As the days get shorter and colder, it’s hard to keep on top of your bike fitness, but there are a lot of options out there to make it interesting and fun!
One exciting option I went for was the velodrome. I am fortunate enough to have been involved with Team GB at a number of track Events with names like Laura Trott, Becky James, Ben Swift to name just a few and still involved to this day.
The Velodrome is based in Portugal, in a town not far from Porto, where the European champs have been held. It’s only 5 years old and is just one of many examples of great Portuguese architecture.
Back in the UK you can get track time by just booking yourself in when it’s open to the public. You have to have an assessment, just some training to show you how to ride on the track and the bikes, and then you’re away. Most tracks have hire bikes as well.
Here in Portugal it’s a bit harder to get on the track but with my involvement with Team GB I managed to get some track time through the national coach, Gabriel, so I was invited to go when he was training some of his athletes. That was great, but I started to feel a bit nervous due to the fact had not ridden the track for 20 years!!!
Well, I just thought I best get on with it. It was Monday evening in January, damp and misty, a perfect day to be inside. Luckily they have basic track bikes there so I could use one of them as I don’t have my own.
I turned up at the Velodrome, quite breath taking as you walk up the path approaching it as normally there’s an event on so it’s busy with teams, managers and athletes buzzing everywhere. Once inside, I made my way through a tunnel lined with photos of athletes who have competed here. Then wow! The centre of the track.
Now feeling under pressure as I was introduced to Ivo e Oliveira and brother, Rui Oliveira, Portuguese under 23 champs track and road, these guys are the business and they represent Portugal on a global scale. Just the three of us on the track!! Now I’m looking at the track in a different way, as I’m going on it now, it seems steeper as I look up the bank.
Bike feels a bit weird as I’m riding up the ramp to the track, fixed wheel and no brakes and no gears! Hope it all come back to me, but loving it!!
The sheer size of the track is overwhelming! Just Gabriel is present holding his stopwatch on the side of the track to time the brothers. As we all click into our pedals, the noise echoes around the track, slowly building up momentum at the base of the track, to get to a comfortable cadence, to begin a warm up at the base of the track.
Cool air hitting my face, all of us in a line, concentring on keeping constant power, the pedal stroke and trying to relax! As feeling a bit tense, after around 10 laps I get the courage to climb the bank as I catapult up to the top of the track wall, keeping up the speed sweeping round the end of the track where the bank’s the highest, then dropping down to the bottom of the track again with a rush of exhilaration, wow!! The nerves have gone and just getting into it now, the brothers now are on TT bikes on a lower quicker part of the track in front of me flying, Gabriel timing every lap, as they lap me, you just realise how quick these boys are!
After an hour I’m feeling tired so time to stop as and take in what I’ve been doing. What a great way to get stronger and improve your bike skills, no freewheeling with a fixed wheel!! Handling skills? It looks daunting at first, but with the right induction it’s a great experience and worth trying. I now have my own track bike, you can pick them up from around £400 upwards and they can be purchased from most cycle shops. They are easy to maintain as they have less components than regular road bikes. If you’re lucky enough to have a track not far from you then check out their site or go on the British Cycling website and will see where your nearest track is and book yourself an adventure!!!! Or if you need to travel and make a weekend of it.
The views shared are that of the author and are not necessarily that of Lexham Insurance Consultants Ltd.