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"When I show up at the kindies, it’s a bit like Father Christmas turning up with children shouting, 'I learned to ride in lockdown! I can do it by myself!'
"That’s my mission at Kids Bike Taupō – to get kids excited to be on bikes, encourage them to believe in themselves, and support their families along the way."
The self-proclaimed “crazy bike lady” is Cath Oldfield, founder of Kids Bike Taupō a free programme dedicated to getting children out on bikes. Usually, Cath and her mega-van of 30 bikes are parked at the playcentres or headed to Taupō's bike parks for her free bike sessions.
“We get kids out on bikes and get them riding early. We teach them to play and have fun on bikes while learning the necessary skills. We also support families by maintaining the bikes, answering any questions, or helping them purchase a bike of their own.”
Since 2012, Cath Oldfield taught over 2000 children to ride in early childhood and afterschool bike sessions.
Kids Bike Taupō is about making sure bikes are available and accessible for everyone in our community. We provide support to make sure no one gets left behind.Cath
Her work cannot go unnoticed with families riding along the Great Lake Pathway, children braving the dirt jumps at Taupō Bike Park, and young riders spending hours at Craters Mountain Bike Park. Now, Cath’s sharing the impactful benefits of getting kids on two wheels as young as possible and the best way for families to ride together in the region.
"A kid asked me the other day, 'when did you learn to ride a bike?'"
And I said, 'I can’t remember.” It was just...what we did."
Cath does recall the solid steel handlebars on her grandfather’s bike. Sitting on those bars, she and her grandfather would ride to the shops together. Biking was how she got to school, how she worked as a postie for 3 to 4 hours every day, and how she spent time with her own children.
As a family, that was how we got places and how the kids used up their energy. We’d bike down the river, go for a swim, and get fish n’ chips. It was just a good way of keeping them all entertained and tired.Cath
Even before Kids Bike Taupō, neighborhood children congregated at Cath’s home. On their driveway, a gaggle of children waited for her partner, Phil, to fix their bikes, or to ride motorbikes with their son, Joe Simpson (Crankworx athlete and Taupō Bike Park builder).
But in the past 20 years or so, Cath has seen this shift. "Now you find parents who can’t ride a bike, there’s a bit of a gap there. That’s what we (at Kids Bike Taupō) are trying to fill up."
At an afterschool program in 2012, Cath instructed 10 to 14-year-olds on road safety. Surprised, Cath watched older kids struggling to use their brakes, let alone accomplish a one-handed turn signal. So, Cath borrowed a van full of bikes and headed into the schools for freeride bike sessions.
With her background in early childhood education, Cath took it one step further.
“We need to be in early childhood centers, right at the start! By teaching 4-year-olds to ride bikes, they’ve had 5 years of regular practice before taking them on the road for Road Safety Training. We needed to talk to the adults, the kindie teachers, and parents about how to help them get there.”
Kids Bike Taupō grew “organically” out of the realization that local families and children couldn’t ride a bike anymore. Ten years later, with the “organic beast” that Cath calls Kids Bike Taupō, she reckons she’s “almost run herself out of a job!”
Now, most of the local kindies and playcentres have:
From this local success, Cath aspires to take the programme to all early childhood centres.
Cath’s work doesn’t stop at the centres. Now, kids excited to level up their riding skills and families eager to learn more, flock to Cath’s afterschool sessions at Craters MTB Park, Taupō Bike Park, and the Crown Park BMX.
"It's for everyone. Some people bring their own bikes or hang out to be with their friends. It's free and fun. They’ll turn up because they know that I’m there to help."
The ultimate motivator, Cath doesn’t accept the dreaded “I can’t do it.” She insists, “You can do it! You just need a little bit of practice.
"I tell the kids to 'Be brave. Be brave just for a minute' and get on that bike."
For Cath, it's not just learning to ride a bike.
"It’s a skill for life. It gives these young kids confidence. And this mindset will carry them through so many things throughout their lives."
The belief that intelligence and talent are developed through obstacles over time is called the growth mindset. Studies have found that it helps students increase their chances to overcome adversity and reach long-term goals, especially in academia. In early childhood settings, over 58% of teachers find it essential to foster this mindset.
Cath can’t help but see this phenomenon happen daily at her bike sessions.
At BMX, there are Levels 1-5 which get harder and more difficult up the track. And one boy finally did the big ramp on Level 5, went back to school, and told his teacher, “I did Level 5 at BMX. I’m going to do level 5 in my spelling!”Cath
It’s the process of learning to ride, the experience of riding the bike by themselves, and the achievement of new skills on their bike.
"Once they learn that confidence, they know they can do anything with just a bit of practice."
Cath moved to Taupō 13 years ago, seeking more readily available mountain bike tracks to explore. But she’s come to quickly realize that the best thing about the region isn’t just the biking.
"An ex-postie (like myself) can only ride for 2-4 hours before they’re done for the day. But luckily there’s lots of choice, and we’re well-placed in Taupō.
"For visitors, you can spend a couple of days near Taupō town and then ride in Turangi or Mangakino, all within driving distance! You can go ride Craters MTB Park or the Great Lake Trails, but after there are so many other things you can do:
"There’s heaps of other stuff to do, go-karts at the motor park, we’ve got bowling now. So, while people may come here to ride, they can do other family stuff as well!
Cath is about getting kids on bikes in the Taupō region. Because of Cath, part of growing up in Taupō is getting outside and adventuring on a bike again. With the endless opportunity in the region to enjoy a ride, this is the best spot for kids and their families.
Children on bikes are relaxed. They’ll often sing and go into their happy place. The same thing happens with adults, too - Cath
Check out her recommended family-friendly rides and her top tips for families riding in the Taupō region!
5 must-do bike trails with epic suspension bridges in the central North Island.