The RLS Cycling Club has grown from humble beginnings to offer coaching through British Cycling and bring about inclusion for all abilities. Hannah Smith spoke to chairman David Newton to find out about the club’s vision.
Tackling educational barriers and taking on challenges within special needs schools is a far cry from planning social bike rides on Facebook.
But for cycling enthusiasts Michelle Paget and David Newton, it is all part of the growing social responsibilities and exciting challenges for the Royal Leamington Spa Cycling Club (RLSCC).
The sports club was set up after the pair took to Facebook to set up social rides over five years ago. Now both fully qualified coaches and joined by a third, Paul Padmore, the RLSCC has been transformed.
Not only does it have a membership of more than 220 and weekly sessions for all abilities, but it now boasts young children’s group, Peddlamaniacs, and links within special needs education to help spread the sport and break down educational barriers.
This is most evident in its latest link with Warwick’s Ridgeway Primary School where the team has been able to pull in specialist coaching from British Cycling experts.
For a group that started as enthusiastic riders, we have grown hugely. It is about providing something that people won’t necessarily get the chance to do elsewhere.David Newton
RLSCC chairman David explained that since affiliating with the national body in 2012, they went on to become a Go-Ride group, allowing them to take training into schools.
This includes the six-week programme now halfway through at the Woodloes which is using British Cycling coaches to help develop coordination and exercise.
Father-of-two David who lives in Leamington and has a son at Ridegeway, has spoken of the importance of taking cycling into schools and removing barriers between special needs and mainstream education after setting up the programme for 36 children.
He said: “It is this Go-Ride link that enabled us to facilitate the six-week coaching sessions which is fantastic.
“It was a result of me being aware that the school had facilities we could use, with the added benefit of promoting the school in the community.
“Some of the children can already ride, others are just getting used to it. It’s a sort of physiotherapy in some cases with very young children and different levels of need.
“For the school it is about removing barriers between special needs and mainstream schools and sport and cycling.
“People assume you need different skills to teach children with special needs, but we have beginners of all ages, even in their seventies, and in fact it is exactly the same.
“It is simply about coordination, confidence and a basic ability, but it can make such a difference to children and their learning needs.
“We are getting a lot of positive feedback and the buzz this creates for the children is amazing. They are so excited for the sessions and everything they do is celebrated, they really come away with a lot in many ways.”
David, who has been cycling for most of his life, said they hope pupils at the Ridgeway classes will go on to join the weekend Peddlamanics club and keep cycling in a fully inclusive RLSCC.
He said: “I am really proud of what we have achieved so far as a club and as coaches.
“For a group that started as enthusiastic riders, we have grown hugely. It is about providing something that people won’t necessarily get the chance to do elsewhere.”
Coaching is only one aspect of the club which offers social rides for all ages and abilities through its links with The Bike Yard in Clarendon Street.
Visit their website to get involved or join the club.