Aboyne Academy cyclists win Big Pedal competition

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Every day for the last three weeks, more and more pupils, parents, staff and supporters made the decision to change their habits and brave the early morning frosts to travel to Aboyne Academy by bike, writes Dermid Arthur, principal teacher of physical education.

As a result, the school won the 2012 ‘Big Pedal, the UK-wide inter-school cycling competition organised by Sustrans. More than 100 secondary schools throughout the UK took part, so this was a fantastic achievement.

The Big Pedal started on Monday, March 5, and a large number of pupils and staff took up the challenge and cycled to school. Each day thereafter, as the school community became more and more involved in the national competition, the numbers steadily increased. When the total number of cyclists were entered in to the Big Pedal website, which calculated each school’s time to complete each daily stage based on the school roll and number of participants, Aboyne Academy came in 12th place on day one. However there were still 14 days to go.

Many schools throughout the UK had taken part in the Big Pedal before, but this was the first time for Aboyne Academy and it didn’t take long for the daily results to be spread by text, e-mail, Facebook and word of mouth.

The buzz and enthusiasm for cycling became infectious and more and more bikes filled the bike racks round the school each day as they moved up the daily stage results.

The whole school community got involved. Two members of the senior management team cycled in from their homes, over 30 miles away.

The rector, Mr Jowett, cycled in from his home the other side of Alford across the “Col de Tough and the Col de Crossroads.”

One former pupil, who now works as a cleaner, started to make the journey from Ballater each day. Unicycles were even used by pupils to travel from Dinnet.

Many parents and teachers got involved and made supporting journeys to school. Very many pupils cycled long distances to get to school and displayed great character and planning to make it to school on time each day.

Cycling is becoming very popular and the many excellent cycle paths such as the Tarland Way, The Deeside Way and the Finzean cycle path were all well used during the three-week competition.

As the fine weather continued, even more people got involved and the bike racks were full and the school garage was bulging with bikes each day.

A number of puncture repairs and mechanical repairs had to be made each day to keep everyone on the move, as more and more bikes appeared in school.

More and more people got in to the habit of refreshing the Big Pedal website at around 3pm each day, to be the first to see the daily stage results and the school’s overall position.

After a number of back-to-back stage wins, Aboyne pulled in to the lead and managed to pull away from the other schools during the last week.

Having won The Big Pedal, a number of pupils are planning to continue to cycle to school and many pupils are getting involved in the development and fundraising for the new cycle facilities planned for the Bellwood in Aboyne.

The school now has a small fleet of mountain bikes thanks to support from BP and hopes to obtain more bikes so they can offer cycling as part of the curriculum.