Photo by Leigh Hicks
This week I went for a Track Taster Session at the Olympic Velodrome at Lee Valley in London – a present from my lovely wife Leigh. Track cycling involves riding a fixed gear bike, and this was my first time – no coasting, no brakes and a high gear. To slow you change your pedalling accordingly, and try to kick back, upon which you can really feel the bike kicking back against you.
When we arrived, the camber of the track at the highest points was rather scary. I couldn’t see how it could be done without slipping off. The tutor was great though and once over the initial slow laps, I was more confident. Riding the sprinters line was actually really exciting – as long as you kept the pace up. Towards the end of the hour session my legs were starting to hurt, and the advice was to stay off the top line once you felt tired – otherwise you would slip.
It was really, really fun. Once you trained yourself to not worry about anyone sudden braking (because they couldn’t) it was exhilarating. While I’m not going to do the next 3 courses to become accredited (that’s if you want to race Track) I would definitely do it again.
If you’re planning on doing the taster session, I would really recommend hiring shoes, or if you use Look Keo cleats, bringing your own. I plumped for using trainers with toeclips and straps and it was a bloody nightmare. Not only very uncomfortable, but squeaky too, and my left foot kept trying to come out. At one point it did, and I had no choice but to let the toeclip scrape along the track floor until I could finish the lap. I wish they’d said it was so much harder work than cleats.
Trying fixed didn’t make me want to add a fixie to my current stable of bikes. It’s not something I would ride around town, but I would ride it again in a velodrome.