Last Christmas ( 2007 ) my wife Em got me a great gift, an hours training session at the Manchester Velodrome. Its a long story but to cut it short, it took some bloody organising to get most of my tri friends together on one day when the track wasn’t booked, but it all came together this Saturday night.
I’ve been to the velodrome before and looked down the banking and seen how steep it is, that’s nothing when you’re stood at the bottom looking up…..it seems to go on forever. So we were all stood there ( Me, John, Andy Holme, Gareth Holme, Dave, Viking and Minnie ) feeling a bit nervous, well apart from Min who had been doings lots of “secret training” at the Newport velodrome. We picked up our hire bikes and tried them for size, holding the rail practising clipping in and out. Straight away it felt weird because I’d never ridden a “Fixie” before, you can’t free wheel unless you want to part company with your legs at your hip joint !
The only words I remember vividly from the safety briefing was “There’s no such thing as too fast”. We set off cycling round the inside of the track geting used to the feel of riding a fixed wheel bike without any brakes. After a few laps we ventured onto the blue dividing strip that acts as a buffer between the floor and the track. We then practised stopping which consisted of trying to slow the cranks by pushing your weight against them, it takes a lot of leg strength, and then you have to grab the inside guard rail and hope you are going slow enough not to dislocate your shoulder !
Once we’d got the hang of that we were set free on the track, on the tv the straights look fairly flat, they aren’t and even at the lowest point of the track it feels steep. The basic skill of track riding was to get your speed up and keep it consistant. If you attempt to go into the bend and you lose any speed you are going to crash. I watched Andy and Gareth getting quite high up above the advertising and thought I’d give it a go as well, it was great fun but you can really feel gravity trying to force you off the bike.
We were all whizzing round at speed and surprisingly none of us crashed, everyone loved it and although I was suffering with a heavy cold ( not helped by the powerful air con ) I managed to keep going til the end. Gareth looked like a pro riding lap after lap at the top of the track, and the rest of us all turned on the speed and for a split second felt like we were a Wiggins, Hoy or Boardman at least in our heads !
We’ll be back when the tri season finishes for another session, you just can’t beat it for fun and value. It cost £9.50 each including bike hire for an hour. I think next time we’ll take it further and get some more structured training with a view to maybe becoming accredited eventually.