Cyclo-Vet Member Bill Zegeler on his way to a national match sprint championship
by Lou Brooks
Whether you’re a time trialer, road racer, criterium specialist, or just riding for fun and fitness, learning to ride a track bike on the velodrome will improve your skills and speed. You don’t need to own a track bike to try this. The San Diego Velodrome Association (SDVA) has bikes and classes for beginning or new riders to the track. Contact the San Diego Velodrome for more information. http://sdvelodrome.com/
If you decide you enjoy riding on the track and want to continue to improve your skills, there are a number of ways to go. SDVA may offer continued classes at the next level, or you may want to hire your own coach. There are a number of very excellent track coaches available in the area to choose from. Eddie B., John Ledford and Sean Burke are all associated with the SDVA and are very active.
Here are the reasons for spending some time on the track. It will make you a better, more efficient, and faster rider. Riding a track bike with a fixed gear will teach you to pedal in circles, improving your efficiency, which translates to more power with less effort. It also helps your riding skills. Because you have no brakes, you must adjust your speed using pedal pressure either to increase or decrease your speed. You will need to learn this skill to ride in a pace line and maintain proper distance between bikes. There are also advantages to riding on a banked oval track. Because it is a closed circuit, there are fewer distractions to worry about (cars, kids, dogs, traffic lights, etc.). As you learn to use the banking by moving up and down to decrease or increase your speed or change your position, you will gain confidence in your bike handling skills.
Sprinting is another skill that track training will improve. You can do repetitive jumps starting from a slow roll to top speed in a short distance both in and out of the saddle. You can also do standing starts (need holder) and go all out for a half lap. These will improve your ability to close gaps in the field when racing or just catch up to a friend when riding.
Top speed is another thing that can be improved at the track. Motor pacing is a great way to do this and is safer and more easily controlled on the track. Of course you need an experienced person on the motor to help with that. The motorcycle we use has a roller attached to the rear of the motorcycle and when your front wheel touches, it just spins. What a blast at 35+ mph!
Our club is a member of the Velodrome Association that allows our members a reduced membership fee on the velodrome. That gives you access to use the facility at appropriate times. We have some experienced track riders in Cyclo-Vets, who will be glad to give you information that would be helpful. These include Vic Copeland, Bill Ziegler, Lou Brooks, Ray La Fleur, Bob Kenner, and Gary Devoss, who has recently joined Eddie’s group at the track to improve his sprint.
I started riding at the track in the late 70s. Time trials were my only previous experience. I enjoyed the track and started out training with different groups and racing on Friday nights. I could see right away that my skills were quickly improving. At that time they had a Masters class on racing nights and I joined in on all of the events. I had the good fortune to be coached by some really great riders, Gary Shutes, Dave Grylls, and a few others whose names escape me. I have had periods of inactivity with racing and training and getting back in shape isn’t easy, but getting back on the track has always helped. It is one of those things that once you learn, you don’t forget and it carries over to other events. In my case, it has helped me win a couple of state criterium championships.
There are many different types of training we can do to improve our cycling skills and the track is only one of them, but I would highly recommend you give it a try.