Track riding 101

Discussion in 'Road Cycling' started by Andrew Price, Dec 21, 2003.

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  1. Andrew Price

    Andrew Price Guest

    One of the good things I like about the diversity of my cycling club is the ability it offers to
    experience different forms of cycling, where that may not happen just left to your own devices.

    Last week I had my first session on a banked velodrome where the half dozen or so regular trackies
    in our club kindly lent their bikes and their time to let us mere road riders after swapping peddles
    and adjusting seat heights get a feel of the track - and it was a blast!

    First impressions -

    1. Remarkable stability - what was surprising was that at the warm up pace we were doing was that
    the bike stays pretty much upright in the vertical plane - I would have thought when cruising
    you would be leaning in so as to be more perpendicular to the track slope but not so, even when
    on the steeper banks. It was an old open concrete track still in good condition and very grippy
    - the bike felt very stable even when cruising right up on the bank. That straight up and down
    look may change slightly at speed.

    2. Yes you must use a track bike - because the bike stays vertical the probability of digging the
    peddle into the uphill bank on an ordinary road bike must be very high - one of our "coaches"
    told me it helps to only ever use a track bike in a velodrome, which reinforces that other
    absolute - remember to keep peddling !

    3. Always cranking - the trackies all had tales of someone going over the
    h/bars when they forgot to keep pedalling - especially in a race. I found the most dangerous time
    was just after finishing an effort - after a sprint on the road its very natural to just
    freewheel a moment or two to get you breath back - on the track that's an absolute no! - the
    smack this gives you in the back of the calves is a powerful reminder of where you are and what
    you are doing.

    4. Becomes fun, quickly - after your first few laps slowly around the bottom line they encouraged
    us to sprint a bit down the sides and use the banks at each end of the track to wash off speed -
    you soon get this rhythm going of diving down the end of the bank onto a straight with a wicked
    grin on your face.

    5. Much more direct - the lack of brakes, gears, freewheels, front and rear ders, lights, pumps et
    al makes for a very light bike with extraordinary feel - this is the place to learn how to
    trackstand - useful on the road when waiting at red lights. Its a bicycle without any of the
    optional extras, which after you get used to it is rather direct and interesting.

    6. Sociable - because you are confined to a small area when riding or waiting to you socialise
    more. Lots of the trackies said in particular they enjoyed it during winter when road riding
    became sometimes difficult. You also get to see a whole race as a spectator rather than a
    fraction of a stage.

    7. Solid - because 1 gear has to do everything from starting to maximum cadence and you are
    constantly using the banks to adjust speed and you seem to use a lot more energy than the same
    distance on the road. I think most of the bikes we used had an 88 inch gear (felt like about a
    53x15 or 16 on my road bike - reasonable effort required) - after half a dozen quickish laps I
    was looking for a rest.

    8. Starting and stopping - after the luxury of a first held/pushed start our mentors showed us the
    counter intuitive step of starting and stopping from the high side of the bank. Its a question
    of using the gradient on the track to start or stop the momentum - that hand rail at the top of
    the track becomes a good friend.

    9. Different spatial relationships - it took a lot of laps but eventually I got used to the notion
    of the rider alongside me having their axles higher than my shoulders. I suspect we all need a
    lot more time getting used to the feel of where riders are and the etiquette of it all - on your
    first session its useful just getting some basics right - there is much to learn.

    10. Listen to those that have been there - many lessons like always keep at least one hand on the
    bars as a novice (its not hard to get the front wheel turning under you at very low speeds).

    11. Shorter, sharper sessions - the sessions seemed to be of short duration and much higher
    intensity than a road ride - this is where those that can't climb but can sprint get some of
    their own back - constant coming onto and going off the track involved so etiquette of so doing
    becomes important.

    Early days yet but am looking forward to the second session.

    best Andrew

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