Learning to ride the Velodrome – by Neil

Since the London Olympics in 2012, I’ve been keen to ride the velodrome.  A month back David Carter (aka Coach DC) messaged me with a date to do our Level One accreditation.

It was an early start to arrive at Stratford for the eight o’clock session but when we arrived my anticipation was palpable.  It felt strange changing into my Summer shorts and jersey having just come in from the cold.  We met our Trainer and headed into the centre of the velodrome to pick up our bikes.  If you are not aware a track bike is a very simple machine, no brakes, no gears, no free hub, meaning no freewheeling.  The word basic does not adequately describe the simplicity of a track bike.

img_1335

Once we had adjusted our saddle heights, we had a quick briefing on the geography of a velodrome track.  The wide blue stripe on the inside is the Cote D’Azur, next line out is the black line followed by the red line and finally the blue line is half way up the track.  Our trainer made us ride around the Cote D’Azur and after a few laps we moved out to the black line, then further out to the red line and lastly the blue line.  It was noticeable how much more of power output you need to enable you to ride at the blue line and above.

One common misconception about the steepness of the banking is that it continues to steepen the higher up the track you ride but it is actually the same angle from the red line upwards.  To ride past the red line you do have to pedal harder to stay at the top but this is not because the bank is steeper but because it is longer at this point.  You are traveling further in distance than you would if you were circulating lower down.

img_1339

Once we had ridden ten laps or so we were allowed a 25 minute free ride.  Coach DC was in the lead with me following, within fifteen minutes my legs were screaming.  There is absolutely nowhere to hide on the track, nowhere to recover and no freewheeling.

Thinking that standing up and sprinting for a bit may save my legs from the torture I was putting them through I was out of the saddle and went for it.  All was well until I sat back down again and stopped pedalling, never stop peddalling.  The chirp of the rear tyre locking up and the crank that keeps turning regardless had me nearly thrown over the handlebars.  This was an abrupt wake-up call that this is a fixed gear track bike.  Taking in what our trainer had advised us I dropped down to the black line, which is 17 metres shorter than the red line and blissfully recovered, all the while keeping up with David who was riding the red line further up.

img_1342

As our session came to an end and we returned our bikes the only thought on my mind was booking level 2 and which track bike should I buy?

Needless to say, Level 2 is now booked, and the search is on for a suitable bike.

Some thoughts about riding the track:-

  • Although it’s a bit of a trip, I think that an hour on the track is probably worth at least two hours on the road.
  • It never rains in the Velodrome
  • It never rains in the Velodrome
  • It never rains in the Velodrome
  • Winter training will be much more fun in the warm and once I have my level 4 accreditation I can attend open sessions and skills sessions and the act of learning new skills certainly distracts from the effort that has to be put in.

I said I would never race a push bike but and there is a but – it’s fast and so much fun sweeping down the banking and feeling the g-force when you hit the next corner that I am so very tempted to try it.

If you haven’t tried it, give Lee Valley Velodrome a call and book your Level 1 session, it’s the most fun you can have on a rainy Wednesday morning in November.