So, Monday evening my buddy Chris and I went down to the San Jose Velodrome (www.ridethetrack.com) for one of their beginner sessions. At first I was actually kinda nervous, never having ridden a track bike and never having ridden in a group of people I didn’t know.
I got there early and was able to watch some guys from the San Jose bike club doing some workouts. These guys really fly around the track. (ok, even more nervous now)
Once they were done and everyone else showed up, rented their bikes, filled out their waivers and promised to “keep pedaling” the session started.
It starts out with the leader, Michael, (the guy on the geared bike, keeping up with the race bikes in the picture) a thin, super-fit, racer dude, explaining the basics. The track layout, each of the positions on the track, the wall, the stayers line, the sprinters line, the edge of the world and the apron. Then he talked about the etiquette of the track. Where and when you can get on and off the track, where you’re supposed to be when you’re riding, passing, relaxing, etc. and what you can expect of others while you’re on the track. (Man, I hope there isn't a quiz)
This last part is very important and since we were riding with a bunch of people we didn’t know, it helps that everyone understands what their role is.
Michael was actually a really cool guy and he and his helper made the whole experience a lot of fun.
From here we broke into two groups – those that had done this before and those that hadn’t. Those of us that hadn’t went over to the warm up circle to get familiar with our bikes, the ringers – oops, I mean, those that had done this before went out on the track to do some warm-ups and practice entering and exiting the track.
Now that us beginners have proven we can start and stop on a fixed gear bike without killing ourselves they let us loose on the track with the others and we do a couple of laps to get used to riding in big circles. Basically it’s just like Nascar except a little bit slower….go straight, left turn, go straight left turn…..easy breezy right? (ok, maybe a LOT slower than Nascar)
Next we did some sprint drills to get used to riding fast, holding our line and generally getting comfortable riding with people you don’t know. Basically, we’d line up 4 across on the track, pedal along, Michael would blow his whistle, we’d sprint until he blew his whistle again and we relax. Then we’d swap positions on the track and do it again. (hmm...this is a pretty good workout)
Ok, so now it’s really getting fun….I felt good, my legs were warmed up and I thought I was doing pretty well on the sprints.
Alright so now that we’ve done this, let’s do some racing. They broke us into two groups a “faster” group and a “not as fast” group. Well, Chris and I decided to try the “faster” group. (populated mostly by the people that skipped the beginner training circle) We lined up on the wall and Michael, after reminding us to keep pedaling, said go. We soft pedaled around to turn 3 and then he blew his whistle and I understood what the “faster” group meant. It meant they were all “faster” than me. Once I fell outta the back of the group, I was done. They took off and Chris and I and one other guy were left in the dust. Granted, Chris and I were having some communication issues with our teamwork. Evidently he was waiting for me to pull through and I was happy sitting on his wheel letting him do all the work. So, 5 laps later we finished my first ever “race”….and I was hooked. It was a total blast!
After the second group did their 5 lap race, we got back out there for a 7 lap race.
This was a mix of both groups so although I didn’t keep up with the first group of finishers, I wasn’t dead last either.
All in all it was a totally awesome experience and I can’t wait to do it again....
Now, how am I going to sneak a track bike into the garage……