This weeks new activity involved some fixed gear bikes and wooden banked track. How hard can it be?? Lets go and see.
I picked up an invite to attend a beginners class at the Newport Velodrome this week and thought why not as I have always fancied a look down there, but have never been. So last night I jumped in the van armed with some shoes, a helmet and some gloves and gave it a spin.
When you arrive you will need to hire a bike (unless you have your own track racer tucked away) and you soon realise that this bike is different. For a start it has no brakes!! then when you try to clip in you realise you can not spin the pedal back to get in that 2 o clock position! Thats right, these are full on fixed hub track bikes. If you pedal, the bike moves and if you want to slow down you slow your legs - Simple right!!
Stood in the middle, the banked corners look incredibly steep and high, however Brian the coach was spot on and gave us some encouraging words before we set off on our maiden lap.
"These bikes have a fixed gear, there is no freewheel. If you try to freewheel once, this will be the only time you do. The bike will jack knife, throw you off and you will slide down the track."
He also added that if you slide down the track “It will burn, if you have several layers on, it will melt through them all”
So with those thoughts glued in my head, lets go :-)
The first few laps were a bit twitchy and Brian just told us to cycle around on the red line to get a feel, we then moved up to the blue line and so on to the top.
The banking is incredibly steep and the higher you go up the banking, the more effort needed to stay up there. In basic terms it is like climbing a short hill to reach the apex and then you come back down, the only difference is you need to maintain the speed. If you cant sustain the effort to the top of the hill, its a long slide to the bottom.
After, some familiarisation and a short rest, we were tasked with an individual 500m time trial. This consists of one warm up lap, 2 laps flat out and a warm down. 2 Laps - easy right!! I wish. Pedaling flat out for 2 laps (even on the black line) really pushes the heart rate, but I gave it my best shot and it all came good in the end.
Then we ran a 32 lap team event, which was harder than it looked. The effort level was fine, however the variation in peoples paces made it imposibble to hold together as a group. That said, everyone gave it their best shot and we completed the race around the 14 minute mark.
By now we were fast approaching our 2 hour session on the track and the legs were fading. In all, this was an awesome experience that I would definitely try again. To be fair, I loved it and would definitely be up for another session in the future.
Brian and the Velodrome were awesome, I didn’t fall off and ticked another box off the list.
See you all soon