Women cyclists should give track a go

Australian champion track cyclist Anna Meares at a recent event

I had an opportunity to do a great two-day bike skills workshop earlier this year. The first day was on the Dunc Grey Velodrome at Bass Hill and while I hadn’t previously considered track, I thought it would be a great opportunity to improve my bike skills.

My partner Phillip started riding track last year, firstly to compete in the winter track series called RAW at the velodrome and then the summer series at Lidcombe run by our bike club LACC. So I’ve watched him plenty of times but never really considered giving it a go myself.

The bike skills workshop day was a great way to be introduced to track cycling. It was a women’s only workshop which worked well for me. From my observation women and men learn skills like riding a bike very differently so it makes sense to segregate the sexes for this purpose.

So we started off by learning a bit about track bikes, getting fitted up for our hired track bikes and slowly gained a few skills. We learnt to start and stop on the fixed wheel bikes. That might sound a bit odd to someone who has never ridden a track bike but it’s very different to a road or other type of geared bike because the pedals go around whenever the wheels are turning. That means that to start off you can’t roll along while you get your pedals sorted. You have to sort of catch the pedal with your foot as it goes around. When you stop you can’t use any brakes because there aren’t any and you can’t roll to a stop and put your foot on the ground to anchor yourself.

In fact the easiest way to stop is to grab hold of a fence, once you’ve slowed down and keep both of your feet clipped in. It might sound a bit daunting but once you’ve done it a few times you start to get a feel for it. The mantra of any newbie track cyclist is ‘Keep pedalling’. If you attempt to stop pedalling, the bike will soon let you know that it’s not an option. The best part about riding a track bike once you’re off and running is that it’s completely uncomplicated – no gears or brakes to worry about. All you need to concentrate on is staying upright and avoiding a collision – and winning if you’re in a race.

Once we’d mastered the actual bike we were encouraged (all in our own time) to ride up the ramp and circumnavigate the velodrome. The velodrome is an amazing experience for a novice rider. It is extremely steep at each end and seemingly at first glance you’d never believe that you could ride on it without sliding off. The only thing that spurred me on is that I’d seen so many others do it before and so believed I could do it too. It took me a while to be brave enough to ride up the bank but I was exhilarated when I did finally get there. For me it was an exercise in fighting my fears rather than simply riding a bike.

So until last week that was my first and only track experience. Then last Wednesday my bike club LACC (or more specifically my friend Stu who is VP of track) organised a ‘Come and Try Track’ night at Lidcombe oval where LACC holds its summer track series. It’s pretty much a bitumen track around a grass playing field.

It was quite fun although I was still pretty nervous about the track bike feeling so different from a road bike but I’m sure over time I’ll gain confidence. Whether I’ll become a dedicated track rider is another thing entirely. I would encourage any women to get out there and give it a go. If nothing else you’ll get fit from all that pedalling.

One comment

  • Comment from @KatherineLBates on Twitter: @Womenwhocycle nice blog – glad you enjoyed the velodrome! I find track
    addictive & club racing & training can be social fun too.