Photos: Adam Scott
Depending on your point of view, cycling on the racetrack is either as intoxicating as life on two wheels or terrifying. To get you from the latter camp to the former, we asked Phil Wright, track bike trainer at Herne Hill Velodrome, for some important advice for beginners interested in track cycling.
But before we come to the tips, here's some important information about the Herne Hill Velodrome (HHV). It is a historic, locally popular venue, built in 1891 and host to cycling events at the 1948 Olympic Games – which could possibly be closed. To save one of the oldest cycle paths in the world, the Velodrome hosts the Big Velofete on June 1
Check out the Velodrome this weekend when you're in the area, and if you want to try exploring the route by bike, find the next venue and prepare for Wright Expert Council.
If you are a racing cyclist, do you need a special kit or equipment for the track?
Yes, you need a road bike for the velodrome and no road or hybrid bike. A racing bike has a fixed-gear bike and no brakes – the fixed gear means you have to keep pedaling. You can accelerate and slow down by either using the Velodrome tilt or by varying the pressure on the pedals. If you want to ride your own bike, keep in mind that some indoor velodromes require a minimum crank length and indoor tires. If you do not have a bike, you do not have to worry – there are bicycles available for rent on every velodrome.
Also, cycling gloves – mitts – and a helmet are the additional equipment you need. If you are accustomed to being clipped on the pedals, sign in to the Velodrome, as some rental bicycles use special bracket systems. And if you do not know what I am all about – no problem! Just put on your sneakers and comfortable sportswear.
How is driving on the track different from the road?
It is far more intense. Most roadsters come off the track the first time and say how much more they have. The fixed wheel gives you no rest and the required concentration is greater. But it's also more exciting, the banking business is exciting, it's wonderful to be in formation with others, and once you reach a certain level, the excitement of racing is great.
Is it scary? Should you get used to the higher sections?
Some people are nervous because the fixed wheel is strapped and has no brakes, but they quickly learn that these things combine to make you safer. Fixed Wheel is a much more connected way to drive. For me it's a lot less scary than riding braked bikes. And there are very specific rules that ensure that everyone on the track, where all coaches are newbies, is safe.
Banking can be intimidating, but we're lucky that our 450-meter track is less steep than the 250-meter track in the hall – 34 degrees as opposed to 42 degrees – so beginners are almost always within Fifteen minutes after the start of your introductory session, you are happy.
What types of distance events people can interfere with, if they like
All species. Herne Hill Velodrome has more racing events than any other track in the country. If you want to race, there is a clear path for meetings and ratings that will allow this. And if you do not want to race, you can take it to any level on the path you want.
There are all kinds of workouts for all types of people. I'm a regular at one of our three early morning veteran sessions, which is as much about coffee and chats as it is about riding.
Are there any other general tips for beginners?
Cheer up, keep your line and do not forget to pedal … Good advice for beginners and for life in general!