Just when you think you know it all
Jason unwittingly becomes the local expert in a cycling sport he knows nothing about.
I may have mentioned that I live in a small town in an almost forgotten, rugged corner of Scotland. It’s quite some distance away from, well, anything at all. That’s what it feels like to a born and bred city boy like me anyway. We’ve got enough here to keep us going without having to resort to driving every day – there are a couple of small supermarkets, lots of independent shops, some pubs, cafés and… a BMX track.
Yep, we’ve somehow got a BMX track. All of a sudden. It simply didn’t exist a few weeks ago and now, there it is. All jumpy, bermy and gloriously take-your-skin-off tarmaccy.
Now, we’ve sort of had a large mountain bike trail centre here for some years now – Kirroughtree Forest is literally a kilometre away, but the economic boost that the 7stanes project has provided to other towns in our geographically stretched-out region hasn’t really had the same effect in this town. We’re just one kilometre in the wrong direction to be convenient for the masses that fill the visitor centre car park, who presumably pop to the nearest golden arches, 50 or so miles in away in the direction of the M6.
So a four-lane, regional-level BMX track is a bit of a turn-up for the books. The wider BMX community and Scottish Cycling seem to be as surprised as anyone else. What started out as a near pipe dream by some ambitious local kids 15 years ago (that’s right – 15 YEARS) has turned into a reality, thanks to the determination of a handful of locals.
The track is here, complete with a start gate, small car park and 20 BMX bikes for the local lads and lassies to have fun on. It’s almost like a fairy tale.
Then the realisation that the track would soon be handed over from the builders dawned on the community council, and that someone needed to be found who knew what the hell to do with it. It’s all very exciting and no doubt makes a change from long discussions in the boardroom about recycling and grass verges.
Another thing I’ve noticed about living in a small town is that if you chop wood for a living, or you have a horse trailer available to borrow, or perhaps you’re the brother of the chap who knows someone who can obtain a steady supply of fresh mackerel – or you ride bikes a lot – everyone will know about it. Apparently, I’m an expert on BMX tracks. “Jason can sort it out, he rides bikes a lot.” It’s common knowledge…
It’s a good thing I like a challenge. So now I’m spending my lunch breaks and time in the evening getting under the skin of the Scottish BMX scene, attempting to build some kind of structure and a club around the facility that has appeared as if by magic. Of course, I could have just declined the opportunity to become the local BMX track authority but what would happen then? Perhaps someone else would have done it, but perhaps they wouldn’t.
Mostly, it seems to be quite like many other cycling disciplines in that there are clubs, many of those clubs organise races and those races form parts of a wider league. In some cases riders travel for hours for league rounds and well over a hundred riders (I’m told) show up for each one.
What’s struck me is that while the racing is important, the real emphasis is on skills and developing young riders. Most clubs seem to have a brilliant coaching structure – while the events and participation in the various leagues are vital for getting ‘bums on seats’ and ‘cash in the till’, there’s a community aspect that gives kids (and big kids) something cool and worthwhile to do.
I was struggling to think of something mountain bike-related to write about this time if I’m being perfectly honest. I’ve spent the most part of the winter so far bashing out relatively uninspiring miles on a road bike so I think that might have been a factor. But then I just thought, I know, I’ll just tell them all about our gorgeous wee BMX track instead. So, there you go.
Like starting a band, I think the first thing I need is a name for the club. Maybe I should delegate that one.