Liberton High School Bike Club was created as an after school club back in 2010 to provide a safe and fun environment within which young people would improve their bike handling skills and develop a lifestyle that would include cycling as an alternative means of transport, for leisure and for some, competitive cycle racing.
The social demographic of the catchment area of the High School and it’s feeder primaries is characterised by considerable social and economic deprivation and recreational and competitive cycling is not a common activity in the families in which our children are nurtured, as it might be in other parts of the city. Therefore, despite having the Edinburgh Road Club based only a mile from the school, very few of our children or parents were even aware of its existence. We hoped that we could eventually work towards feeding our Bike Club riders into the ERC coaching and development program.
It soon became apparent that within the context of the Bike Club there were also massive opportunities for personal and social development and for leadership training and these became equally important to the core activity of riding bikes. The Bike Club initially attracted a wide range of youngsters, both boys and girls from across the year groups, but the club seemed to attract individuals who did not ‘fit’ into the mainstream team sports offered elsewhere in the school.Back
The club was started by a teacher who was himself a recent convert to the sport and wanted to share his enthusiasm with the students and staff of the school but had no relevant cycling qualifications. The first step was to get some basic training and so four of the staff volunteered to do the ACAT conversion for teachers with the option of upgrading to a British Cycling Activity Coach thereafter.
Whilst this was happening we were assisted by coaching staff provided by Scottish Cycling from whom we learned a massive amount about how to plan and structure sessions that were instructive and enjoyable and safe. Once we had fully qualified staff of our own we took over the reins of running the club sessions.
Our next major collaboration was with Bike Club Scotland who brought support and funding to help develop the club’s activities. We had already started to collect together a pool of second hand bikes that we could lend to students who did not have a suitable one of their own. A grant from the Cycling Scotland Cycling Friendly Communities Fund allowed us to purchase a container to keep these bikes in and BCS money paid for a graffiti artist to come in to school and train up members of the bike club to design and decorate their bike container.
Another Bike Club Scotland initiative was a Radiowaves training day for members of the bike club that gave them the interviewing skills and film making techniques to create a short video about the Liberton Bike Club. This film went on to win a British competition and two of our bike club members went down to London for further training and became part of a media team that created live televised coverage of the International Youth Games in the Excel Centre and at the Olympic Park, including in the new velodrome immediately before the Olympic Games events.
In an attempt to encourage inter-school cycling competition Liberton Bike Club started to organise and host cyclo-cross races in the school grounds, creating the basis of the trails we have today. Riders came from schools across the City and from the Edinburgh Road Club but the problems with transporting bikes resulted in numbers of entrants being lower than we had hoped.
In 2012 a chance invitation from the Falcons Cycle Speedway Club based at Redbraes Park to bring some of the Bike Club over for a taster session started a close liaison between our two clubs and developments that have surprised us all. Having looked unsuccessfully to cyclo-cross for an inter school racing model we realised that cycle speedway, requiring only four simple bikes at a time, was an ideal alternative. With the assistance of the Jack Kane Centre Liberton Bike Club organised a winter indoor series of coaching and racing sessions on Friday afternoons attended by six schools from around the City of Edinburgh and Fife. This culminated in an inter-schools indoor championship in the winter term and the formation of the Scottish Schools Cycle Speedway league. This initiative was overwhelmingly supported by representatives from Cycling Scotland, Scottish Cycling, Sustrans iBike, CTC Bike Club Scotland and the Edinburgh Falcons at a meeting hosted by the City of Edinburgh Council’s OE centre.
Over the winter of 2012/13 we took the speedway experience to all the Open All Hours Friday night sessions around the city to give even a wider range of young people their first taste of bike track racing either inside in the Edinburgh Leisure Centre’s games halls or on astro-turf pitches.
Queen Anne High School were so enthused by the potential of this entry level track cycling opportunity that they have encouraged eight Fife schools to get involved in cycle speedway and will be building Scotland’s third full size track in their school grounds in 2015. Renewed interest in cycle speedway by Glasgow Life has also resulted in the refurbishment of the Cathkin Park track in the south of the city.
Liberton High School was awarded Cycle Friendly School Status with distinction by Cycling Scotland for its work in promoting cycling, including all the work done by the Liberton Bike Club to make Liberton a centre of cycling excellence.
Sustrans iBike have been another major partner in our bike club’s journey over the last few years and have been invited to bring their Belles on Bikes program into the school and supported a number of Bike Breakfasts and Dr Bike sessions as part of their Bike Week initiative.
We have also worked closely with our feeder primary schools, particularly Craigour Park, Gilmerton and Liberton supporting their sporting events by organising skills training and 4BIKE mini-racing assisted by older Liberton Bike Club cycling ambassadors.
How did you promote your project?
Within the school we have a large dedicated notice board in the social area on which we post forthcoming events and also photos of recent activities. These are also posted on the school plasma screen and in the school bulletin. Posters are designed and spread around the school and in the local primaries. The Active Schools network is also used to disseminate information where appropriate.
The cycle speedway events, results and pictures are also featured on the Scottish Schools Cycle Speedway Facebook closed group page.
By forming a very close relationship with both Sustrans iBike and Bike Club Scotland Officers we were often involved in their initiatives which spread the word about the club across Scotland as well as raising its profile in the immediate locality.
We were invited by Bike Club Scotland to make a presentation about our club at their 1st Birthday celebration in Glasgow’s City Chambers and a year later we hosted their ‘Thank you Asda for your sponsorship’ celebration at our school where club members demonstrated their cycling skills. In 2014 the Liberton High School Bike club and two of it’s volunteers were awarded with certificates of excellence for developing cycling for young people in our local community.
Being a Sustrans iBike school for two years we have also taken an active part in the Big Pedal putting on Bike Breakfasts and Dr Bike sessions to encourage all school students and staff to ride to school more often and, with help from the CDT department, we have also designed and built our very own front wheel drive Smoothie Making Bike to use at these events.
As a club we are always looking for opportunities for our young people to share their passion for cycling with others and earlier this year we entertained a group from the Scottish Executive who were having an Away Day at Liberton. Young members of the Bike Club organised, ran and competed in a 4BIKE race on part of the new trails showing off their organisational and leadership skills to this group of professional adults who thoroughly enjoyed the role reversal for the afternoon.
We now offer three different sessions as part of Liberton Bike Club. Each week on Monday nights we offer a Mini Bike Club session for children in Primary 1 and 2 who can’t ride or have just learned and at the moment we have 12 in that group.
We also have a Junior Bike Club that is for children in primary 2 and 3, most of who have learned to ride but are looking to develop skills and confidence through skills sessions, games and races. There are currently 19 children in this group.
On Thursday after school we run the senior Bike Club that caters mainly for quite confident riders who can be taken out of the school grounds to explore the local area on risk assessed routes and given more intensive coaching sessions to prepare them for a range of biking events.
In the Winter term we arrange indoor inter-school cycle speedway coaching and racing sessions, at the Jack Kane centre, on Friday afternoons and these usually attract three schools at a time with around 12 to 20 riders per session.
Some of our club members also now attend training sessions with the Edinburgh Falcons and ride cycle speedway internationally, against teams from around Britain. We also compete in the outdoor Scottish Schools Cycle Speedway competition in the summer term against other teams from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Fife. Riders from Liberton High School Bike Club also won the inaugural Edinburgh Schools Mountain Bike competition earlier this year. Our riders also compete in the ERC cyclo cross races at the Inch park and the 24 series on Craigmillar Hill.
What one feature of your project would you highlight as a particular success or unique aspect?
Our most recent success has to be winning the ‘Innovating, Creating and Inspiring’ category at the city of Edinburgh Children and Families Achievement Awards ceremony. This was an education award open to a huge range of projects across the whole of the Edinburgh, both
Primary and Secondary sectors and so different to other cycling related awards we have gained in the past.
Maybe winning that was in some way related to the Bike Club’s development of 4BIKE racing over the last couple of years. This has come about as a natural progression from being involved in both cycle speedway and cyclo cross racing and is a new race format that combines elements of both sports. Members of the club have made a short promotional film about this type of racing and it is a favourite activity on club nights. We have also taken it on the road to our feeder Primary Schools and,by request, to sports festivals where it is always very popular. The beauty of this type of race is that it only needs four bikes, four riders from different teams race against each other on a short track of mixed terrain, and every venue creates it’s own character. Those not racing can cheer on their team mates. The scale and relative safety aspects of these races means that they are perfect for our club members to gain confidence in setting up and running them on their own, with minimal supervision. The rules and equipment required to stage one of these races are very basic so the participants and any staff involved very quickly take ownership of this new format and can then proceed to run their own races.Back
Last year we held the first six sessions of our ‘Learn To Ride Club’, dedicated to early primary pupils who could not ride at all, or only with stabilisers. Within three weeks they could all ride unaided and by week six they all managed to ride down the top section of our mountain bike trail and gained their Learn to Ride certificates. These are the Bike Club members of the future!
Word soon got around the local community and the demand for more similar classes was so great that we are currently running two sessions on Monday evening, one we call Mini Bike Club (can’t ride or just started) and the other, Junior Bike Club, for those who have some confidence and need to develop their skills.
We are already planning for some of these young people to participate in the under eight’s category of the ERC cyclo cross events.
Another ground breaking initiative that has already enticed more young people to get involved in the Bike Club is the development of mountain bike trails within the school grounds and the associated Inter School Mountain Bike Competition that they, and Liberton Bike Club’s example of putting on race events, have inspired. The idea of a bike trail around the perimeter of the school goes back quite a few years but was made reality by the amazing fund raising efforts of our Active School’s Co-coordinator, encouraged by the Head Teacher. In June 2014 our Bike Club worked with Scottish Cycling to mount a British Cycling certified race for all the City’s school children to take part in. Although under-subscribed the event, which was masterminded by Scottish Cycling’s regional officer in Edinburgh, was a great success and will be repeated in coming years, hopefully attracting more schools to come and compete.
Both the Schools MTB competition and a cycle speedway taster day that we organised and ran this year and last were both registered events in the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling (EDFoC) to give them more publicity.
The bike trails are also open to the general public and kids that come and ride them after school or at the weekend are now beginning to drift into the Bike Club fold.
An important element in the school’ Bike Club ethos is encouraging the young people to develop leadership skills and to that end a number have been trained as Bikeability assistants and cycling ambassadors. They go out to the local primary Schools and either run their own coaching and racing sessions or assist qualified Bikeability Trainers in the delivery of the scheme. One of our first club members is now a British Cycling Level 2 coach in his own right and we hope this will be an example others will follow. We also have members of the regular Thursday night group assisting with the Mini and Junior sessions on Mondays. These are the coach volunteers of the future!
This year we have seen cycling offered as an activity within the PE curriculum, and for the last three years bike racing has become an established event in the annual school sports day. Another brand new curricular initiative is a timetabled slot for trail maintenance and to facilitate this three of the school staff recently attended an intensive training day on the subject. Embedding cycling within the curriculum in these ways will continue to raise the profile of the activity/sport even higher within the school and keep the Bike Club supplied with a steady stream of new members. I don’t think it is unreasonable to propose that if the Bike Club had not prepared the ground these curricular cycling related initiatives would not be happening.
A new project in the pipeline is to work with the newly appointed City of Edinburgh Alternative Transport Officer in developing 4BIKE racing and related bike skills development in Edinburgh schools. This will give our bikers the opportunity to act as ambassadors by visiting other schools to demonstrate the new race format and eventually to create a new inter-schools competitive cycling infrastructure that they can compete in.Back
What the Liberton Bike Club has achieved over the last five years is to create a diversity of experiences for it’s members that have bikes and cycling at their core, be it trips to the Scottish Bike Show to interview exhibitors, a visit to the World Cup downhill practice day at the Nevis Range, a week in London working alongside professional journalists, working with an artist to design graffiti art, helping to design and build a mountain bike trail or simply going on a cycle ride to the seaside for a BBQ.
We have worked with an ever widening family of friends in the world of cycling who have helped us to enrich the lives of the young people that come along to ride their bikes with us. We would like to thank them all by telling you who they are:
Kirsteen Torrance: Bike Club Scotland
Kenny Macaskill: SMP
Grease Monkey Cycles
Dave Russell: Teacher
Aarron Murray: Formerly of CEC
Dave Winton: Formerly of Scottish cycling
Keith Stalker: Formerly of Scottish Cycling
Chris Bryant: Formerly of Scottish Cycling
Amy Hickman: Former Bike Club Scotland officer
Lynn Stocks: Sustrans iBike
Iain Twaddle: Educational Social Worker
Emma Wilson: Teacher
Joe Walker: Teacher
Alistair Grieve: Soul Cycles
Lisa Morton: Sustrans Volunteer organiser
Kate Blevins: Sustrans volunteer
Craig McCulloch: Scottish Cycling
Iain McKinley: Edinburgh Falcons
Gavin Kennedy: Edinburgh Falcons
Jamie Malcolm: Edinburgh Leisure
Ellie Forgan: Active Schools Co-coordinator
Trevor Bryant: Volunteer coach
Stephen Kelly: Head Teacher
Nico Major: Dancer and Visual Artist
Segar Rogers: Teacher
Charlotte Gardiner: Sustrans iBike Officer
Richard Lord: Formerly of Scottish Cycling
Matt Macdonald: Cycling Scotland
PC Mike Brooks
….. and all the wonderful Mum’s and Dad’s who support our efforts ……