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Fixed Wheel & Track
We hope anytime is a good time to expound the benefits of cycling, in particular the track or velodrome, especially as this element of the sport is experiencing a rise in popularity due to the exploits of Mr Wiggins, Hoy and Co at the Olympics. We are also amongst the most fortunate cycling clubs in the UK who have an all year round velodrome in our back yard. Here are a few pointers to hopefully spark some curiosity for those who haven't yet enjoyed the thrill of riding the track; hopefully it might even re-kindle an interest for others?
Palmer Park (PP) velodrome is open all year round for training in the winter and training and racing in the summer. Track racing provides a cheap, safe and fun alternative to other aspects of cycling such as time trialling (with the early starts on the A34 with cars and lorries buzzing you), or road racing, (but if don't have particularly good power to weight ratio for the hills this can be a very short or difficult race). The track events are open to all ages (14 plus), and are mostly mid-week so don’t affect your weekend events both on and off the bike.
Where to go
Train, race or be a spectator - PP outdoor track in Reading, hosts a spring to summer racing season, April to end of September, 6pm to 9pm'ish on Monday nights. Calshot Activities Centre near Fawley in Southampton is an indoor velodrome. Autumn to spring season, October to March held on Sundays 1pm to 4pm'ish. The National Cycle Centre in Manchester is a world-class indoor venue, which is worth experiencing all year round. There are special introductory sessions throughout the year. This is where you can emulate your heros such as Chris Boardman and the likes of Queally, Hoy, Pendleton and Mclean.
How to start
If you’re curious, just pop down to PP and take a look, watching from the side lines on a Tuesday or Thursday night will probably give you the feeling of ‘I can do that’. The very next week you could be taking part in one of the open road sessions; you don't need to be a member of the track (except to race) just turn up and pay (£5.55). You can start on freewheel, and then convert to fixed in the summer when you’ve got the hang of it. Don’t worry about what etiquette to follow whilst riding the track -just try to stay out of the way of the fast groups, until you feel ready to join them. There are many groups of different abilities to ride with, just join in the one that suits you and start chatting to people; this is how the groupetto starts generally; till it gets difficult to talk and ride. (Just like a Sunday ride).
In the summer Thursday nights are fixed wheel only training, between 8 and 10pm; novices can come down and have a go on one of the track bikes available to use at PP. The youngest are generally 14/15 years old for the Tues/Thurs nights. Younger children are advised to try the Saturday morning sessions, which cater for fixed wheel (from 8.45 am) and non-fixed bikes (11:00am). (Check times with PP (0118) 901 5080)
During the off-season, (October to March) Tuesday and Thursdays nights between 8pm and 10pm the PP track is used for open training sessions. Come down on your mountain, road or fixed (with brakes) wheel bike; there are even tandems and recumbents in the chain gangs of up to 50 riders. (Once again check with PP management for times or just ask me nearer the time).
Racing is held on Monday nights during the summer. If you decide to race at PP there are many varied race distances, e.g. 1 lap sprint of P.P = 459m, or 10 lap scratch / Devil races moving up to the 44 lap/20km endurance race.
Events - there are many strange sounding events - sprint, handicap, pursuit, hare n’ hounds, devil take the hindmost, derny (Motorbike) paced, Keirin, Olympic sprints; to name but a few. All events require different combinations of attributes - sprinting, endurance, stealth, recovery and strategy. There's a race to suit everyone, some you will dread and some you love. Some of which you will enjoy whether you're any good or not, the derny and Keirin are firm favourites with most riders and spectators alike. Racing - First you'll need a licence to race, i.e. by joining British Cycling, as a member of a Reading CC, another club or even as a private member. Then you can join the Reading Track Cycling League (RTCL) (www.readingvelodromeracing.co.uk) to race at PP; hopefully as a member of Reading CC. You should always see someone you know from Reading CC or another club to have a chat with or meet someone new.
The British Cycling licence system allows many different age groups, i.e. senior, junior, under 12, 14, 16's and veterans. In racing riders are generally split by ability - 1st and 2nd cat's form the A riders, 3rd and 4th the B's. Depending on rider numbers, the races are either separate or combined, but there are always separate points for the league to be won for both A and B categories. It generally takes a couple of seasons to find your legs, get used to fixed, and suss out the tactics.
So you've joined RTCL, raced at PP, you're a Cat B looking to improve your PB; what can you do? You could try a training experience at one of the country’s indoor velodromes. You can book a session which usually comes with a coach. You can do these at certain times of the year, but you've got to book a place. After that you consider the National Track Championships or the World Masters usually at Manchester!
Track for new riders - Ride Palmer Park over the autumn and winter, getting your bike set up for the forthcoming season. Benefits - good speed, anyone can have a go, local events for people with less time. In the summer Derny training, good for time trial speed, variety, no hills unless you count the 40+ degree banking at Calshot and Manchester, training through the winter, no rest whilst riding. Guts - no brakes, one gear + one pair of legs. You can't get lost at Palmer Park, you can still puncture, but why not do it at 35+ mph
Derny - don't forget the dernys, use them for training as well as racing. Good speed work for those that want to try. Time trialists naturally do well at the high speeds of derny racing, when they've got used to sitting on the wheel at 30+ MPH!!
Who can I talk to?
You can contact our track secretary, details on the web site. They will be pleased to hear from you, and answer anything you need to know.
RCC members to talk to that are regular track racing attendees are: Paul Cooper, Richard Gostick and David Ivory..
Other local clubs/riders at PP - Palmer Park Velo, Newbury/Oxford RC's, Maidenhead and District, Farnborough & Camberley, WCPP riders. RCC members who organise/judge at PP - Colin Garnham & Dave Gaida.
Recap - Venues Manchester, Calshot, Swansea, Palmer Park + others What events - RTL, Nationals, Masters, Calshot, LVRC, 'fixed' Roller racing in Chippenham. Training - Tuesday/Thursday p.m., Saturday a.m., Manchester Specials with National coaches in pursuit/sprint/general track craft and some Calshot specials. What Bike - make your own, hire at PP, off the peg, eBay, cycling weekly adverts, simplest is best, little maintenance. Manchester and Calshot need spec. bikes which are available to hire, they have shorter cranks and higher bottom brackets than road bikes. Some people will have already sampled fixed, We hope by writing this that a few more people will try it and maybe get the bug!