WHEN a youth cycling club started eight years ago, it had about 10 members, only for numbers to dwindle to just one or two the year after.

But now Bellahouston Park-based Glasgow Riderz has more than 100 children on its books and a waiting list to join.

Lead coach Edd Shackley has been with the club, which was set up by Scottish Cycling, since the beginning.

He said: "The club was originally set up to provide some focus for youth development.

"One aim was to get them out on bikes, teaching core skills, getting them to do something active and enjoyable and, we hoped, enjoy lifelong cycling.

"But we also wanted to provide a stepping stone for those who wanted to do it competitively, to give them the coaching and a helping hand into racing."

The Riderz offer coaching in road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross and mountain biking for children from five to 16. They regularly have about 70 youngsters turning up for sessions, which are run in Bellahouston Park and Pollok Country Park in the summer.

All the coaches are qualified to Level 2 standard across the disciplines and they have dedicated coaches in track, road and mountain cycling and the club has recently been named a 'Go-Ride' Club by British Cycling – which verifies that it is run properly.

The club saw a big boost this year with more youngsters taking up the sport after watching big events on television, such as the Tour de France – won by British star Bradley Wiggins – and the Olympics, where Wiggins, along with Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton also excelled.

And it was recently announced by the Scottish Government that almost £4million is being spent to improve cycling routes and provide better bike access to train stations.

It is hoped the money, which will enhance cycling infrastructure over the next two years, will encourage tourists, commuters and schoolchildren to cycle more.

But Mr Shackley says the club is about getting youngsters to stick at the sport, as well as attracting them to it in the first place.

He said: "The benefits are that they will, we hope, carry on in an activity beyond school age. We are setting them up to see that sport, in our case cycling, is fun.

"It is something very easy for them to carry on after they leave the club, even if they are not racing, but enjoying recreational cycling."

The Riderz also take advantage of the new Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in Glasgow's East End, with children using the track for sessions a few times a week.

Mr Shackley, 45, from Milngavie, said: "The velodrome is a massive change for cycling in Scotland,

"We used to have youngsters who would travel to Manchester if they got offered two hours of track time at 8am. They would go down the night before and stay in a hotel just to get those hours of track time.

"Now, it is a huge difference for the kids in Glasgow and a huge difference for cycling in Scotland that there is such a facility on our doorstep.

"It is going to make a big step up in the performance, certainly from a competitive point of view, of cycling in Scotland."

As well as encouraging youngsters to get on their bikes, the club has some rising stars coming through their ranks.

Ellie Park, 12, is the Scottish Under-12 road and track champion and has just been brought into the Scottish Mountain biking team for next year.

Rhys Donnelly, 15, was selected to race for Scotland at the UK School games – an event for under-16s from different regions, held in London last May. It included a race on the then newly opened Olympic Velodrome.

Rhys, from the West End, said: "The atmosphere was amazing. We were the last people to ride it before the Olympics."

He has also competed internationally in Spain and Ireland at various road races and regularly races at the top level of UK youth cycling as part of the National Under-16 Series.

The teenager, who is the club's oldest racing member, hopes his success will inspire the younger cyclists.

He added: "It would be really got to see a lot more coming through because we have got so many young kids."

matty.sutton@ eveningtimes.co.uk

The club meets every Sunday at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome for track training.

Summer sessions in Bellahouston Park resume about Easter, but the date is yet to be confirmed.

For more information about the Glasgow Riderz see the website: www.glasgowriderz.co.uk/

We are setting them up to see that sport – in our case cycling – is fun