A Guide to Track Racing

Welcome to a sport involving bikes with no gears or brakes, fantastic speeds and some seriously steep banking. Contrary to the belief among some that track racing is an utterly terrifying experience altogether, it really is a great side of cycling to master - and nowhere near as hard as you may think.

Track cycling can all be a bit daunting on first impressions and it is not helped by all the myths surrounding the sport. There are all sorts of common fears associated with this discipline like pedalling too slowly and taking a long slide down the banking, forgetting to pedal all together (which with a fixed wheel is not the best idea!) or getting dizzy after going round in all those circles. But, turn up at a velodrome and you will have plenty of seasoned trackies around to convince you that riding the boards is just like riding a bike.

Track bikes have a single fixed gear and no freewheel mechanism like other bikes, so you have to remember to keep pedalling at all times. However you quickly get used to it and even if you do forget you'll probably only get a slight kick which will remind you to swiftly start pedalling again! The use of a fixed wheel and the banking will allow you to speed up and slow down effectively without breaks. When riders are tightly packed together in a race environment it would be dangerous to start slamming on breaks so, instead, easing off on the pedals or moving up the track will subtly decrease your speed and allow you to ride closely to the wheels of other riders.

One thing that is noticeable about track riders is their smooth pedalling action and their tendency to adopt a high cadence. When you have only got one gear available, it is most sensible to use a fairly small gear that you can accelerate quickly rather than a big gear that is slow to accelerate but more efficient aerobically.

There are various outdoor tracks dotted around the country, all with varying lengths and gradients of banking, view a full list here. Throughout the summer there are various racing leagues and training sessions held at these. The main three indoor tracks are located in Newport, Manchester and Calshot.

Obviously very few people are willing to invest in a dedicated track bike just for a taster session so most tracks have a fleet of track bikes for beginners to use. They will normally come with clips and straps on the pedals but most tracks are happy for riders to bring their own pedals. There are plenty of opportunities to drop in and have a go all year round.

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