The ascent of pedal power
For many families in Hong Kong, riding bicycles from Sha Tin to Tai Po has become a great way to spend time together at weekends. But through the success of Wong Kam-po, who won the world 15km scratch race title in 2007 and Marco Kwok Ho-ting, who emulated the feat in March this year, cycling is also a competitive sport attracting increasing numbers of children.
'Cycling has become a popular choice for parents who are concerned about their children growing up in a healthy way. It can also provide opportunities to experience the feelings of speed and excitement similar to those of their sporting heroes,' says Andrew Szeto, sports director of Xspeed Cycling Club (www.xspeedcycling.org.hk). Xspeed is one of a number of clubs affiliated with the Hong Kong Cycling Association (www.cycling.org.hk) that run training courses for children.
Joining a club teaches correct riding technique, develops the right attitudes for riding in a team, and builds social relationships with other riders.
'Team or group riding requires each person to follow basic principles of respect for others in the group. Children need to understand that they are riding as one and supporting each other while they are out on the road. Attitudes towards riding safely are also important for children to develop,' says Szeto.
Xspeed runs an elementary course for children aged between seven and 10 who can already ride.
It includes manoeuvres such as turning, stopping, doing figure-eight turns and the use of hand signals. Cost is HK$600 per month for non-members for two hours of instruction and practice weekly. For more able riders, aged nine to 11, the course focuses on developing fitness and a sense of discipline. Emphasis is placed on developing the correct attitudes to road cycling. Cost is HK$900 per month for non-members for a two-hour session, twice weekly.
All classes take place at the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park in Sha Tin.
For children not yet able to ride, Szeto suggests the beginners' courses run by the Hong Kong Cycling Association in association with the Leisure and Cultural Service Department (www.lcsd.gov.hk).
The HKCA runs the Cycling Proficiency Course around 10 times a year for beginners involving one, two-hour theory class and four, two-hour practical classes for HK$100.