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Track Cycling Myths, Debunked
Juliet Elliott is no stranger to fixed-gear racing, having competed in many track and criterium competitions across the globe. In line with the finale of the women’s league, we invited her to London's Herne Hill Velodrome—one of the oldest cycling tracks in the world—to test her legs amongst the local London teams.
With the hugely successful ASSOS LDN Women’s Track League at Herne Hill now wrapped until next year, I’ve been reflecting on how much I enjoyed the races and just what it is about riding around in circles that I enjoy so much.
For me, the appeal is pretty easy to explain—the races challenge the brain as well as the body, all the events are very different to each other so it never gets boring, and I feel a strong affinity for singlespeed bikes, seeing as they’re what got me into cycling in the first place.
Women’s Track League takes these elements and adds to them, giving participants the chance to race in either A, B, or C categories, so the satisfaction of making progress is open to all, no matter your level. Then there’s the social aspect—between races riders chat, warm up, and hang out in the centre of the velodrome, so friendships are made, teams formed, and races analysed.
Despite the success of ASSOS LDN Women’s Track League, there are still those who consider track racing scary or inaccessible, which could be partly due to the fact some of the races seem to be, at first glance, hard to understand. But as I think you’re missing out if you don’t at least dip your toe into the thrilling waters of track racing, here are a few common myths about the velodrome, debunked.
The myth: You need to be hench to race track
It’s absolutely not true that you need thighs like Chris Hoy or Anna Meares to race track; there is more than one kind of track racer, just as there is more than one kind of race. Sprinting is just one element of this varied branch of cycling.
The myth: Track racing requires spending a lot of money on equipment
I’ve yet to be to a velodrome that doesn’t hire out track bikes, and most have helmets and gloves available too. If you want to race a BC affiliated race and win points, yes, you may need to think about getting your own bike, but don’t let that be a deterrent if you’re starting out. Also, many decent-sized cycling clubs have bikes that you can borrow to race on.
The myth: It’s dangerous to ride without brakes
Contrary to what you might at first think, it’s actually safer riding without brakes on the velodrome as it means the person in front can’t suddenly stop, forcing you to go into the back of them.
The myth: The races are confusing
Ok, so some races can seem a bit mystifying at first glance, but they’re not all like that. In the “Scratch Race,” for instance, the first over the line wins and the “Elimination” means the last rider on each lap is eliminated until only the fastest is left.
The myth: Everyone else is strong/fit/confident/knows what they are doing
It’s easy to assume that every other racer feels entirely comfortable when in fact, many people get a little nervous. It’s also a mistake to assume everyone else is “finding it easy.” I’ve yet to go to a race or on a club ride where that was the case—most people just suffer in silence and don’t let on that their legs are murder or they don’t entirely know what they are doing.
The myth: Everyone will think you are slow or don’t know what you are doing
Sorry, but most people don’t actually care that much about what you’re doing; they’re too busy focusing on their own racing.
So with that out of the way, I hope you’re encouraged to give track racing a go so that you too can get as excited about it as I do in this video! Women’s Track League will be back at Herne Hill next year, so why not make competing your goal for 2020?