece of tarmac at the Daedalus airfield in Lee-on-the-Solent.

Andrew says: ‘We’ve been here for about five years, this time around.

‘We used to train on here and then Hampshire Constabulary took it over and we went elsewhere for a couple of years.

‘Then it changed hands again and then we managed to negotiate to come back again. We’re happy and lucky to have this as a training field.’

At a glance

Where: The Tigers train at Daedalus airfield, off Broom Way, Lee-on-the-Solent

When: Sessions take place on Sunday from 9.45am and last until about 3pm.

Who can join?: Any child who turns five-years-old before the first show of the season, which is usually in May. Children can ride a club-owned bike in the junior group (for riders aged from five to about eight) and must have their own bikes in the senior team (for riders aged from eight to 14).

Web: tigersmotorcycledisplayteam.co.uk
Contact: For more information e-mail info@tigersmotorcycledisplayteam.co.uk.

Alex wants own bike

Young Alex Figgans knows exactly what he wants next Christmas.

The seven-year-old from Crossways says he wants his very own motorbike more than anything.

‘I’m getting a motorbike of my own soon,’ Alex says.

‘I hope next year.

‘I know because I’ve got money saved up.

‘It’s all in a motorbike jar.’

Alex is now in his third year with the Tigers and rides a 70cc machine owned by the club.

Alex says he is now learning how to jump over obstacles on his motorbike.

‘It can be a bit scary, but it’s good to see people watching us.’

Tigers’ training sessions end with ‘ragarounds’, an open session where the youngsters are allowed to ride as fast as they want to around a circuit.

Alex says he loves the feeling of going fast.

‘I like doing the ragarounds and going flat out,’ he says.

Like father, like son

Though he’s just 11 years old, Joseph Ryder already feels confident sailing over a parked car on his motorbike.

Joseph, whose dad, Leon, choreographs the Tigers’ routines, says he revs up his bike to the max before launching himself into the air at the top of the ramp.

The Lee-on-the-Solent youngster admits it’s difficult to conquer your nerves enough to jump over a car.

Joseph says: ‘It’s really scary at first but then you get used to it.

‘It does feel dangerous, though, because you might miscalculate your speed.’

Joseph says he has mastered a number of other tricks on his motorbike, including one he calls ‘jump-saddle’.

‘That’s where I jump off my pegs on to the saddle with my two feet,’ he says.

Joseph says he hasn’t missed a single show since joining the Tigers four years ago.

He says: ‘I like going to the shows because you can meet new people and there’s always a lot of cars and motorbikes to see.’

Leon, 39, says the Tigers’ routines are made up of stunts and moves developed over the years.

He says the group is like a miniature version of the army’s motorcycle demonstration team, the White Helmets.

‘There’s a certain amount kids can do on a motorcycle so we pick and choose and put it all together,’ Leon says.

‘I say they’re like the White Helmets, but smaller.’

Benefits of bikes

Annette Trenchard believes riding motorbikes gives the children discipline and concentration, which has spin-off benefits in other parts of life.

‘We see that their concentration expands because they have to concentrate for such long periods of time on Sundays,’ she says.

‘We’ve had reports that their learning at school has improved because their concentration limits have been extended.’

Annette says the sessions are about more than learning stunts.

She says: ‘A big part of it is teaching the kids about the safety aspect of riding motorbikes and ensuring that they understand how dangerous they can be.

‘They learn how to master the motorbike efficiently in the confines of a small space.

‘That’s why the first half of the show is all about precision riding and riding in formation, because it’s really important that they learn control of the bike.

‘Then we get to have some fun with the ramps.’

She says her own daughter, six-year-old Lottie, wanted to join after seeing motorbikes in action.

‘Neither her father or me are riders, but she showed an interest in motorbikes and we took her to a few British superbike events.

‘Then a friend of ours told us about the Tigers so we came down and within half-an-hour she was on a bike doing s-bends and figure of eights and that was it.

‘She absolutely loves it and she’s very excited she gets to jump fire this year.’