With urban roots, BMX racing has gone from the skatepark to the Olympic arena in recent years, fuelling the popularity amongst the younger generation.
For those looking to hone their skills on two wheels, Rotherham BMX Club provides first-class coaching on a competition-standard track.
Based in Kimberworth, the volunteer-run club has been a lifeline for the cycling community for over 20 years. During that time, their riders have made podiums at national and international races.
Around 20 riders who have trained at the club have ranked in the top eight in the UK at National and British championships. Another five riders have been part of the Olympic development team, including three-times Team GB BMX racer Liam Phillips and World BMX Championship gold medallist Shanaze Reade.
The BMX track was first opened in 2001 as the brainchild of Keppel ward councillor, Carole Foster, when her son showed an interest in the sport. She put in various bids to raise £30,000 to build a track that would benefit the wider community. An old engine pond in Kimberworth was leased to the club on a peppercorn rent.
After a bit of a bumpy ride over the last ten years, the track wanted updating. The surface needed improving, layout refining and more challenging features adding to enable the track to be used for regional and national competitions.
Plans were put in place throughout the pandemic, with Carole and the team of volunteers fundraising and applying for grants to raise £200,000 to overhaul the track. Work was finally completed last summer. The new-look track, which has an electric start gate, tarmac areas, and dirt jumps, now attracts BMX riders from across South Yorkshire who training weekly and regularly compete.
All their coaches are experienced riders: Melissa was ranked second in the country as a teenager; Chris is a former Steel City downhill champ; and Waller is a street BMXer who also runs his own BMX supplies shop.
Thanks to funding, Rotherham BMX Club offer free coached sessions for children and young people living in Rotherham who are aged between ten and 18. If your child has shown an interest in the sport, or you’d like for them to try something new, spring is the perfect time to start.
Parents with children who have grown up around technology and devices will know how hard it can be to get kids to spend time outdoors engaging in physical activity. But the thrills and adrenaline of BMX racing and cycling means kids tend to stick it out and keep challenging themselves. Traditional team sports aren’t for everyone, but BMX encourages cohesion and a community feel, with riders stoked to meet others with a similar mindset no matter their background.
The sport also teaches children and young people many essential life skills such as communication, perseverance, discipline, and determination. They learn how to stay focused, how to deal with failing, and how to get up and try again until they succeed.
Whether it’s learning to ride without stabilisers, or landing their first big jump, each new skill unlocked is another notch in their self-confidence. Parents might worry about their kids getting injured, but BMX racers quickly learn how to take more calculated and safer risks.
Due to the exciting, explosive and non-stop action, BMX is one of the most spectator friendly sports. Why not come along to your local track and show your support? You never know, you might just see the next Olympian in action.