BMX racing is no easy ride

Steve Wilson gets to grips with the Gosport BMX Club's track
Steve Wilson gets to grips with the Gosport BMX Club's track
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When you reach your mid-thirties, you have to embrace the sad fact you’re just not quite as brave as you used to be.

You tend to know which parts of your body can break, which limbs can come out of their rightful position with an awkward fall or which muscles will ache mercilessly for several days afterwards.

Back in the day, many of us will claim to have been a bit handy when it came to riding a bike.

Yes, we’d have the occasional close encounter with a tree, the odd grazed knee or be left picking gravel out of our hands after our front wheel disappeared from beneath us, but for the most part we’d be quick, agile and ready to take on any terrain we faced.

And we wouldn’t even wear any protective gear, either.

Well, to all those who still believe they have what it takes to go at full pelt when you haven’t even ridden a bike for a while, add approximately 25 years and get yourself down to Gosport BMX Club.

They’ll even give you bike number 13 for good measure!

Even the start of the course is a bit of an eye-opener, with a steep slope down to a series of humps – whoops to the BMX aficionados – followed by some banked corners that looked a little bit high to me.

The bravery – and perhaps stupidity – of the intrepid members of the sports desk at The News to try their hand at some of the lesser-known Olympic sports suddenly came into sharp focus through the visor on my helmet.

Having already been put through my paces by Gosport’s young talent Connor Douglas on the rather safer-looking grass area adjacent to the fantastic-looking, all-weather track on Grange Road, I was ushered to the main event by Darren Fells, the club chairman and coach who has been involved since the track opened back in 2006.

A few laps later and the prospect of making a late charge for the GB Olympic team was over – even if I had begun to master the racing lines required.

To excel as a BMX racer, you need bravery, speed, technique and stamina – and frankly, I was lacking in all of them.

Fells said: ‘Fitness needs to be a key part. They need to have no fear to get round that track but, generally, you will find some who are just naturally talented.

‘Regardless of age or ability, some riders can work hard and get themselves to a really good standard.

‘We work with a broad range of abilities. If kids can ride a bike and want to give it a whirl, we will look to help them.’

It’s also heartening to know you don’t need to own any equipment to try your luck.

The club can provide the protection and even a limited number of bikes for those who want to get a taste of this high-octane sport every Saturday morning at 10am for the princely sum of just £2.

You can just turn up when you fancy and get a friendly welcome.

Youngsters from the age of just four years old were flying round the track, while there were some of the older generation who clearly still enjoy the sport.

With more than 100 regular participants, it was a sight to behold – the lunatic element going round at full pace and looking like they had no regard for their own personal wellbeing.

Of course, you will get the odd crash from time to time – that’s the nature of the sport.

But there’s always someone there to pick you up and make sure you’re fine to get back on the pedals again.

Having seen the sport on TV at the last Olympics, it all looked a bit sedate and slow.

Now, having had a go at the real thing, I can confirm it’s nothing of the sort and takes some serious skill and courage to do it.

So those who put their bodies on the line for Team GB in a few weeks will have my utmost respect and support in their quest for glory. I’ll be cheering them on from the sofa.