Last week I wrote about the joys of mountain biking as a family activity. This week I’d like to spotlight a local facility that’s provided another avenue for cycling fun for Big C in recent weeks. The Giordana Velodrome was built in 2012 as part of the Rock Hill Outdoor Center. It’s one of many outdoor recreation offerings in the gorgeous Riverwalk community in Rock Hill, SC. In addition to hosting several national and UCI caliber events at the track throughout the year, the facility also provides programs geared towards educating thae local community about the sport of track cycling.
One such program is the “Hot Shots” class, which meets every other week on the infield of the track for children ages 5-9. Now some of you may remember that Big C recently celebrated a birthday in which he turned 4, NOT 5…but lucky for us the head instructor, Kyle Knott, is a friend of ours. (He’s actually the one that informed us about the class and recommend it for Big C.) At first we were a little unsure what to expect – physically I knew he had the skill set to keep up, but I wasn’t sure if he was developmentally ready to follow a structured class down on the track with much older children. But we figured we’d give it a go at least once – after all, it was free, so we had nothing to lose!
To our delight (and to be honest, a little bit of surprise…), Big C not only held his own, but had a blast doing so! So much so, that we’ve been showing up ever since! Sure, he doesn’t pick up on all the subtle nuances of the drills at times, but the classes are small (6-8 kids), and with 3 instructors, he gets plenty of individual guidance when he needs it. And as most 4 year olds, he loves imitating the big kids (which is pretty much everyone else in the class.)
Sometimes I feel for him a bit when I see him pedaling around the track on his little 16″ bike like a madman while being passed by older, stronger kids on 10 speeds. But he doesn’t seem to mind or even notice really – and his little legs are probably getting the best workout of all!
The class is only 30 minutes long, and it takes us a little over that to get there…right during the dinner hour. In fact, we almost wrote it off simple because it seemed too inconvenient. But we got a little creative and have managed to turn it into a fun family evening together that we all look forward to. First, we aim to get there early as to avoid rush hour traffic. Second, we pack a family picnic! Steve and I nibble on our food and Baby Z nurses while we sit in the stands and cheer for Big C. Then Big C joins us as he eats his dinner and gets inspired by the “really big kids” (Rock Hill Rockets, age 10-15), which happens right after his.
I’m very thankful that Kyle told us about the class, otherwise we would have no idea that this resource existed. Kyle had this to say about working there: “I really enjoy teaching the classes here at the Giordana Velodrome…the kids have a unique opportunity to use this facility since there are only a handful of them in the US. As an instructor, it’s great for me to see the children grow both socially and in their ability to ride.”
Kyle’s advice for parents was right in line with our mantras for teaching Big C –
“My biggest suggestion for little ones would be to take off the training wheels, they don’t teach children to balance! Take off the crank or buy a balance bike. They will progress much faster by learning to balance rather than having something to lean back and forth on. For parents of older kids, I would say the biggest thing would be to keep it fun…a lot of talented cyclists get burned out by getting pushed too hard, too soon. Make it fun for the kid and use it as quality family time!”
You may not have a velodrome in your area (although you might – check out this link to see what US cities have them, and what youth programs they offer). But luckily you don’t need a velodrome to get cycling this spring! Get in touch with your local bike shop to learn about special programs and clinics offered in your area. And whether your child takes an organized class or simply enjoys pedaling around the neighborhood, don’t forget to make it something the whole family can participate in!
What cycling programs have you or your family taken advantage of in your neck of the woods?