Yesterday I had the opportunity to expand my cycling resume by becoming certified to race at one of the most popular track cycling velodromes in southern California. This particular one happens to be in Carson. A bit of a jaunt for me, but nothing of unreasonable distance. Being the single male with a day off work I made a day of it and decided to ride to the track, become track certified, then ride back home (that and I had driven all day prior to this so I thought I would even things out a bit.)
I’ve never been one to arrive right on time for most time based appointments so I usually make an effort to be early for most of my outings. The morning of was no exception. Since the class was at 10:30 am I made sure to give myself plenty of time to get across the city so there would be no pressure and (added) stress heading into the situation. So at around 7:00 am I left my house and on I went.
There are a number of ways anyone can get from the valley all the way out to the south bay.I kept things simple and went through, Hollywood, Downtown, then proceeded down Avalon through all the cities in between. From downtown, I watched the city go from a nice suburb and hustling entertainment industry to a third world. I don’t want to get too detailed about the things I saw (nothing graphic or vulgar) but sometimes we forget about other people in the city who come from rougher upbringings that may be struggling more than us with things we might take for granted. I couldn’t bring myself to capture some photos of the line of tents that were set up down San Pedro before turning onto Avalon. This is truly a sight worth seeing for yourself.
After my jaunt down the city, I made it with about a half hour to spare (perfect timing in my book.) The track is in a building off the side of this giant sports stadium and college campus. After registering and finding where I needed to go, I met the instructor and the class had begun.
There were seven of us total, five who had taken the four week class, and one other person who (like myself) decided we could knock this out in one class. Our instructor was an older gentleman by the name of Andrew. Andrew is someone who is not afraid to share his opinion with those around him. A real character in his own sense. Someone who isn’t afraid to bust your chops, and humble your ego to prove a point. My wrestling coach in high school was a lot like this (only scarier) so I stuck to yes and no responses, remained respectful, and tried to only speak when spoken to. Before the we hopped on our bikes there was some lecturing involving the mechanics of the track and how the rules translate to other velodromes. It was then that I got a few photos of the scenery.
One of the biggest points that were made was that the format in which all of the riding that took place on this track was internationally fluent. Meaning you could travel to a foreign land where no one speaks your language, hop on their track, and with the knowledge we were taught today, still be able to show to other riders that you knew what you were doing.
Coming from a road bike cycling background, I understand that cycling etiquette is important for many reasons, (mainly for safety and efficiency.) Track cycling is not much different, except a new level of physics is introduced and that to keep from sliding off the forty-five degree banking, you need to maintain a faster speed, and be sure to scan ahead once you enter a turn. For those who haven’t had the opportunity to ride on a track, the rules are similar to that of a highway, you have a designated enter and exit lane, your fast and slow lanes, and passing lanes. All which need to be met with a minimum amount of speed to keep from falling. The banking can be intimidating (especially when riders are traveling the bare minimum speed to keep the tires from slipping off the wooden pavement (there’s a loud, squeaky noise that sounds like the planks of wood are shifting below you.)
Having already had two hours of ride time in me, I was ready to go. After a brief introduction, me and another rider first started towards the bottom of the track, first getting familiar with the feel of riding at such an angle. Once we got up to speed we were told to move up track, where the same principles applied, but a higher speed must be maintained. I didn’t realize the guy behind me was struggling to keep up behind me as we showed we were able to ride half way up the track. I think it was the fear of slipping off that inspired the hurried pace.
After our two-man rotating paceline drill in which we had to pull off all the way up towards the railing (a tall 3.33 meters ( about 10 feet)) when entering a corner. The trick to this is keeping your speed as you enter the steeper banking. Naturally you will slow down if you maintain your current effort, so more force must be applied to make it up. From here, you wait for the partner (or group) to pass by you, in which you then drop down and hop behind them and the cycle then repeats. Dropping in had to be the most nerve racking. When I was up top waiting to hop back in, I found myself slowing down in anticipation. From there I was never sure if the speed I gained by dropping back in would be enough to grip the track. All in all, nobody fell, and everyone had a good time.
One of the final drills was an eight lap scratch race. This in a nutshell is an eight lap, rolling group start. I wasn’t able to gauge other rider’s experience levels, but I know how to approach an eight lap rack on any track. With two laps to go I was third wheel, and coming out of the first corner, I accelerated and went all out. No one was able to respond to my attack and I ended up finishing on my own with no one attempting to sit on my wheel to contend. At this point, the angle of the track didn’t matter. I have a basic idea of how to approach mass starts like these and feel comfortable enough in my racing experience to get close to other riders. Thankfully, things never got too hairy, but I wouldn’t mind.
Once this was all over, we received our certificates and I was on my way.
At this point I was a little low on food and had enough water to make it to the next convenient store when I was back in familiar surroundings. I was beginning to dread the commute back to the valley but instead, made the best of my situation and trekked back home. I took some more photos when I hit the coastal route.
I hadn’t ridden my track bike in a few weeks. I began to realize that I use more muscle groups on this bike than my road bike (muscle groups that feel pretty beat up as I write this today.) However in times like these and with the increased riding time I’ve been targeting (an average of 16 hours a week) I knew to keep the pace mellow and I would catch a second or third wind.
The track was a great learning experience for me. Next week they are having resume builder races to which I hope I can get the chance (and the funds) to show up and see what I’ve got. I know I’m not my best right now, but riding with other novice riders and showing that I had the speed to not only keep up but stay away from them had boosted my confidence just enough that I might sign up in my off-seasoned state.
This has been a great opportunity for me and I hope there are many more to follow. Oh!, and BTW I’ll include my route to, and from the track (not counting the laps we did while on said track) below.