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Green Living

Simon Usbourne: The Olympic BMX track at the Lee Valley VeloPark is terrifying


At the age of 31, sadly well outside any bracket that could be labelled "young", I've had my first go at BMX. As a kid, before I developed a serious road habit, I rode ugly mountain bikes. I wasn't cool (I also had a Snakeboard – Google it). Now, I hesitate to say, I look at grown-ups hunched over little BMX bikes as slightly tragic souls – Peter Pans with sleeve tats and Vans (Peter Vans?)

My debut came on the Olympic BMX track, no less, which re-opened last week at the Lee Valley VeloPark in East London (you can also ride the velodrome, a road track and mountain bike trails). They've halved the size of the start ramp since Shanaze Reade missed out on Olympic glory, but otherwise the course is roughly intact, and terrifying.

My sniffiness notwithstanding, there's justification in seeing BMX as a childish pursuit. It was born in the early 70s when Californian kids began emulating their motocross heroes using Schwinn Sting-Rays, a contemporary of the Raleigh Chopper. A craze became a sport and is now as demanding as any other: just ask Shanaze.

I took a few laps of the course, pumping my arms over each roller and definitely not taking any air. It felt strange and perilous but the smile on my face throughout was evidence of the pure fun it offers. I'm a BMX convert. The bonus: whatever you think you look like, you will feel about ten years younger, knees permitting.