Last September I threw myself on a track bike and round (and round) one of the steepest indoor tracks in the Netherlands for the first time. And I loved it! There was no going back. The idea of riding a bike that has no brakes at speed still unsettles me a little today (mainly at a fear of not unclipping as I come to a halt and making a fool of myself!), but the more I do it, the more addicted I get. When I left Amsterdam earlier this year, I was quite gutted to leave behind a fantastic indoor velodrome and a brilliant team of coaches who not only took an interest in me on the track, but on the road and my cycling club too. I had to right a wrong and immediately got in touch with Reading Velodrome.
Now, Reading is certainly not indoors and it certainly isn’t steep. In fact… it’s concrete, outdoors and really long in comparison! Which of course, if you’re fairly new to cycling or a little nervous about giving it a go – it’s perfect. Unlike an indoor track; outdoor, flatter courses give you the opportunity to really get to know your fixed-speed bike and learn some handling skills, something I’m still not quite as aquatinted with as I would like, especially as I only built my first track bike last week, but it sure is a beauty – do you have bike envy yet?.
Put it this way – there’s a lot less to think about. Getting used to a constant cadence, no brakes, a very steep wooden track, 10 other cyclists around you in the same learning experience and the need to be travelling at 35kmph+ to get round in one piece, all in your first session isn’t the easiest. I’m not saying that indoor track training isn’t a fantastic experience because I loved every moment of it, but it’s definitely more daunting in comparison. And if you’ve ever been to an indoor track event, I’m sure you can understand where I’m coming from.
On arrival to my first session on Thursday, I had already introduced myself to the trainers over email to make sure I’d be welcomed to the sessions (due to an influx of interest post Olympics, their website states they can no longer accept new interest) and that my capabilities were ok. I needn’t have feared. As soon as they knew I’d ridden boards before, they wanted me in with the pro-group. NO WAY! This girl needs to get used to being on the bike again before sitting up on the fence with 15 boys. And I’m not exaggerating. The trainers made it pretty clear from the start that they need more girls (hence there was no problem with me joining an over-subscribed session!).
Of course, training with the boys isn’t an issue, I’ve always been a fan of this in any sport I’ve done; however when it comes to competition…well, basically there isn’t any. Most track races typically have heats… not in the girls track league as there aren’t enough girls. Straight into the finals. And so, besides training with the boys, it turns out that I’ll actually be racing them come the start of the league season in three weeks. The only difference being that I’ll have a ‘pink number’ (yes, my heart sank a little at the sound of those words). So girls, although a little reluctant to do this for obvious reasons (I want to win!) I’m making this a call to give it a go.. at least consider it.
Most UK tracks have hire bikes (but make sure you contact them in advance to reserve one), or if you’re really keen, Dolan frame sets start from £199. And, all tracks run beginner British Cycling accreditation sessions. So why not check out your local track and give it a go?
Reading: Track training sessions run on a Thursday evening, league nights on a Monday.
And if you’re still a little unsure, get yourself down to a local track meet. The Good Friday Meet at Hearne Hill on Friday was absolutely fantastic. Rubbing shoulders (or thighs) with some of the world’s greatest track cyclists including Cycling Short’s contributor Jody Cundy and thigh-tastic Robert Forstemann was a brilliant experience and has certainly got my motivational juices flowing.
See you on the start line!
Riding since Feb 2011 Hayley is a 30 year old female who loves adventures. If she’s not on one of her many bikes or in the water on a bodyboard/surfboard, then Hayley is probably out looking for something new to keep the adrenaline pumping!