Today I bit the bullet and actually went back to the velodrome. I knew it would be hard, I knew I would be out of practice (and confidence!) but I hoped that a few rotations of the boards and I would be just fine.
I took advantage of my Friday off and went down to the lunchtime roll. Its not a session I have ever been to before, so I didn’t know how busy it would be. Being a working day (and Invercargill!) I knew it wouldn’t be packed out so it would be just fine.
It has been some considerable time since I last went to the velodrome (possibly up to a year) and the last visit involved a spill, so this was a confidence (re)gaining session for me. It must have been a while, the track bike’s tyres were down to 20PSI! It’s been that long, I almost felt like a beginner again, so I just might include some velodrome-riding beginners tips!
My tyres are Michelin Pro race 3, road racing tyres (and wheels). Many say they are too smooth. But, I have always sworn by them, as they are made of a compound rubber that sticks best when warm. So, with that in mind (I think that cold tyres might have been the cause of my last spill) I made sure that I did a good long warm up on the blue boards first.
I couldn’t find my arm warmers but I would have preferred to wear them, its best to have some cloth protection, as wood burns (and splinters) when you fall on it!
I take my wrist watch and engagement ring off too, for safety reasons.
My track bike was fitted for me, and the seat always looks REAL HIGH! Its a good drop handle tuck position for me which I don’t mind, but is a little more severe than some like it. I think its all those years of riding a time trial bike.
I remember the first time I got on the track, I just kind of leapt on and went. Today I felt a lot more of what it must be like for a track newbie. When I felt I had sufficiently warmed up, I felt the gyroscopic effect force me up onto the boards on the bend. This is where the track is steepest, and if you haven’t been into a velodrome before it actually looks terrifying, standing next to it! Speed, combined with force makes it reasonably easy to ride, speed being the key. You have to be travelling at a very decent pace to make it safe to ride on the sloping track.
The bends were just fine, but at first I felt all ‘sidey fernenced’ as my mum would have called it, on the ‘straights’. This is because they too are on a slight slope, just not to as much of a degree as the banking on the two bends. I had to ride round on the black line (racing line, shortest route) for quite a wee while before I felt OK again on the whole track. It didn’t take very long before the whole thing felt normal.
There was a pace line rotating, just a bit faster than me. They all looked well disciplined and nothing to worry about. Then there was a much slower rider who I kept catching up with. Lets see, that means passing. I rode behind him for a while whilst I reminded myself how this should work.
There is no use hesitating on a velodrome. As soon as you either take the power off, or hesitate, that is all it takes for you to come crashing down off the boards. So, I got my pace back up again. I needed to be going significantly faster to safely get round and past, as any higher line is steeper and further.
I caught him just before the bend. A tiny hesitation on my part meant that I was forced to pass, as that was the only safe line. The pass was a little close to be honest, and I apologised, but lesson learned. Do things with conviction, to stay safe.
Next time round, I knew that I would have to pass him. The pass move was to start on the straight and would take me round the banking also. I aimed nice and high, above the blue line which would be in the middle of the banking. I stuck the power on and went for it. All was well.
There is no free wheeling on a fixed wheel track bike. To slow down, you need to put downwards pressure on the upcoming pedal at the end of the pedal rotation. Try to stop pedalling and you will only hurt yourself!
Relaxation is key. There is no way I could have full control of that bike if I was tense. relaxation is also key to being able to think clearly to keep myself (and everyone else) safe from harm.
But, I had forgotten exactly what a high constant pace was needed to continually ride up on the boards. Wow, it isn’t half a workout!!
And, I also had forgotten how much i actually enjoyed it too!