On Your Bike With Balanceability
Learning to ride a bike is a rite of passage in childhood. A push-off from a parent, nervous wobbles, it’s all part of the fun. But with parents increasingly pressed for time (countless hours at the office and piles of ironing, anyone?), there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of time to spend teaching your little ‘un to pedal perfectly. In fact, new research by First Choice reveals nearly half of all parents have less than 17 minutes a day to teach their children new skills.
Enter Balanceability. It’s the UK’s first and only accredited ‘learn to cycle’ programme for children aged 2 and a half to 6 years old, which has kids learning to ride on special balance bikes. Being pedal-less, they do away with the need for stabilisers, promoting the fundamental skill of cycling – balance. Hence the name. Crafty.
We’re excited to announce that Balanceability courses are being trialled at our Holiday Village in Majorca, where kids can progress from Balanceability bikes to independently riding a pedal bike, without stabilisers, in just 9 hours. That’s speedy stuff. Not only are the tots having a whale of a time, they’re learning a crucial life skill in the process. We see future Olympic stars in the making…
And speaking of Olympic stars (seamless link, people), we’re proud as punch to be teaming up with cyclist and London 2012 double Olympic gold medallist, Laura Trott. I headed to Manchester to have a chat with Laura after she’d spent the morning giving our little superstars some tips on the ergonomic bikes. Having become a household name last summer during the screaming-at-the-TV team pursuit and omnium disciplines, it’s safe to say I was already a fan of hers. But when she arrived with her ‘entourage’ – in the form of Sprolo, her ridiculously cute ‘Sproodle’ [Springer Spaniel crossed with a Poodle] – I was completely won over.
Once I’d dragged myself away from her pup, we started chatting about all things cycling…
El: What drew you to the concept of Balanceability?
Laura: Well, for me it’s to try and get as many kids involved in cycling as possible – that’s what I want to achieve. Obviously I started when I was young – I was 8 – and I’d never have known how enjoyable cycling was if it wasn’t for my mum saying, “C’mon, come out with us”. So I think Balanceability is the first step, especially for young girls, because obviously boys just get stuck into things, and almost pick up sport a lot easier than girls do. I think the Balanceability bikes are a great starting point, for kids aged from 2 and a half.
What are the benefits of getting out and about on bikes at a young age?
It’s the start of a healthy lifestyle. You get into that routine, and you start learning what is good for you and what’s not good for you. It’s a mostly outdoor, fresh air kind of sport…
Is that what drew you to cycling in the first place?
Yeah, I’m a real outdoorsy person. That’s why I’ve got a dog, I enjoy walking and cycling outside. I don’t like to be cooped up indoors.
What did your first bike look like?
*laughs* It was like this weird, dark purple colour, and it was tiny because I was so small. I just begged and begged and begged for a mountain bike, even though at the time I couldn’t even ride one. But because my sister had one, I wanted one, too. So I begged my mum and dad, and Santa Claus brought me one at Christmas.
In terms of sporting ability, was it always cycling you were good at, or were you one of those all-round sporty types who could have turned their hand to anything?
I was quite good at sports in general. I really enjoyed it at school, and I actually went to Turnford School which turned into a sports college. We had the astro-turf and stuff like that, so I got involved in everything. Between the ages of 6 and 14 I used to do swimming, trampolining and cycling – they were my 3 sports. Monday I’d go to the track and ride my bike, Tuesday I’d do trampolining, Wednesday I’d do swimming, Thursday I’d do trampolining, Friday I’d go cycling, and Saturday and Sunday I’d cycle some more. I was actually better at trampolining than I was at cycling to start with, but because of some medical issues, I had to give up trampolining. I basically kept passing out, so once we realised it was down to dehydration, I found I could actually still cycle, so I chose that and gave up everything else. I just happened to be good at cycling.
Were you always picked first in PE?
*laughs* Well, yes, unless it came to football or basketball, in which case I was always one of the last!
What would you say is your biggest motivator?
The feeling when you win. I just love that feeling. I know a lot of people do it for their families or whoever, and as much as I do, because obviously I like giving back to them as they gave up a lot when I was little, I just love the feeling when I win. That’s what drives me the whole time. It doesn’t matter how much it hurts, I know I’ll feel much better if I win the race.
The actress Emma Thomson famously keeps her Oscar trophies in her loo. Where do you keep your trophies and medals?
*laughs* Well, my mum looks after them, because she doesn’t trust me with them. Someone actually asked me the other day: if I get my Olympic medals out and look at them. I would, but I don’t actually know where they are!
A year on, what’s your favourite memory of the London 2012 Olympics?
I’ve got 2, and it’s not just 2 medals. It’s the fact that when we won, straight afterwards the girls came over to me and we hugged when we were on the track and had won the team pursuit. That just stays in my mind because it all just came together, and it was like a dream come true. And it was a feeling that we were at one, like sisters, it was just amazing that I could achieve it with them. The second one was when I rode up to the top of the track after the omnium, my sister, my best mate, my auntie and uncle, and my mum and dad were there, and they were all just crying their eyes out. The omnium was really close at the end – people didn’t think I was going to win – so when I did, it was almost relief because they’d been just as stressed as I had. They were all crying, and that sticks in my mind, because it made them so happy.
On to the subject of holidays, what are your best memories of holidays as a kid?
My favourite holiday as a kid was Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, because I’m a real Disney person. Even now I love the films and the characters – I love the Lion King – and we actually went for Christmas and New Year in 1999, so it was a massive one going into the new millenium. It was my sister’s 10th birthday when we were out there, and I was only 8. I didn’t realise at the time, but that was when my mum decided to lose weight – so not only was it a great holiday, it was linked into my whole story [Laura first began cycling when her mum decided to take up the sport to lose weight]. In terms of a sunny holiday, we went to Tenerife, and my mum and dad hadn’t told us that my nan and granddad and my cousin were out there. So we arrived and my mum told me to ring my nan. I rang her and was thinking, that’s a weird noise, because it was the foreign dialling tone, but I was too young to realise what it was – and they just turned up at our hotel and I was like, “Oh my god!”
Where do you go now to chill out and relax on holiday?
Majorca. Because if I want to go on holiday with my sister [fellow cyclist, Emma Trott], she’s a road rider and has to train. I actually went there 2 weeks ago – she was out riding the bike and I just relaxed by the pool.
So, you’re 21, you’re an OBE, an Olympic and World Champion – where on earth do you go from here?!
I have no idea. *laughs* I might as well retire, eh! No, I just want to keep on winning as many Olympic gold medals as I can. I quite like the idea of breaking Chris Hoy’s record, because I’m obviously quite young. I think that would be quite an ask if they only keep 2 endurance events in – I’d have to go to 4 more Olympics, rather than 3 more. But if they bring in another event, you never know…
Finally, and randomly, a question from my colleague… did you own a cycling Barbie?
*laughs loudly* No, I don’t think I did, actually – I didn’t know they did one! I probably would have owned it if I’d known. I had Animal Rescue Toys, because I’m a real animal person, and I had a farm and stuff like that. I was more into that when I was a kid…
Thanks so much, Laura.
Quick as a flash it was time to go, and I’d learnt 2 things. Firstly, for everything Laura has achieved by the age of 21, she’s incredibly down-to-earth and unassuming. And secondly, I need a Sproodle dog in my life.
If you’ve got little ones with aspirations of becoming the next Laura Trott or Bradley Wiggins, tune into the blog this Friday, for a chance to win one of 5 Balanceability bikes, suitable for kids aged 2 and half to 6 years old. And since we know how important safety is to mums and dads, we’ll throw in a helmet with each bike. Yellow jersey optional.
What do you think of the concept of Balanceability at our Holiday Villages?