By Jake Backus

CYCLING takes many forms – cycling to school and work, cycling for leisure and cycling for sport. A few people actually cycle FOR work, such as Oxford’s cycle couriers Pedal & Post. Here we explore the sport side, specifically, for youth.

Ever since National Lottery funding got behind cycling, Britain has produced the goods on the track (AKA the velodrome) and in major races like the Tour de France, by focussing on “marginal gains”, hard work and technical excellence. Young people have been inspired by the success of British cyclists during the London and Rio Olympics, and by the Tour de France where six out of the last seven winners were Brits, not to mention the excitement of seeing the diminutive Mark Cavendish weaving his way through the lead-out teams for a final sprint after many hours of racing.

Grass roots cycle training for children may start with Bikeability at school or Go-Ride events put on by British Cycling (or just cycling with parents or friends). These are excellent for building confidence and skills in young riders.

If they want to take it to the next level, Oxfordshire has a number of cycling clubs, not all of which cater for youth since there are significant safeguarding considerations to be given to working with children in sport. Besides this, Oxford lacks any safe off-road cycling facilities for young riders to build their skills and to train to race.

To bridge this gap, Oxfordshire Youth Cycling (OYC) was set up to be a free cross-club initiative to take more capable youngsters on training rides in the Oxfordshire countryside. Allowing young riders to cycle with other riders of their own age whilst having fun has achieved four national champion results so far, as well as many well-rounded young people capable of training and riding together on our roads, hopefully with a lifelong interest in cycling and staying fit.

Whilst you don’t need to own a racing bike already, (OYC has two to borrow), you do need to be able to ride in close proximity to other riders and at speed. The efficiencies of cycling together are significant. Cycling is often the art of using as little energy as possible, staying out of the wind and saving your legs for a sprint finish or hill climb.

There is a real sense of freedom in cycling fast, a sense of comradeship in riding with others, and of competition in being able to get to the top of a hill first. Oxford is surrounded by wonderful countryside readily accessible by bicycle.

If you know of (or are) a girl or boy aged 14 and above, who are good cyclists, check out for more information. They should be ready to cycle for at least two hours, for 30-40 miles, typically going out on Sundays at 10am leaving from central Oxford.

Meanwhile, if you see them on the road, please give them kindness and attention. They are someone’s children, and perhaps you will see them racing in future, representing Britain.