A Version Of This Story Appears In The March Issue of Fuel Endurance Magazine
As a coach I get a pretty familiar question almost all the time from riders. What can I do quickly and easily to improve my cycling.
I always give a cagey grin and say, “Well, you’ve got to get on Track!”
“No, I know that, but really…”
Yes, get on track. And by track, I mean Velodrome. I am sort of biased as the current Director of Operations at the Dick Lane Velodrome in East Point. But even though I considered myself primarily a roadie (yes, one of those guys…) the track is what gave me my competitive edge
One of the single biggest differentiators I see amongst competitive and recreational cyclists of all types is riding on the velodrome. Amongst the riders I’ve coached it’s been the difference in the final stages of a race and getting on the podium in local and even big notable races. I’ve even noticed it giving riders the wherewithal to miss a potentially catastrophic crash on your local training ride.
Track cycling takes place in a controlled environment. Albeit one in which we joke it’s the only place where having no brakes is considered fun. You ride a specially built bike that allows for you to ride on a track with pretty steep bankings. The DLV for example is 36* degrees, but I’ve ridden on as steep as 49*. Oh, and you can’t stop pedaling. Yes, that’s right, you have no brakes, you can’t stop pedaling, and I’m asking you to slightly defy gravity.
Are you still with me?
Excellent! See, all of the elements that sound dangerous, are actually what makes track cycling safer. If you need to slow down, you just put back pressure on the pedals. There’s no slamming on the brakes and making other riders around you squirrelly and potentially causing a crash. On the track you have to look ahead of you, you have to plan ahead and if there is a problem, everyone keeps their cool and works it out rather than freaking out and grabbing the brakes hard. For this reason I rarely see the bad crashes like I’ve seen, heard, and experienced on the road.
It also makes you a great tactical rider. The same skills you learn just by riding on the track, translate to your own riding. You know how to sit in the pack better, you learn to read body language of your friends and know when they are about to try and drop you. In racing on the track you are put in anywhere from three to four different tactical situations a night. Each race is different. Different lengths, different styles, even the speeds can be different. I am convinced beyond a doubt that it makes you a better rider as a result. Even if you are just looking to improve your fitness track cycling can help. No fear of cars on the track and riding the banking can be thrilling and exhilarating. You just have to remember one thing:
Go Fast, Turn Left.