A few of us recently went to watch the UCI championships at the Manchester Velodrome, which was a fab night and first time I had been to a track. Whilst there Lesley and I joked that we could do it, giggled and then thought…..errr maybe not! However some days later found ourselves looking at the ladies taster session and booking on to give it a go!
A couple of weeks went past, and before I knew it we were in the car and on our way – I don’t even clip into my bike on the road, so was excited and a little nervous of what our evening was about to entail.
About to head out into the tunnel and riders D to collect our bikes of course this moment couldn’t be missed……!!!
The first thing that struck me as we emerged from the tunnel is that the banking looked a lot steeper from the bottom, and a 42 degree angle when looking up and imagining being on a bike suddenly resembled a fairground Wall of Death ride!
There were quite a few in our group, but only 3 track virgins, most had done it before and seemed to be working towards accreditation by practising specific techniques. So off they went whilst we were talked through the features of our Dolan bikes……obvious ones we spotted straight away being no brakes or gears….oh dear!
After our familiarisation, we were told to get on the bikes – our feet were well and truly strapped in, and we were told to pull ourselves along the barrier and pedal away to get used to the bike. It was at this point I turned round to Lesley and said – ‘who’s idea was this again?….oh and good luck!’
We were told to do three laps of the flatter section of the track to get used to the bike and then come to a stop against the barrier. Off we went and surprisingly got used to the bikes fairly quickly…..although I seemed to get more used to the speed rather than the slowing down….I had to do an extra lap as I was going too fast to stop. Thought Lesley had done the same, but she just said ‘nope was just following you…!’ To slow the bike down you need to pedal slower and resist the pedals slightly, I got the hang of it eventually and managed to stop without toppling over.
Whether you like it or not you have to keep peddling on a fixed gear ratio bike – you stop, you fall off…simple as that! I am pleased to report that neither of us fell off and no splinters were obtained during the session.
Once we had convinced our instructor that we could control the bikes we were told to do laps of the inner blue band to work up our speed, and when we were going fast enough they would tell us to move up onto the boards. The others in our group were already whizzing about above us, and before we knew it we were just below them.
We soon got used to the fact that there are no obstacles, traffic lights or pot holes, and that the riders in front of you can’t suddenly slam on the brakes, so got quicker and more confident pretty quickly. You still need to keep your wits about you especially when changing height and going on and off the track. However somehow it seemed less to think about than being on the road. I was forced to go higher sooner than I probably would have done due to someone moving up the track and not looking, but loved every second of it.
You have to attack the corners and try not to think about gravity and the angle….oh and the fact you are sitting on a bike….before you know it you are round the banking and speeding up to the next one – the whole experience is exhilarating and we just bloody loved it!
We both had a great time whizzing around and managed to get half way up the track on our first go, so were really pleased. We were grinning like big kids once the hour was up, and already looking forward to our next trip when we are aiming for the top……perhaps we need to speak to our honorary Lass, and recent winner of Leeds sportswoman of the year Katy Marchant for some top tips before then though…..!