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Track Racing

Track Racing

Frequently asked questions by BRCC members 


Q1. What's the big attraction of track racing when I can choose between a wide variety of events on or off the road?
A. Essentially, there are 3 main reasons: because 1) it's extremely exciting to ride a bike at 40 mph with no brakes and often only inches away from other riders in all directions BUT no danger of motorists chopping you up; 2) the camaraderie among competitors is fantastic; and 3) there is
so much variety of different types of event to choose from to suit your particular interest or prowess - sprint, time trial, pursuit, points, devil, distance, team sprint, team pursuit, keirin, madison, etc. - many of which feature at the same track meeting.

Q2. What do you mean "no brakes"! How do you slow down?

A. The whole idea of cycle racing is to go fast, not slow down, so why does anyone need brakes; they're for wimps, aren't they? However, when you're in a tight bunch with everyone around you going at the same speed and you want to slow down for some reason, very gently ease off the pedals. If you want to slow down even more, make sure there's no-one on your wheel and then
gradually just move up the banking.

Q3. Hang on a minute; this is sounding worse! What's this banking? What will stop me falling down?

A. When you're going fast on a bike, if you don't have banking when you go around the bends you'll lose it and are likely to come off and that can hurt you, far worse it will scratch your bike, as well as prevent you from winning the race. The centrifugal force of the banking will keep you going around the bends. The only way you might fall off on the banking is if you're going too slowly.

Q4. It sounds a wee bit dangerous and complicated to me and all sorts of things to remember.

A. None of these really and certainly far safer than on the road. There are just a few safety basics to remember when you've got other riders around you: 1) keep in a straight line unless your way ahead is clear AND there's no-one on your wheel; 2) before you manoeuvre, glance over your shoulder to check that no-one's there; 3) don't ever slow down suddenly - do it all gradually; if you want to slow down even more, ride up the banking (after checking behind you); 4) no clearing your throat out whilst on the track - it's not pleasant for others and anyway they'll get their own back later; and 5) be nice to the other riders.

Q5. What special equipment do I need?

A. A track bike, a good helmet and your BRCC kit; a skinsuit would look particularly smart and make you look as if you might usually go fast even though you always seem to have off days when at the velodrome

Q6. And what's so special about a track bike?

A. It doesn't have brakes or gears or a bottle cage or a pump or anything that sticks out that might hurt you or other riders in a crash. The ends where you put in the rear wheel are horizontal because there's no need for anywhere to fix a rear gear mech. onto. It's got a titchy length chain, steel handlebars and stem and bolted wheel nuts. Pedals are designed for cleats and many sprinters have toe-straps to keep their feet especially secure (which enables them to remember more easily which bike is theirs when they do come off in a pile up).

Q7. Where can I ride the track?

A. The nearest hard surface velodrome is at Welwyn, Herts. It's about 3/4 of an hour distance by car from the BRCC clubhouse. It's not advisable to ride the bike there from the clubhouse; it might sound pretty keen but everyone else will think you're stupid. There are 3 indoor velodromes in the UK and the club arranges at least annual trips to 2 of these: Manchester and Newport. There are another dozen tracks around the country.

Q8. What else will I need to get started?

A. You'll need a British Racing licence and you'll need to be fit. And wanting to have a bit of fun will help. And a sense of humour is pretty useful as there are some real characters around the track circuit.

Q9. What gearing should I use?

A. It all depends! - on: fitness, type of event, experience, type of track, track conditions, etc. Most trackies have a selection of chainrings from 46" through to 51" and sprockets from 13" through to 16" and change the gearing a couple of times during the course of a track meeting.

For indoors, I personally generally use: 88" for warm up; 90" for sprinting and distance events; 92" for flying 200 m TT; 94" for 500 m TT; and 96" for pursuit. If I'm feeling rough, I might drop down 1"-2" on the above. I've no doubt that Sir Chris adds 2"-6" more on my gearing.

For outdoors, much depends on the weather conditions but I might go down to e.g. 88" for sprinting. For a tiny track like Calshot, most riders would probably drop gearing by 4"-6" so you can get round the tight bends. I think most bikes for hire at tracks are about 84"-86" as they tend to be used by comparative beginners.

Richard Lacy

Bedfordshire Road Cycling Club