Bike ride with Adam Henderson
I can see kids, the first time they set off on their own, they think, “I can go where I want, I can go how fast I want,” which is great
Over the past 10 years, Henderson has taught people from the age of four to 78, proving that you are never too old to learn how to ride a bike! Now, with multiple British Cycling qualifications in BMXing and mountain biking, he wants to engage cyclists of all abilities by keeping his cycling sessions fun and by helping his students to learn new and important cycling skills.
Henderson is enthusiastic about helping people to achieve their riding target, whether it’s riding solo for the first time, perfecting a drop off or completing an hour cycle. Here, Henderson talks to Alex Waite about his experience and shares some of his best advice and tips for young cyclists.
AW: Why is cycling such an important skill? What can people learn from cycling?
Adam Henderson: When I started to cycle, it was the first time I could go and escape. You can go wherever you want to go. I can see kids have that, the first time they set off on their own, they think, “I can go where I want, I can go how fast I want,” which is great. It is a lifelong skill, I have taught people who haven’t ridden a bike for 10 years and they remember how to do it straight away. Aso, starting to learn how the bike actually works with simple things like changing an inner tube, is a good life skill and can lead to bigger things like fixing cars.
AW: Can you explain some of the different types of cycling available for children who want to get involved in the sport?
Adam Henderson: The most common type is:
- Mountain Biking. Most people’s first bike is a mountain bike so that will go off-road – you can pretty much take them anywhere.
- The flip side of that is Road Racing – skinny tyres, really light bicycles and they travel quite quickly.
- The more adrenaline side of things is BMX – jumps, close racing, 8 people on the start gate. It’s now an Olympic sport so there’s an elite level to BMXing.
Practicing to stop is one of the best places to start, ironically
A lot of riders who do road racing will do cyclocross in the winter as it’s more entertaining and long rides can be very cold.
- Cyclocross is sort of like road racing and mountain biking mixed together. Now, there’s the addition of e-bikes, which is a great option for the whole family to get involved.
AW: Are there any games or tips children can play on their bike, once they’re able to ride solo and a bit more confident?
Adam Henderson: One of the things kids love to do is:
- Create a Course, whether it’s round your local park or garden, any spare bit of grass you can find, going through puddles are top of the list for most kids, anything you think might be fun. You can then time each other and race each other around the course.
- Another game we do is Cat and Mouse. You decide who goes first and the aim of the game is to try and just catch your opponent before you get to the finish, rather than ride right behind each other. When I play this with my son, I might give him a head start then catch up.
AW: Is there any advice for anyone who is trying to learn to ride but isn’t quite there yet?
Adam Henderson: Practicing the basics is very important. Practicing to stop is one of the best places to start, ironically. Getting a balance bike with little brakes, getting used to it without thinking about it is important. Keeping it simple and not worrying is important. Don’t sweat the small stuff! A reliable bike can help, it doesn’t have to be all singing and all dancing, just make sure it all works.
AW: If someone enjoys one form of riding but wants to try another form of cycling, like racing, mountain biking, BMX etc. What are the enjoyments of each?
Adam Henderson: They are all different in their own way but there are definitely transferable skills, so a lot of BMXers have got raw speed and are quite brave but that also makes them usually very quick for things like mountain biking or track cycling. A lot of riders who do road racing will do cyclocross in the winter as it’s more entertaining and long rides can be very cold. I encourage all the kids I have to try all of them. There’s even online platforms, which is another option if you’re into your online gaming.
AW: What are some of the challenges you see riders encounter? How can they overcome them?
Adam Henderson: Most people want to just go faster but to go faster you need to do the basic things and practice technical skills. You can use bicycle trials, which is really slow speed and hopping and moving your bike around. It’s really difficult and relies a lot on your balance. Setting out a set of cones or using objects to cycle over and playing small games helps to improve that without thinking about it too much. Equipment can also be a barrier sometimes, it can be quite expensive if you start moving up and if you want to try different formats. Try to find something that’s good value that you can use season in season out.