Track cycling is a heart-pounding, high-speed spectacle that will have you on the edge of your seat. Imagine athletes with superhuman strength and lightning-fast reflexes whizzing around a velodrome, a specially designed indoor cycling track.
In this thrilling sport, cyclists reach mind-boggling speeds while maneuvering their sleek bikes just inches away from each other. It’s a mesmerizing display of skill, strategy, and raw power as competitors jostle for position, break records, and push the limits of human performance.
So, buckle up and prepare to be captivated by the exhilarating world of track cycling, where every race is a battle of nerves and a celebration of human achievement.
What is a Track Bike
A track bike, also known as a fixed-gear bike or velodrome bike, is a specialized type of bicycle designed for track cycling. Unlike typical bicycles, track bikes have fixed gear, meaning the rear wheel is directly connected to the pedals. This means that whenever the pedals are turning, the wheel is also turning.
These bikes are built to be lightweight, aerodynamic, and highly responsive. They typically have a minimalistic design with a single speed, no brakes, and a rigid frame. The lack of brakes is because track cycling on a velodrome relies on the rider’s ability to control speed and decelerate by using their leg muscles and the resistance from the fixed gear.
Track bikes are purpose-built for high-speed racing on the track and are not suitable for general road use due to the fixed gear and absence of brakes. They are often used by professional track cyclists and are designed to maximize speed, acceleration, and maneuverability in the controlled environment of a velodrome.
What is Track Cycling
Track cycling is a branch of cycling wherein cyclists zoom around curved tracks known as velodromes. These track races are extremely swift and, notably, briefer compared to standard road races.
Track cycling encompasses ten events, classified into sprint and endurance events, plus combined categories. Continue reading to explore further details about these events and gain a comprehensive understanding of the sport of track cycling.
Some Glimpse of Track Cycling History
Track cycling is believed to have emerged around 1870, although its exact origin remains uncertain. The sport came into existence when curved wooden tracks measuring a quarter-mile in length were constructed during the late 19th century for cycling races.
These early tracks served as predecessors to the impressive velodromes that now serve as venues for track cycling. In 1893, the very first world championships were held, marking a significant milestone in the sport’s history.
Since the inaugural Olympic Games in Athens in 1896 (with the exception of the 1912 games), track cycling has been an integral part of the Olympic program. Presently, the Olympic Track Cycling program showcases five events, while the World Championships feature a total of ten events for athletes to compete in.
A Bit About Track Cycling Playing Surface — Velodrome
Track cycling takes place on a specialized circuit known as a velodrome, typically constructed from wood. Velodromes are oval-shaped loops with a length of approximately 250 meters. The sides of the track are banked, meaning they slope upwards, which assists in propelling the cyclist toward the center of the track and enables them to achieve higher speeds.
The velodrome features four distinct markings. The “stayer’s line” and “sprinting line” combine to form the “sprinting lane,” which represents the most efficient path around the track. The blue band denotes the inner portion of the track, while a black “measuring line” serves as the reference point for measuring the velodrome’s length.
Each velodrome exhibits slight variations in its design, including differences in bank angles, types of wood used, and construction techniques. For instance, the London 2012 Olympic Velodrome boasts a Siberian Pine track with bank angles of 42 degrees on the turns and 12 degrees on the straight sections.
Remarkably, it was meticulously assembled by hand, emphasizing the craftsmanship involved. Velodromes play a pivotal role in distinguishing track racing from other forms of cycling.
They possess an iconic status within the cycling world and facilitate a unique style of racing characterized by intense speed and high intensity, as opposed to the strategic, endurance-focused nature of races such as the Tour de France or mountain bike events.
Track Cycling Clothing and Equipment
Track cyclists often opt for “skin suits” as part of their attire. These suits fit tightly against the rider’s body, functioning like a second skin to eliminate any loose areas that could create wind resistance and increase aerodynamic drag.
Some suits even incorporate special features such as channels on the shoulder panels and arms, facilitating efficient airflow from the front to the back of the rider. These meticulous details are implemented to gain even the slightest advantage, shaving off a few tenths of a second.
In terms of footwear, track riders may use shoes that differ slightly from those used by road cyclists. Sprinters, in particular, exert tremendous power when exiting the starting gates in order to achieve maximum speed.
To prevent the risk of their feet slipping out of the pedals, track riders employ clip-in cleats and pedals, along with additional straps for enhanced security. Interestingly, unlike on the road, track riders are not permitted to wear shoe covers, and there are specific regulations regarding the height of their socks.
These regulations are in place to ensure fair competition and prioritize the riders’ skills and abilities over technological advantages.
Track Cycling Gameplay
Due to the diverse range of ten events in track cycling, the sport exhibits various intricacies. However, certain elements are common across all races. The remarkable speeds at which track events unfold make aerodynamics a crucial factor.
The cyclist who expends the least amount of energy leading up to the final sprint often emerges victorious. Consequently, it is common to witness all racers forming a single-file line behind the current leader, aiming to “tuck in” and minimize wind resistance.
In the last lap, the leader endeavors to fend off potential attacks from competitors who position themselves wider on the track, seeking to overtake the leader and secure the lead just before crossing the finish line.
Track Cycling Position Roles and Responsibilities
Team events in track cycling typically consist of three or four riders per team. In the team pursuit, riders take turns leading the pack. One rider assumes the position at the front, facing the wind resistance and setting the pace for their teammates as they navigate the velodrome.
Eventually, the leading rider will ascend higher on the banked track while the rest of the team remains lower, allowing the leader to drop back and integrate into the rear of the pack. Subsequently, a new rider takes over the leading position.
In the team sprint, three riders collaborate to propel one of their teammates to the finish line. After each lap, one team member peels off, leaving the others to continue. Consequently, only a single team member completes the entire race. This designated rider must possess not only exceptional speed but also sufficient endurance to sustain the effort until the end.
The initial leader’s primary task is to rapidly establish the team’s pace, requiring the ability to explosively accelerate from the starting line. The final team member must exhibit a combination of both speed and endurance skills.
Track Cycling Lingo and Terminology
What does it mean to be pulling? Where is the sprinter’s lane? Here is an explanation of these terms and more:
A wide band of blue marked the inside of the track.
The speed at which your legs spin while cycling. A high cadence indicates more revolutions per minute around the center of the pedal.
Leaning towards one side while turning to increase speed. This skill is particularly important in track cycling due to the frequent turns in each race.
When a rider positions themselves right behind the leader, taking advantage of the leader’s slipstream to save energy. This is known as drafting and is an efficient tactic.
The act of leading the pack and facing the wind resistance for the other riders. Pulling requires more effort compared to drafting.
The innermost part of the track is located before the infield.
A strategy utilized in team races where one teammate grabs another’s arm and propels them forward, providing a boost in momentum.
A designated area marked by two lines that serve as the fastest route for sprinting. During sprints, a cyclist is not permitted to overtake an opponent on the left side (inside) of the sprinter’s lane.
The straight sections of the velodrome are located between the turns.
In sprint events, a rider can remain stationary on their bike, attempting to entice their opponent into taking the lead. However, the rider must always remain on the bike during a track stand.
Track Cycling Rules and Regulations
Each track cycling event is subject to comprehensive rules and regulations, as both the bicycles and velodromes play a pivotal role in the athletes’ performance. Violating any of these cycling track rules can lead to disqualification. Here are some specific regulations within the sport:
Blue Band Infraction
Along the inner portion of the track, there exists a narrow blue band. If a rider enters the blue band and obstructs the movement of another rider, they face disqualification.
In pursuit races, if a rider is caught by their opponent, they are still required to complete the full race distance and are not allowed to benefit from drafting behind their opponent to improve their time.
Athletes must maintain at least one hand on the handlebar of their bike at all times during the race.
These regulations ensure fairness and maintain the integrity of track cycling events, upholding the standards that contribute to the sport’s competitive nature.
Track Cycling Skills and Techniques
Track cycling demands a distinct skill set compared to road racing or mountain biking, primarily due to the significantly higher speeds and shorter race durations. Moreover, the nature of the velodrome surface necessitates different techniques than those required on the open road.
In addition to possessing explosive power and leg speed, track cyclists must exhibit exceptional technical proficiency. Riding on banked tracks requires the ability to gauge incline angles and their impact on the rider’s center of gravity, a skill acquired through practice and experience.
Furthermore, track cyclists must navigate in close quarters, as track racing is a matter of inches. Engaging in drills such as cone weaving can greatly enhance an athlete’s handling abilities at high speeds.
The arm sling is another distinct skill employed in track cycling. During team events, riders have the opportunity to link arms with their teammates when executing a pass. By joining forces and pushing off, they experience momentary boosts in speed, facilitating successful overtakes.
While track cyclists may not possess the same level of endurance as a Tour de France champion, their technical capabilities more than compensate for this discrepancy.
Track Cycling Coaching
Track cycling coaches hold distinctive roles within the cycling realm. Given that track cyclists dedicate a significant amount of time to strength training in the gym, aiming to enhance their power for short, intense races, coaches possess comprehensive knowledge not only of cycling training techniques but also of gym-specific expertise.
Their primary focus lies in optimizing their athletes’ strength, cadence, and explosiveness. During competitions, these coaches actively participate on the track, providing splits and enthusiastic encouragement to their riders.
Track Cycling Strategy
Strategic planning plays a pivotal role in track cycling, as races can be decided by mere fractions of a second, leaving a minimal margin for error. Ultimately, the outcome hinges on the final laps and the sprint to the finish line.
Sprinting strategy revolves around three key principles: distance, position, and speed. Depending on your relative position to your opponent, whether you are ahead or behind the leader, and the velocity at which you are traveling, your strategy will vary significantly.
If you find yourself trailing your opponent, one crucial tactic is to “take height.” To seize the lead before crossing the finish line, it is most effective to swing wide on the turn, ascending high onto the banked section of the track.
The steep incline propels you downward, placing you ahead of your opponent. Conversely, when leading the race, you must diligently “watch your door” to safeguard against an opponent’s attack. Maintaining awareness of your opponent’s position is essential, and if they manage to overtake you, it is crucial to stay close, thereby retaining an opportunity to reclaim the lead.
Track Cycling Drills
Track cycling entails a higher level of technicality compared to road cycling, involving various refined drills that contribute to becoming an accomplished track cyclist. Many of these drills prove particularly beneficial for training young cyclists.
One such drill is slalom riding, where cones are strategically positioned around the track, and riders navigate through them, weaving in and out. This exercise cultivates the ability to maneuver amidst multiple competitors in close proximity.
Another essential drill for enhancing technique is scanning. Since it is crucial to be aware of opponents, cyclists must be capable of glancing over their shoulders at high speeds while maintaining control of their bicycles.
To practice this skill, a partner rides behind and intermittently calls out the cyclist’s name. The cyclist must then look back without altering their direction or losing balance.
Additionally, snail racing serves as another valuable drill to improve balance. The objective is to complete a lap of the track as slowly as possible without losing balance or falling over. It proves more challenging than one might expect!
These finesse drills play a significant role in developing the necessary skills for track cycling and can be particularly beneficial for young athletes aiming to excel in the sport.
Track Cycling Referees and Officials
Similar to other cycling disciplines, the chief official overseeing track cycling is known as the president of the commissaire’s panel. This role entails comprehensive supervision of the entire operation, encompassing tasks such as handling appeals, making significant rulings, and managing all aspects in between.
To effectively fulfill these responsibilities, the president relies on a team of officials referred to as the commissaire’s panel, who assist during race proceedings.
One integral member of the panel is the judge referee (JR), who assumes responsibility for overseeing the riders throughout the race. The JR ensures that all cyclists adhere to the race rules and regulations, maintaining fair competition and sportsmanship.
The starter’s role centers around initiating the race. Prior to the race commencement, the starter performs clothing inspections to ensure compliance with the appropriate uniform attire. Additionally, the starter possesses the authority to halt the race in the event of a significant accident or violation.
Other officials who contribute to the smooth operation of track cycling events include the secretary, timekeepers, finish judge, and deputy commissaries. Together, this dedicated team ensures the integrity and proper execution of the races.
Olympic Track Cycling Events
During the Olympic Games, a total of six track cycling events are held, encompassing both men’s and women’s competitions. These events include Sprint, Keirin, Madison, Team Sprint, Team Pursuit, and Omnium.
The Sprint event is renowned for its exhilarating and fundamental nature in track cycling, focusing on pure speed over a short distance. The victor of this event is often hailed as the fastest cyclist across all cycling disciplines.
In the Sprint competition, riders initially participate in a 200-meter time trial to establish their seed times. The top 18 riders from the qualifying round progress to the 1/16 finals. Here, riders engage in head-to-head, single-elimination races over three laps, based on their seed times. For instance, the highest-ranked riders compete against the 18th-ranked rider, the second-ranked against the 17th-ranked, and so forth.
Each heat’s winner in the 1/16 finals automatically advances to the 1/8 finals, while the nine losers enter a repechage round for another opportunity to progress. The repechage round consists of three riders per heat, with the winners advancing to the 1/8 finals.
With 12 riders remaining, another round of single-elimination races takes place. The six winners proceed to the quarterfinals, while the six losers once again participate in a repechage round. Following two additional repechage heats where only the winners advance, the field is reduced to eight riders.
In the quarterfinals, the head-to-head matchups adopt a best-of-three format. Riders must secure two victories out of three battles against their opponents to advance to the semifinals. Once a rider is eliminated in this round, there is no chance for them to reenter the competition through the repechage.
Moving to the semifinals, the final four riders engage in best-of-three contests against their assigned opponents to secure a spot in the medal rounds. The winners of each semifinal proceed to the gold-medal final, while the losers face off for the bronze medal, both employing a best-of-three format.
To determine additional rankings, the four riders eliminated in the quarterfinals compete in a four-man heat to determine fifth through eighth places. Similarly, the four riders were eliminated in the repechage after the 1/8 finals race against each other to determine ninth through 12th positions.
The Keirin, another thrilling track cycling event, brings riders together for intense mass sprints, preceded by a paced section led by a motorized bike known as a “derny.” Initially, the pacer starts at around 30 kilometers per hour and gradually accelerates to over 50 kilometers per hour.
With 600 meters remaining, the derny exits the track, leaving the competitors to engage in a fierce sprint to the finish line.
In the first round of the Keirin, a standard field of 28 riders is divided into four heats, each consisting of seven riders. The two fastest riders from each heat automatically progress to the second round, while the remaining 20 riders participate in a repechage round.
In the repechage, riders are organized into four heats of five riders, providing them with a second opportunity to advance. Only the winner of each heat in the repechage moves on.
Subsequently, the eight riders who originally advanced, along with the four repechage winners, are arranged into two heats of six riders for the second round. The top three finishers from each second-round heat secure spots in the finals, while the last three in each heat compete in a consolation round to determine seventh through twelfth place.
In the finals, a field of six riders competes side by side in a thrilling sprint, vying for the prestigious medals.
The Madison, another captivating team track cycling event, shares some similarities with the Points Race. In this mass-start race, 18 two-man teams compete over a distance of 50 kilometers (200 laps). The team that accumulates the most points while covering the greatest distance emerges as the winner.
Intermediate sprints take place every 20 laps and follow the same scoring system as the Points Race: 1st place earns 5 points, 2nd place earns 3 points, 3rd place earns 2 points, and 4th place earns 1 point.
During the Madison, only one rider from each team actively participates while the other rests at the top of the track. When a rider is ready for a change, their teammate descends from the top of the track and is propelled into the race.
The frequent exchanges between riders help maintain a higher pace due to the brief rest periods involved. Typically, the stronger sprinter of the duo is launched into action just before an intermediate sprint, while the rider with better endurance aims to cover as many laps as possible.
At the conclusion of the race, only the teams that have covered the most laps remain eligible for victory. Among these teams, the pair that has accumulated the highest number of points is crowned the winner.
4. Team Sprint
The Team Sprint is a thrilling display of speed and teamwork, with three-man teams collaborating to achieve the fastest time over a 750-meter distance.
The competition begins with a qualifying round to determine the top eight teams that will progress to the first round. Based on their qualifying times, teams are ranked and paired against each other in the first round. The highest-seeded team competes against the eighth-fastest qualifier; the second-seeded team faces the seventh-fastest, and so on.
In the Team Sprint event, three riders start each race, but only one rider crosses the finish line. The lead rider sets the pace for the initial 250 meters and then exits the track. After 500 meters, the second rider also leaves the track, leaving the anchor leg to sprint the final lap after benefiting from the drafting of their teammates during the first two laps.
Following the completion of the first round, the two fastest winning teams advance to the gold-medal final, while the other two round-one winners compete in the bronze medal match.
5. Team Pursuit
The Team Pursuit in track cycling involves four riders collaborating to achieve the fastest time. The competition kicks off with a 4-kilometer (16-lap) qualifying round. The top eight teams from the qualifying round progress to the first round, where they are seeded accordingly.
The number-one seed is paired against the number-eight seed, the number-two seed against the number-seven seed, and so on.
In the first round, teams start from opposite sides of the track and chase each other over a distance of four kilometers. The two teams with the fastest times advance to the gold-medal final, while the other two teams advance to the bronze-medal final.
In the finals, teams compete against the clock and each other, starting from opposite sides of the track. The winner is determined by either recording the fastest time or catching up to the opposing team.
The individual pursuit is timed to the hundredth of a second, making it a showcase for the most aerodynamic and technologically-advanced equipment used in the sport.
The omnium event in track cycling can be likened to the decathlon, as it combines multiple events to determine the best all-around rider. In the Olympic Omnium, the overall standings are determined by the performance in four different races: Scratch, Tempo, Elimination, and Points races.
After each race, riders are assigned point values based on their placement (e.g., one point for first place, two points for second place, and so on). At the conclusion of all four events, the rider with the lowest total cumulative points is crowned the winner.
Non-Olympic Track Cycling Events
There are several track cycling events that are not included in the Olympic program but are contested at either the UCI World Championships or the UCI World Cup circuit.
After the 2004 Athens Olympics, the UCI made the decision to remove the men’s 1-Kilometer Time Trial and the women’s 500-Meter Time Trial from the Olympic program. This change was made to accommodate the introduction of BMX Racing, which became cycling’s newest addition to the Olympic Games.
1. Individual Pursuit
The Individual Pursuit is a relatively short but demanding endurance event in track cycling, where riders face both the challenge of the clock and their opponents. The competition commences with a 4-kilometer (16-lap) qualifying round.
The top eight fastest riders from the qualifying round progress to the first round and are seeded accordingly, with the number-one seed facing the number-eight seed, the number-two seed against the number-seven seed, and so on.
In the first round, riders start from opposite sides of the track and chase each other over a distance of four kilometers. The two riders with the fastest times in this round advance to the gold-medal final, while the other two winners move on to the bronze-medal final.
Once again, starting from opposite sides of the track, riders in the finals compete against both the clock and each other. The winner of the finals is determined either by recording the fastest time or by catching up to and overtaking their opponent.
2. Points Race
The Points Race is an exciting mass-start event that typically involves 24 riders. The objective is to accumulate the highest number of points throughout the competition. In this event, men cover a distance of 40 kilometers (160 laps). Intermediate sprints take place every 10 laps, providing opportunities for riders to sprint and earn points.
Points are awarded to the top four riders in each intermediate sprint, with 1st place receiving 5 points, 2nd place receiving 3 points, 3rd place receiving 2 points, and 4th place receiving 1 point. Additionally, if any rider or group of riders laps the main field, they are awarded 20 points.
Conversely, if a rider or group of riders is lapped by the main field, they lose 20 points. In the event of a tie, the rider who achieves the highest placement in the final sprint of the race holds the advantage.
3. Scratch Race
In mass-start racing, the most straightforward format, a field consisting of 24 riders competes over a predetermined distance. For men, the distance is 15 kilometers, while for women, it is 10 kilometers. The rider who crosses the finish line first is crowned the winner.
4. Men’s 1-Kilometer Time Trial
In this straightforward track event, riders begin from a stationary position and complete four laps around the track. The rider who achieves the fastest time over the one-kilometer distance is proclaimed the victor.
5. 500-Meter Time Trial
In parallel to the men’s 1-Kilometer Time Trial, the 500-Meter Time Trial is its women’s equivalent, where competitors complete two laps around a 250-meter track starting from a stationary position. The woman who achieves the fastest time over a distance of 500 meters is announced as the winner.
Tips for Track Cycling Beginners
Having some biking skills and road confidence doesn’t automatically make track cycling a piece of the cake. There’s more to it than balancing and pedaling at top speed. To help you make the most of your initial track sessions, I have some track cycling tips:
Follow the Counter Clockwise Direction
Keep in mind that track cyclists always ride in a counter-clockwise direction. This means all the turns you make on the track will be to the left, making it a bit easier to navigate.
Maintain Continuous Pedaling
Track bikes are “fixed-wheel” like spinning bikes, so you can’t free-wheel. This means that as long as the wheels are turning, the pedals will be moving too. Suddenly stopping the bike using the pedals can lead to injuries or an unwelcome jolt.
No Brakes Allowed
Track bikes intentionally don’t have brakes. You won’t be able to slow down or stop abruptly with braking, which eliminates the risk of causing accidents by sudden braking and causing a pile-up. Instead, gradually reduce your speed until you come to a near stop.
Inflate Your Tires More Than Usual
The tires and wheels on a track bike are narrow, so they should be inflated to higher pressures compared to road cycling. This helps minimize rolling resistance caused by friction.
Avoid Passing on the Inside
One vital rule on the track is never to pass on the inside. Remember the saying “inside suicide” to remind yourself to never overtake someone on the inside of the track, which is the left-hand side of the rider. Always check over your right shoulder before attempting to pull out and overtake.
Dress the Part with Lycra
While lycra may not be the most flattering material, showing up in gym gear or beach shorts is a big no-no. Plus, your behind won’t appreciate it if your shorts ride up and expose your skin to the track’s rough surface. Wearing tight-fitting clothing will also improve your aerodynamics.
Use Banking with Sufficient Speed
Only ride up the bank when you have enough speed for the centrifugal force to keep you there. If you lack momentum, you’ll slide off embarrassingly. Unlike road cyclists who slow down for bends, track riders pick up speed.
Pass and Maintain Pace
When you get the chance to pass another rider, keep pedaling as hard as you can to prevent the rider from catching up and benefiting from your slipstream. It’s crucial to make your pass count, so the sustained effort is key.
Understand Track Lanes
The black line on the track is the shortest route and the lowest line. The space between the red and black lines is called the pole lane, which riders in the lead cannot leave during the final 200 meters of a race. The highest line on the track is the blue line. Slower riders should stay on or above the blue line to stay out of the way of faster riders.
Go Above Crashes, Never Below
Remember to go above a crash rather than trying to go underneath it. In the event of a crash, riders will end up at the bottom of the track, so the safest option is to head upward while others are coming down. Be careful not to interfere with other riders as you head up the banking.
The Benefits of Track Cycling
Track cycling offers more than just riding in circles on an oval. Group coaching sessions, drills, and racing provide a diverse workout that can enhance your bike skills on roads or trails. Here’s why I believe you’ll love it:
If you’re fortunate enough to have access to an indoor velodrome, you’ll have shelter from the elements, making it an appealing option for winter training. It’s a welcome alternative to being stuck on the turbo trainer.
Even on an outdoor velodrome, the absence of traffic and pedestrians allows you to utilize your time more efficiently. So, even if you venture out in bad weather, it won’t be for an extended period, and you’ll stay warm.
On the track, you can have an excellent workout because you have control over your effort. There are no enforced stops or starts for traffic lights and junctions like when riding on the road.
Enhance Bike Handling Skills
Riding in a group on the velodrome necessitates mastering speed control as the rider in front slows down or accelerates. Without gears or brakes, you must focus on monitoring everyone around you to safely navigate the group. Consistent practice will reward you with increased confidence and improved group-riding skills when you return to the road.
Riding at a higher cadence is essential for riding faster and enduring longer distances. The track provides ample opportunities to practice this skill since you only have one gear that you continuously turn to keep moving.
Ascending and descending the banking on the velodrome requires exerting significant power through the pedals to maintain a consistent speed. If you’re looking to develop explosive power, try sprinting on the track.
Many velodromes offer group training sessions led by experienced coaches. The advantage of being on a track is that coaches can observe your performance at all times and provide immediate feedback and advice that you can put into action right away.
Summing Up — Track Cycling
As track cycling continues to captivate audiences, it inspires new generations of cyclists to take up the sport. The thrill of the velodrome, the camaraderie among teammates, and the pursuit of personal and collective excellence make track cycling a truly rewarding endeavor.
In case you have any queries regarding track cycling, feel free to ask them in the comment section. I’ll be more than happy to answer them.
Track Cycling — Frequently Asked Questions
What do I need to start track cycling?
The great news is that starting track cycling typically doesn’t require purchasing new gear right away. If you’re already a regular cyclist, you can simply wear the kit you’re comfortable with on the road. Remember to bring your helmet and gloves as they are mandatory for riding.
Considering eye protection is a good idea, even when riding indoors or during nighttime outdoor sessions, as it helps keep dust and dirt out. Since you’ll likely be riding at higher speeds than usual, this extra precaution can be beneficial.
Modern indoor velodromes are temperature-controlled to maintain the track’s condition. If you’ve ever been a spectator, you may have noticed the air-lock system at the entrance. In most cases, your regular cycling jersey and shorts should suffice.
However, older indoor tracks, like the one in Calshot, Hampshire, may have more variable conditions. If unsure, ask for advice from others who have experience with that particular track.
Most velodromes only allow track bikes on the track, but if you don’t have one, it’s usually possible to rent one, along with suitable shoes if you don’t have the same pedal system. This means you don’t need to spend a significant amount of money right from the start.
What’s the difference between a road bike and a track bike?
Apart from having a more rigid frame and a sportier geometry, track bikes exhibit three notable differences compared to road bikes:
Fixed gear: Track bikes feature a fixed gear, meaning the only way to change gears is by altering the sprocket. Different track racers choose various gear sizes based on their specific discipline. For instance, track sprinters often use a large gear to accelerate quickly.
Constant pedaling: On a track bike, you must continuously turn the pedals to keep moving. Unlike road bikes with freewheels that allow coasting, track bikes lack this feature.
No brakes: Track bikes are devoid of brakes. When you intend to stop, you need to gradually reduce leg speed and apply backward pressure on the pedals to slow down.