Who doesn’t like cycling? Some of my fondest childhood memories involve tearing through puddles and down hills on my second-hand mountain bike. The speed and grace of cycling make it an incredibly enjoyable pastime. For some of us athletes though, activities can get a little dull when there’s no competition involved! Like a lot of people, you may be interested in track cycling. Here’s some info to get you started.
With a lot of sports, you often need to have the right body to start taking it seriously. Fortunately though, track cycling is accessible to a wide variety of people. If you know how to ride a bike, and have a decent amount of stamina, then you should be able to jump right into it. As you get more interested in the sport, you might want to do exercises to improve in a certain niche. Sprint cyclists, for example, need to have a lot of leg strength. Endurance riders, on the other hand, need to be light and able to pace themselves. If you’re already sporty though, starting shouldn’t be an issue.
Next, onto the gear you’ll need. As you can imagine, a proper track bike isn’t exactly cheap. This strikes some people as odd seen as they have no brakes and a single gear! Although the cyclist’s job is simplified, the construction of a track bike certainly isn’t! They’re made with high-quality carbon fibre, and designed to be exceptionally light and stiff. Cycle insurance is definitely a good idea. As with your physical condition, you won’t need to worry too much about the bike itself to begin with. Certain bikes are better suited to certain races. However, as a beginner, you’ll be fine with an all-round entry-level bike.
The next thing you’ll need to sort out is somewhere to ride. Track cycling can be done indoors or outdoors. The constant is that it’s always done on an oval track, with a length ranging from about 200 to 400 metres. The Olympic standard is 250 metres with a specific profile. Some endurance riders call that a warm-up! Search for a track cycling club in your local area. They’re usually run at leisure centres using temporary tracks. Many clubs will run beginner’s sessions to teach you proper technique. Even if your closest club doesn’t explicitly advertise this, there’s bound to be someone there who will be happy to show you the ropes.
As you learn the basics and get a feel for the banks in the track, you’ll probably find a certain event to focus on. The most common and simple event is the sprint, where two cyclists race each other to complete three laps of the track. Endurance riders will usually enter pursuit events. In these, two riders start at opposite sides of the track, pursuing each other over the course of 4000 metres. The Japanese “keirin” variation is even incorporates a pacing motorbike! There are many events to choose from, so take your time finding your niche. As I mentioned before, track cycling equipment isn’t cheap!