this is originally published at Tside.co.uk and was written for this page
HOW many of us vowed to get fit as one of our New Year’s resolutions. And how many of us are still glued to the sofa promising ourselves we’ll do some exercise next week, or even next month?
Well, instead of punishing your body with gruelling gym sessions why not try cycling?
And before you complain that we cash-strapped students can’t afford new bikes let me point out that I know where you can get a bike for free.
The Middlesbrough Cycle Centre, located at Middlesbrough Bus Station, has lots of old bikes. Anyone wanting to get their hands on one just needs to repair one, pass a test, and then they are free to ride off into the sunset.
Dan Gill, community cycling officer, said: “Everyone can take part in this project, we welcome bikers of different age and ability groups.
“Give us a ring and we´ll arrange the times you could join the workshops,” he added.
As a total cycling addict I decided to sign up for this project.
Replacing a bike chain is about the level of my technical ability, which meant the workshops were a challenge.
But the attendants were really helpful, which meant repairing the bikes turned out to be fun.
Student Jane Rousova is one of those taking part. The 24-year-old said: “It is a nice way to get my bike. I really enjoyed the sessions and it is good to learn how to repair a bike, because you never know what can happen on your trip.”
The friendly staff teach particpants bike repair, including how to change a flat tyre (always a useful skill, as I learned this summer), how to check the brakes, the gears and any other bits that might go wrong.
When my bike was finished it was time to take it – and me – for a test run.
Dan took a group of us to an open space where he put us through our paces, testing our road safety sense.
We were tested on signaling, turning, and even an emergency stop.
Dan said: “Usually people pass the test with no problems, especially for drivers it’s not tricky, but we had some people who needed more hours to learn how to behave on the road.”
The test is intended to ensure that those taking part in the scheme are able to behave safely on the road, not endangering themselves or others.
As I’m a driver and have been a cyclist ever since I can remember, the test was fairly easy for me.
Totally frozen (well it was November) we were given the thumbs up from Dan, and as well as each receiving a bike we also received a certificate.
I now have my lovely “blue baby” at home and we are looking forward to better weather so we can get out more often.
Anyone interested in taking part in the scheme can call the Middlesbrough Cycle Centre, or visit them in the Bus Station. Phone 01642 219620 or email firstname.lastname@example.org