Getting On Track – Just Do It!

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I’m sorry to gloat, but Melbourne is the most amazing cycling city in the world.  Where else can you choose between 4-5 different high caliber bike races per week as well as see (or participate in) world class track racing in a stadium sized velodrome on a Wed evening.  That’s where we were last night and I hope you were too – Revolution 4 .  Action packed race after race with a meat pie in one hand and a beer in the other chatting cycling with everyone around you.  Some fantastic pics here .

I’ve done a bit of work on the track but I’m in no way qualified to be giving any advanced tips on track racing.  But what I can tell you is that if you’re a cyclist and haven’t given the track a go, you really should try.  It will complete you as a bike rider.  You know that excitement and adrenaline rush you get in the final couple laps in a crit or road race?  Track racing is 100% that without the foreplay.  It’ll increase your leg speed, your tactical skills, your sprinting, your technique and your bike handling skills.  There’s good reason why Aussies are such great bike riders – they all start out on the track.

Don’t have a track bike?  Here in Melbourne (at DISC ) you can hire an excellent Hillbrick track bike in a variety of sizes for $10.  DISC also does many "learn to ride on the track" clinics.  Many other velodromes and track clubs in the world have the same types of programs to get you started.  It’s a bit daunting at first – I barely had the balls to go above the blue line on the embankment my first time.  A few laps and you’ll become more comfortable and you’ll be flyin’!   Getting used to a fixed gear bike takes a bit of getting used to, but as long as you keep pedaling you’ll be fine.  If you try to stop pedaling, the bike will give you a good kick as a reminder, but nothing that’ll make you crash.

As far as etiquette goes with other people on the track, the most important thing to remember is "inside suicide ".  That means that you NEVER pass someone on the inside of the track (their left hand side).   Always look over your right shoulder before swinging up the track because others will be following this same rule.

Once you’re comfortable with the bike on the track there is Tues and Thurs night racing at DISC.  They hold a scratch race, points race and derny race. There are basically 2 types of events – endurance events and sprint events.  All three of the races just mentioned are classified as endurance events.  Click here for a good explanation on the different types of track events. Just enter B or C grade to get the feel for things and hang out somewhere in the middle of the pack.  No need for glory just yet.  There’s lots of small unwritten rules and etiquette that you need to obey on the track to keep everyone safe.  As you put the time in you’ll quickly learn these rules.  No matter how strong you are, don’t even attempt to slide into A-grade racing until you’ve done your apprenticeship in B grade for quite a few races.

If you’ve never raced on the track before, you’ll probably be surprised at the different type of fitness that is required versus racing on the road.  If you’re like me you’ll have some 14yr old come flying by you with his legs spinning at 200rpm.  Track is more about leg speed and has much less to do with strength.  I always find it amazing how some kick-ass trackie can get eaten up in a crit or road race and vice versa.  You can only be really good at one or the other at a given time (really good is all relative).  There’s an old saying "too much track, you loose your strength, too much road, you loose your speed ".  So true.  See the Training Triangles post for more on this concept.

I hope that seeing any of the Revolution events has inspired you to give it a go on the track.

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