2 years ago I worked as a cycling instructor over the summer and as I ran through the Rules of the Road book for a bunch of 10 yr olds at the start of their week long course, I’d always slip in a little extra nugget.
Pointing to a blue sign with a bike symbol on it, I’d ask, “Does anyone know what the number in the box means?”
“Is it miles to the next place?” was a common guess, but no.
“Have you seen the sign like this outside your school, with the number 4 on it? The number is the cycling route and 4 runs all the way through Kingston. Where do you think you’ll end up if you follow it to the end?”
“The park? In to London? In to the countryside?” Nope.
“If you follow it all the way to the end, you’ll end up in Wales!”
“Wales?! Don’t be silly, that’s ages away”, they’d say excitedly. “Wait, isn’t that another country? You can’t cycle to another country, it would take you forever!”
The instant surprise and wonder was there every time.
I’d tell them stories from my own cycling adventures, answering questions on everything from where I sleep to how long it takes. “And there’s lots of other routes too”, I’d add, “Cycle Route 1 takes you all the way from Scotland, down through England and connects up with routes that take you across Europe!”
Minds blown I felt my job was done.
Cycling isn’t just about how to get to school or learning to skid around in the park with your mates. It can take you places, right now (well, as soon as I pass them on this course). You have a bike and a helmet and a route to follow. What’s stopping you?
You might think it sounds unrealistic to suggest a 10 yr old could cycle from London to Wales, but remember the youngest person to cycle Lands End to John O’Groats is 4 years old. Yup, 4!
If my life could completely change simply by taking up cycling again when I was 28, imagine what that could do to the confidence of a 10 year old, or a 14 year old (the age when twice as many girls are dropping out of sport as boys), or anyone at any age for that matter.
When the idea of cycling to Wales had suddenly been put on the table for those kids, they saw cycling in a different light. Their world had opened up just a little. And the skills they’re about to learn for cycling on the road will enable them to dream up their own adventures, whether near or far.
And that’s why I think stories of adventure are important. They make you see opportunities that weren’t there before. And they’re attainable. There’s no entry requirement, no rules or expectations on an adventure. You can’t win or loose. No matter how it turns out you’ll have your own stories to tell and a new found confidence that will spill over into all areas of your life.
The open road is waiting, lets spark some new adventures...