How to get started in track cycling: five tips from coach Tim Kennaugh

JLT Condor team coach on how to go from track cycling newbie to the next Ed Clancy

Riding on the track for the first time is a daunting experience – flying towards the steep banking of the velodrome on a fixed gear bike with no brakes. But it’s also an exhilarating, adrenaline-filled ride, and one which needn’t strike fear into first-timers.

Britain has firmly established itself at the world’s leading track cycling nation and National Cycling Centre in Manchester has earned the nickname of ‘The Medal Factory’ owing to the number of Olympic gold medallists who have trained on the boards since the country’s first indoor Olympic-standard velodrome opened in 1994.

From Sir Bradley Wiggins to Laura Kenny, the success of British cyclists, who have topped the medal table at the past three Olympic Games, has inspired countless others to take to the track.

If you’ve been inspired to try track cycling but don’t know where to start, we caught up with Tim Kennaugh, coach of the JLT Condor squad, who won inaugural Revolution Champions League series, to get his advice on how to go from track newbie to the next Ed Clancy.

Tim Kennaugh is the coach of the JLT Condor team, winners of the inaugural Revolution Champions League track cycling series (Pic: Alex Whitehead/

Take the plunge

Even for experienced road cyclists, venturing onto the velodrome for the first time can be nerve-wracking. Kennaugh has one piece of advice – relax.

“In many ways, riding on the track is much safer than on the road as other riders can’t brake suddenly, so it flows more,” says Kennaugh, who was a member of the British Cycling Academy before becoming a coach.

While any of the UK’s 28 tracks (you can see them all on this map) are fine to get started on, Kennaugh advises then venturing to one of the country’s five, international-standard indoor velodromes (London, Manchester, Derby, Glasgow and Newport) to encounter the steep banking which makes track cycling unique. There is also an indoor velodrome in Calshot, which measures 142.85m and has even steeper banking as a result.

“My most important piece of advice to first-timers is to relax,” Kennaugh says, before encouraging daunted newcomers to take the plunge. “Get down to your local velodrome and book onto a taster session.”

Pressure on the pedals

Track bikes differ from conventional road bikes by being fixed-gear – with no gears and no freewheel. During a track taster session, a coach will work with you as you become accustomed to the bike and take on your first few laps, before beginning to move up the banking.

The key when riding a fixed-gear bike on the track is to not try and stop pedalling (put simply, you can’t) but instead control the pressure you apply to the pedals in order to adjust your speed, Kennaugh says.

London’s Lee Valley VeloPark is home to one of five international-standard indoor tracks in the UK (Pic: Simon Wilkinson/

“When you are moving up the banking, first you need to check over your right shoulder to see that it’s safe to move up, and then apply more pressure to the pedals to stop your wheels sliding back down the track,” Kennaugh says. Momentum is your friend on the track and speed will help you maintain your position on the steep banking, whereas if you’re not carrying enough speed you will begin to naturally move back towards the track centre.

“When slowing down, you need to back off the pedals [and reduce your cadence] or even try to back pedal slightly to kill your speed,” Kennaugh adds. “Aim to come off the track on a straight so you can slow down before you have to turn into the bend.”

Keep it smooth

Just like riding in a group on the road, staying safe among other riders on the track is all about being smooth, staying aware of your surroundings and communicating with others.

“It’s similar to staying safe on the road just without the parked cars and potholes,” Kennaugh says. “Avoid any erratic changes in direction – staying focused and alert is key.

“Make sure you check over your shoulder before you move, avoid riding with your front wheel underneath the rider in front of you and communicate to the riders around you to let them know that you are there or to let them in a gap.”

Position matters

When you book onto a track cycling taster session for the first time, chances are you will most likely be handed a hire bike to ride. Even if you’re on the track for the first time, it’s important to get your position right – namely your reach and saddle height.

“Position is very important on a track bike,” he says. “If your position is wrong you will find the bike much harder to control and you will increase your chances of getting injured. “Make sure you have a slight bend in your elbows when down in the drops and your knee should have a slight bend in it when your pedals are at the six o’clock position.”

That will put you in the right ball park for your first session, Kennaugh says, and don’t be afraid to seek the advice of your coach to get comfortable. As you become more experienced you can fine-tune your position.

“There is no one right position as everyone is different,” he adds. “So if you need to find out what works for you then ask the coach at your track session.”

The next step

If you’ve tried a few taster sessions and have got the track cycling bug, you can undertake an accreditation process to give you the training and skills you need to become a safe and competent track rider.

If you complete the four-stage process, you can then take part in structured training sessions to further improve your skills and fitness, and sign-up for track leagues to get a taste for racing.

Fancy yourself as the next Ed Clancy? Get your track accreditation and join a league to start racing (Pic: Alex Whitehead/

“At a track league you will find there are different groups based on experience and ability, so as you improve you can move up to the next group,” Kennaugh says. “If you decide to start racing, it’s important to spend as much time training on the track as possible.

“If you can only get on once a week make sure you spend time at home training on the turbo trainer or rollers, focusing on doing efforts with a high cadence to simulate the type of effort you will be making on the track.

“If you are training for timed events like the kilo or pursuit, where you need to be able to start quickly from the gate, also add some over-geared efforts from a standing start out on the road.”

Tim Kennaugh coaches JLT Condor, winners of the inaugural Revolution Champions League


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