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How to get into track cycling
This blog will explore how to get into track cycling, what track cycling is, how to find your local velodrome, what equipment you need to get started and how to sign up for your first track cycling race. Read three time trail tips.
What is track cycling
You may have watched track cycling on tv whilst watching the Olympics, the commonwealth games or another major competition and wondered what exactly track cycling is and how you get involved in track cycling.
Track cycling often takes place on an indoor 250-meter wooden track with banked corners at either end. However, some outdoor velodromes can be made out of concrete. The banking on a velodrome is 42 degrees and the angle of the straits are 8 degrees.
Unlike road cycling, track cycling events are short and are focused on pure speed over a specific number of laps of the velodrome. Track cyclists pedal their bikes to insane speeds whilst implementing different tactics to try and outmanoeuvre their opponents.
There are two different types of track cycling races, sprint and endurance. Sprint races range from 200m to 1000m meters in distance or one lap to 4 laps of the track where the cyclist has to go cover the distance as fast as possible.
There is also the match sprint over 3 laps where two opposing cyclists perform a cat and mouse style chase. The cyclists use changes in speed and direction to outsmart each other before sprinting to cross the finish line first.
However, the endurance races last a lot longer and tactics are much more critical. One of the most popular endurance race is the 4km team pursuit.
In this event, two opposing teams cycle 16 laps or 4km of the track to see who can cover the distance in the fastest time. There are also solo endurance races such as the omnium and the points race; which require a greater level of tactics than fitness. British cycling time trails.
How to get started in track cycling
Have you recently watched tracked cycling and want to learn how to get involved with the sport? The first thing to look at would be the website of your national governing body.
For example, this may be British cycling or USA cycling. They will have all of the information needed to get started.
Your national governing body should have a list of all the functioning velodromes in your country and which clubs or race teams are associated with them. When I first explored track cycling, I looked on the British cycling website and found that I had an outdoor velodrome only 3 miles away from me.
I then contacted the club that hosted training sessions at the velodrome and asked to join one to see if I like it or not. I attend my first sessions and whilst it took some time to overcome my fear of the banked corners, I really enjoyed it. I then kept on attending coached beginner sessions hosted by my local cycling club.
How to find your local velodrome
Your national governing body should have a list of the active velodromes on its website. However, a quick google of velodromes plus the name of the area that you live in should show where your nearest velodrome is located.
It may also be beneficial to ask members of your local cycling club or team if they know of any velodromes nearby as they may be able to put you in touch with coaches that work there. 5 tips to win your first bike race.
There are also a small number of inactive velodromes which are sometimes rideable but are no longer used as dedicated cycling spaces and may be shared with dog walkers and other users. However, these venues are much harder to find. Winning a time trail race.
How to get accredited for track cycling
In order to ride as part of a group on a velodrome, most velodromes will require you to become an accredited rider to prove that you can ride a track bike safely and not injure yourself or other cyclists whilst using the velodrome.
Accreditation programs are usually hosted by local race teams or clubs that have a membership with a particular velodrome.
These accreditation programmes usually involve 4-6 coached sessions which will help you develop fundamental skills needed to ride the velodrome safely. In some countries, you have to have an accreditation for each individual velodrome. However, for most countries, you only need to be accredited at one velodrome.
What you need
You do need a special type of bike for track cycling. However, most velodromes will have a selection of hire bikes that you can use whilst you are just getting started.
Track bikes have one fixed-gear meaning that you can’t freewheel like on a road or mountain bike.
Track bikes use clipless pedals to keep your feet attached and to stop you from accidentally crashing, so you will need some cycling shoes that are compatible with clipless pedals. You will also need gloves and a helmet. Due to the nature of track bikes and their lack of brakes, small slow speed crashes are often frequent for beginner riders.
A helmet and gloves are needed to offer you maximal protection from any splitters or road rash depending on which type of velodrome you are using. If after a few sessions on the track, you decide that you like it and want to ride it more, a lot of the basic equipment can be purchased quite cheaply if you shop second hand.
How to get into track racing
To enter any organised bike race you will first need to obtain a full racing licence from your national governing body (e.g British cycling or USA cycling) you may then need to provide evidence that you have completed a track cycling accreditation programme to prove you can safely ride on the velodrome as part of a peloton.
To find races I suggest looking at the websites and social media pages of local cycling clubs and teams that will often promote races that are being held locally.
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