With the amount of focus around cycling during the Olympics and the explosive form of the track riders especially, I suspect that there will be many people who will want to get involved in the excitement at the Velodrome. But when it comes to track cycling where do you start? And what type of equipment do you need?
Firstly bike handling skills are good to have. You don’t need to necessarily be a road cyclist but being comfortable on the bike and having the knowledge of how they work is advisable. Sir Chris Hoy came from BMX to be a track cyclist and female Olympic BMX Cyclist S. Reade moves between track and BMX.
In order to ride on the track you also have to have a good degree of fitness. With track cycling you need to always be pedalling as track bikes have a fixed hub rather than a freehub, meaning you cannot freewheel. They also don’t have brakes and stopping the bike is controlled by your legs, so a good rider will require strength and anaerobic fitness to stay upright. It may be worth looking into spinning classes to build up the leg muscles and get used to constantly moving.
Get Yourself onto a Track
If you are comfortable on a bike you first need to contact your local track or Velodrome for a taster session. There are only five indoor Velodromes in the UK, however countless outdoor venues. Taster sessions won’t be too expensive and will give you a great idea of what is expected. Tracks will generally have all the items you need to hire and use, please keep in mind that you must wear a helmet at the track events and will not be able to ride without it.
Track cycling does involve an element of risk as the equipment can take getting used to. There are steep embankments which you must be able to ride confidently up and down, and you often have to ride in a group or with another rider close to you. Because of this you must get a Track Accreditation before you are able to participate in training sessions and racing. This is required for all UK wooden tracks (if not in the UK please check your local cycling club for more details).
The accreditation is generally over a minimum of four sessions but can take longer depending on how well you complete the tasks required. The coach at your local track will be able to guide you through what skills you will need to obtain to get to a specific level. This certificate will ensure that you have the ability to ride safely around the track without putting others at risk around you.
Track Cycling Gear
Once you have passed the relevant sessions you are now ready to join training sessions and look into racing. At this time you may want to consider looking into purchasing your own equipment. Track bikes can be expensive but you can generally buy a reasonably priced one for starting out. Pedals aren’t too expensive either, with Look pedals generally fitting any road cycling shoe will be perfect. Along with the pedal and shoe combination, pedal straps are another item that you will need and are around £30 for a good quality leather pair.
When involved in competitions at a higher level many track cyclists use aerodynamic helmets. These are generally used only in races though and a standard, lightweight helmet will do when training. Track skinsuits are another item used in competitions, but again with training sessions Lycra padded shorts and jerseys, with a good pair of gloves are enough. If you want to look like a Pro then why not get yourself a pair of Hirzl gloves like worn by Sir Chris Hoy.