“I often encourage riders who would like to have a go at racing to try track cycling as it helps overcome fear and improves skill and confidence – here’s why”
Sometimes I get enquiries from leisure or sportive riders who would like to have a go at racing, but they are worried about the adequacy of their bike-handling skills for the faster and more tightly-packed bunch.
I often encourage these riders to try track cycling as a means of overcoming these fears and to improve their skill and confidence. However, most never do: no gears, no freewheel, no brakes, ‘no way’!
Nevertheless, I’m still convinced it’s a good idea and here are a few reasons why – not just for newcomers to racing, but for all cyclists.
First of all, here’s why you shouldn’t be concerned about safety:
Yes, you won’t have any brakes, but neither will anybody else! Think about all the spills that happen from poor or sudden braking. Brakes cause a lot of accidents – nobody is going to pull the brakes in front of you on the track and, after a little while, not having brakes is just something you don’t think about at all. And, as a bonus, you won’t have people yelling ‘BRAKE … INGGG’ in your ear every few minutes.
There will be no cars coming at you around blind bends, nor will the bunch be regularly squeezing up when cars approach. And you won’t have frustrated and angry motorists making close passes.
No ditches, pot-holes, gravel or street furniture
All of these are regular causes of accidents, and you’ll encounter none of them on the track.
To ride the track you have to do accreditation sessions and reach a certain standard. Therefore, you will know that, unlike road-racing, everyone around you has a certain level of competence.
Hopefully these will allay some of your safety concerns. Now for some other positives.
Bike handling and alertness
Training and riding on the track makes you much more alert. You are taught to look before you move all the time, to avoid overlapping wheels, and such like. Your observation, skill and anticipation skills will be much enhanced.
Riding a fixed wheel bike during the winter has long been advocated as a way to improve road cycling and the track provides a more attractive atmosphere than the winter roads. One of the main advantages is improvement to the efficiency of your pedal stroke. This means that you will apply force on the pedals over much more of the 360-degree rotation than you would normally do – the ‘dead spot’ is reduced.
The fixed wheel will also lead you to working your muscles over a much higher range of cadences than on a road bike with gears. These will range from low-cadence power efforts to very fast spinouts. The low-cadence efforts stimulate raw power and strength, while the spinouts will develop your fast-twitch muscles. Overall, this will make you more responsive and flexible on the road.
A lot of track cycling involves high-intensity efforts over a short duration. It’s an ideal way to get those high-intensity workouts that bring real top-end benefits to your fitness. The different track events, ranging from short sprints to endurance races, also allow you match your unique strengths to specific events that best suit your physiological characteristics.
The track is yet another way of having fun and crack around cycling. Issues like gearing, strategy and equipment will give you even more opportunity for idle cycling-talk and bike-porn viewing.