It's time for a revolution

WHEEL GYMNASTICS: IT'S not everyday that you meet someone who enjoys rolling around in a giant hamster wheel.And it's even less often that you meet a whole group of people who enjoy rolling around in giant hamster wheels.

IT'S not everyday that you meet someone who enjoys rolling around in a giant hamster wheel.

And it's even less often that you meet a whole group of people who enjoy rolling around in giant hamster wheels.

But at the Torwood Wheelers club in Ipswich, they do just that.

They are, in fact, the only club in the country who practise the bizarre sport of wheel gymnastics (otherwise known as Rhoenrad), a sport which combines conventional gymnastics with…well, rolling around in giant hamster wheels.

John Colles is the founder of the Torwood Wheelers and is also the only Rhoenrad instructor in the entire country.

"It's quite fun, doing something that is so unusual and that most people have never heard of. But it is quite tough over here because we have nothing else to compare ourselves to."

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Last week the Wheelers held a Rhoenrad course at Rendlesham Sports Centre in order to spark some local

interest in the sport, and they had a very good response.

"It went really well," said John. "We had three German instructors – one of whom now lives in England – as well as myself and although it was tiring I think it was a real success."

On the continent, Rhoenrad is very popular, especially in Germany where it originated. Otto Feick invented the special wheel (the 'Rhoenrad' itself) around 80 years ago and it was patented in 1925.

It basically consists of two equal-sized synthetic-covered tubular steel rims,

connected by six tubular steel rungs. Two of the rungs have wooden boards attached to then, two have handles on them, and two are plain bars. There is also a handle on each of the rims.

There is a whole range of moves that can be carried out using this apparatus, including simply rolling along, spinning the wheel on one rim like a coin, or even moving around inside the wheel while it's in motion.

"It really is jolly good fun," said John. "It's an exhilarating sport but it's also a lot more sedate and less tough on the body than ordinary gymnastics so there's really no upper age limit. And you don't have to be particularly fit – anyone can have a go."

John should know, having been a gymnastics instructor in Suffolk for many years before setting up the Wheelers club a year and a half ago.

"I first saw the wheel when I was over in Europe in 1964 with the South of England display team. Then while I was running a gym club over here we split the group into two and I wanted to get the older group doing something a bit different so I decided to get in some wheels."

However, it wasn't as easy as it sounds. With the sport being virtually unheard of in this country John had to resort to the Internet to try and get hold of some proper Rhoenrad equipment. But they have since had a lottery grant to help them out and the club is now going from strength to strength.

So if you fancy trying your luck at a very different form of gymnastics, the Torwood Wheelers could be right up your street. And you never know, you could be looking at the next Olympic sport – remember, you heard it here first!

The Torwood currently have some vacancies for the next term, which begins in September. They meet on Friday nights at Thurleston High School during the term, and for more information, please contact John on 01394 460233 or email

n If you would like your sport to be featured in Life after Football, please ring Nicola Markwell on 01473 282342 or email Nicola.

n Next week: Living life the American way as Life after Football gets to grips with racquetball.

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