Dave 'I'm a trackie now' Arthur
No gears. No brakes. No freewheel. An indoor oval track. Doesn’t sound like a lot of fun to somebody who considers himself a mountain biker first and foremost. But after a few hesitant laps, I was well and truly hooked.
It’s the speed and closeness of the racing that is so thrilling. The banking seems so daunting the first time you ride up the boards, but as the confidence grows the speed increases, and the adrenalin glands are put into overtime. The banking is pretty steep, and advice from Guy to not look down was the best tip of the day for me (especially riding around the very top of the banking – it’s a long way down from up there).
Before you even hit the banking though there’s the small problem of getting used to a bike without gears, brakes or a freewheel. And to be honest, it didn’t take all that long - a couple of hours and I almost felt at home. It’s the slowing, stopping and making minute adjustments to your speed that take some getting used to – pedalling backwards just doesn’t feel right at all – but you do get the hang of it and before you realise you have visions of being the next Chris Hoy... or perhaps not.
For a complete track novice it’s surprisingly easy to get up onto the track proper, but being a regular cyclist with a good level of skills makes the transition to a wannabe trackie even quicker. All cyclists should give the track a go, but be warned, you’ll quickly become addicted.
Veena Mistry (Magicalia ad girl and complete novice)
What were your preconceptions of riding the track? Did you know what to expect/what you were letting yourself in for?
I had visions of a really big track and lots of people riding around not just our Bike team. But didn’t know what to expect really…went in completely blind. Some might say I rode like that too!
Honestly, what went through your mind when you walked into the velodrome?
I expected the track to be a lot bigger than it was so that was a nice surprise, but everyone seemed to be riding really fast and it didn’t look so safe.
Did you feel differently at the end of the session?
It was both enjoyable and scary at the same time but the first time I did the lap it was mainly scary!
Describe your experience of riding a fixed wheel.
The fixed wheel was daunting to ride as I wasn’t sure how safe it was to stop. Felt like I had no control over the bike and the lack of brakes didn’t fill me with any confidence that I was already lacking.
Do you think it’s easy for beginners to give it a go?
I wouldn’t say it’s easy, just a case of nerves and confidence. If you’re confident then you’re already 80% there.
Was it easier to ride track or mountain bike?
Initially it was easier to ride a mountain bike but I had trouble remembering which brakes to use and what gear I should be in. I preferred to ride track as it was just straight and not hurtling up hills and downhill which I found the most frightening.
Would you do it again?
Yes I would
What did you think when three experienced riders crashed!?
Well, I was on the other side of the track fortunately and only heard it. Very glad I didn’t see it, because I doubt I would have got back on the bike!
Bikemagic's Mike Davis gives us his thoughts
I don't really consider myself a cyclist - I think of myself as a mountain biker because, well, that's pretty much all I ride. Which made riding the track very much a new experience. For a start, the bikes are about as far from my usual mount as you can get. About the only thing a contemporary mountain bike and a track bike have in common are that both have two wheels and a saddle.
Actually, that's about all a track bike has. Two wheels, a saddle, some bars, a fixed-gear transmission and a few tubes to join it all together. No gears, no freewheel, no brakes. Riding one for the first time is faintly disorientating. For a start, your hands are down near the front axle somewhere. And then there's the whole fixed-gear thing - you can't stop pedalling without things turning ugly. But at the same time you can slow down just by pedalling less fast, which is rather agreeable.
Once you're used to it you can hit the track. Again, this is initially disconcerting. I've ridden round plenty of bermed corners, but the Newport banking makes even the biggest berm look like a dropped kerb. It's high, it's steep and when you're riding behind someone else it doesn't look possible. Once you get your eye in, though, it's great. It only gets scary when you feel like you want to go faster to stay stuck to the track but you need to slow down to avoid riding into the bike in front...
All in all, it's superb fun and hard work, but in a good way - you really could get extraordinarily fast doing this. Even better, it's indoors - no mud, no rain, no bike cleaning, no unpleasant laundry. Looking for something new to try this winter? Look no further.
Wales National Velodrome
Newport International Sport Village
Telephone: (01633) 656 757
If you fancy a go, please e-mail us and we'll put you down for the RCUK day trip to Newport, hopefully for early next year.