Every time I pass the Cheung Tsing Bridge, my eyes are fixed on the BMX park below at Gin Drinkers Bay. I have been riding bicycles on the cycling lanes of Tai Po for many years but had never tackled a BMX track. So I knew it would be great fun to ride a bike up and down the slopes.
Last year I visited the Hong Kong Jockey Club International BMX Park to cover a student BMX competition. It was the first time I had watched BMX riders in action. BMX is not for "speed junkies", especially since riders have to deal with tricky slopes, but that is what makes the sport so exciting.
My chance to ride a BMX finally came when Young Post decided to do the Olympic series. My coach for the day was Davis Yu Kwun-wah from the Hong Kong Cycling Association. As in most cycling sports, protective gear is required. I had to put on knee and elbow pads, gloves and a full-face helmet. Imagine wearing a helmet on a sunny day, with the temperature around 30 degrees Celsius. I was sweating like crazy even before I got on the bike. Also, my vision was limited by the helmet and it affected my balance. I rode in the car park for a few minutes before I moved on to the practice track.
Unlike road bikes, BMX have smaller wheels with only one brake on the back wheel. My coach said it is seldom used. "BMX is all about dashing to the finishing line," he said.
BMX bikers don't pedal much because the bike is low and the pedal will scrape the ground when going up and down the slopes. The force comes from the rider.
Coach Yu told me to lift myself up when going uphill and press down hard on the handle when going downhill to create extra momentum.
I watched the coach do a lap in the practice track, and then it was my turn. I dashed down, got through the first series of slopes, made my first turn and I was at the last series of slopes before the finishing line. It was so much fun! I kept increasing my speed until I ended up collapsing just before the finishing line. I was surprised to find that while I thought I was flying, I wasn't going very fast. I have learned my lesson - you cannot compare the speed of a road bike to BMX. After a couple more laps on the practice track without too much trouble, the coach said I was ready to move to the official track.
No kidding, this is the track where Steven Wong won his BMX gold medal for Hong Kong in the 2009 East Asian Games. I pushed my bike up to a platform to get to the starting line. The slopes at the official track are much steeper than on the practice track. I could feel my adrenaline pumping. I knew I was going to love this.
Coach Yu went around for a lap to show me how it's done and then it was my turn. Off I went down the slope from a 3.5-metre-high platform. The speed was much greater than the practice track, and I couldn't help but press on the brake a little or I would have fallen over again.
I was cautious this time and did not try to speed up whenever I could so I managed to reach the finishing line without any trouble. I safely completed three more laps before calling it a day. It was thirsty work!
Some may think going round and round the same track is boring, but this is not the case. For me, every lap felt different. On reflection, there were ways that I could improve things. But one thing is for sure; I would love to have another go.
BMX in Hong Kong
Hong Kong Jockey Club International BMX Park
Address: 91 Kwai Hei St, Gin Drinkers Bay, Kwai Chung
Telephone: 2419 9613
Po Kong Village Road Park (no lessons)
Address: Po Kong Village Road, Diamond Hill, Wong Tai Sin
Telephone: 2320 6140