It's a rainy morning outside Waitakere's Trusts Arena as dozens of preschoolers are performing one of life's first rites of passage: learning to ride a bike.
Each week, Cycle West runs a kids' club with colourful cones set up to mimic a footpath inside the stadium. The aim is to teach the children perception and bike skills in a safe environment. Positioned around the track are miniature "stop" and "give way" signs, plus traffic lights.
"I'd rather my son learn lessons on the road to do with perception and control on a bike, rather than behind the wheel of his first car," says organiser Rochelle Young, as dozens of children race around the track in a game of cops and robbers.
"Even though BMX is currently a high-profile sport with the World Championships having just taken place, not a lot have taken up the sport," says Young, who has taught people from age 2 to 92 the art of riding a bike.
"We felt the skill level of children in cycling is low, so we designed this programme as a stepping stone to progress children into BMX, mountain or road cycling later on in life," says Young.
The room is set out with bikes along two walls - from plastic motorbikes to balance bikes to Dora the Explorer pedal bikes.
Unlike other preschool sporting classes with unqualified coaches, the tutors at these sessions are all accredited Bike NZ coaches and are also mechanically minded so can fix a few bikes on the day as well.
Young says the bikes need to be well maintained to be safe, but not to worry too much if you can't afford the best bike in the shop.
"Bike riding is a great leveller," says Young. "It doesn't matter if you're sporty or not, anyone can ride a bike and that's what I enjoy. We teach kids from all walks of life and cultures and see them all enjoying themselves. They love it."
Young says there are always a few crashes and scrapes are just a part of the process of learning to ride a bike.
"Make sure the tyres are pumped up, the brakes work and the chain is well lubricated - these are the keys to keeping your children safe," says Young. "If you're not sure, take it into your local bike shop to check, especially if it's a bike you had to put together yourself."
"As parents, we often underestimate our children's ability," says Young, who advises to be guided by your child on whether they're ready for training wheels to be taken off.
She adds that you just need to make sure that both feet can touch the ground before they are removed.
"Don't buy a bike that's too big," warns Young. "Kids have built-in self-preservation so it will put them off. You want them to be confident and on the right equipment, while making sure they use both front and rear brakes."
Young also puts together fun bike days such as the Halloween dress-up, which started at Corban Estate and ran along the Twin Streams bike path, with plenty of tricks and treats along the way.
She also organises a mountain-biking event at the end of November, a Christmas picnic ride, the West Bike Fest and an Easter egg hunt and ride.
"It's surprising how many people don't know about things in their local environment, such as the Maori medicinal garden in Henderson," says Young. "On a bike, rather than in a car, you'll get to learn about these things. It's amazing what you see when riding a bike."
Bike the bridge - Sunday November 10
Sign up the preschoolers for the Lollipops Educare Toddler fun ride on a super little circuit around North Harbour Stadium oval. Perfect for trikes, balance bikes and three-wheelers (from 9.30am. Gold coin donation, no prebooking required).
Or the next generation of cyclists can join the Travelwise Stadium Challenge for primary school-age kids - an event, not a race (from 9.30am; entry $10, pre-booking required).
Big people (over intermediate age) can join the 20km ride over the bridge (starts around 6.45am) or more experienced riders are tackling 115km or 50km (from 6am); $65 (students $45).
There are still places left but hurry to secure your spot to ride the Auckland Harbour Bridge.
Cycle West Kids Club
West Wave Recreation Centre, Monday and Wednesday., Trusts Arena, 65 Central Park Drive, Henderson.
For more information, bookings or if you'd like to donate bikes, contact Rochelle Young on (09) 966 3103 or 021 687 682. Cost $3.50 a session. Bring your child, bike and helmet; some equipment is provided.
Adult beginner riding
Auckland Transport has adult evening beginner learn-to-ride sessions next week at Manurewa (Monday, November 4), Glenfield (Wednesday, November 6) or Silverdale (Tuesday, November 12) with more suburbs (until December 5).
Join a guided bike ride around Weymouth (tomorrow 9-11am). Register online or phone (09) 355 3553. There are bike maintenance and commuter coaching classes through November and December. Or check out the Great Manukau Cycle Carnival (November 30). aucklandtransport.govt.nz (under Moving Around).