When I was little, riding a bike was simply a case of being pushed around the local park with squeaky stabilisers on. But for the lucky children growing up in Manchester, there is now access to the prestigious National Cycling Centre.
We attended the toddler focused balance bike session for the first time and couldn't believe the scale of what was on offer. For £3.60 to £5.50 a session (with the cheaper rate reserved for Manchester residents), children aged between 2 and 5 years get access to all of the necessary riding equipment, expert guidance, and a huge track full of ramps and hills to explore.
The staff member that saw to us was exceptionally friendly, giving us advice for today but also for our daughter to practise her skills at home. And she managed to get her into full equipment (including a helmet and gloves!) with no tantrums or tears an achievement we as her parents have never managed!
Unfortunately, we didn't make it off the flat track today. In fact our two year old only stayed on the bike for a couple of minutes total! She'd never been on any bike at all before, so for us the visit was a tad hasty. However, we spoke to the parent of a child on only his second visit and he was confidently scooting around the flat track, and even had a go at one of the mini ramps
Now, given that a room full of unsteady toddlers are being let loose on wheels, there were more than a few falls and teary outbursts - just a heads up if your child is sensitive to other children being upset. Of course all safety equipment is provided: knee pads, elbow pads, and full helmets to lessen the blow of any topples.
With beginners, adults are strongly advised to stay with their child on the flat track at all times, but it was great to see the more competent and confident children having a ball up and down the bumps and ramps.
Before your first visit you need to register online and buy a membership for which there is no charge. Other than that everything is provided, which makes for a fairly cheap and very fun hour.
Useful information: Address: National Cycling Centre, Stuart Street, Manchester M11 4DQ
Opening hours: Sessions run on Wednesdays from 10:00am-11:00am, and Sundays from 11:00am-12:00pm and 12:00pm-1:00pm.
To avoid disappointment, make sure to book ahead by calling 0161 223 2244. Check out the National Cycling Centre website for more info.
Gouri Lal Hypnobirthing in Didsbury uses Easibirthing a Holistic Birth Preparation course which has been developed in conjunction with UK midwives to enable you to have a more positive birth experience.