We have become a nation of bike riders. There has been a consistent increase in the number of cyclists in the country since the beginning of the millennium. It is not just the twenty-somethings either. People of all ages are getting out and about on their bikes. Whether for leisure, commuting, fitness or sport everyone from high school students to busy executives to retired seniors are strapping on helmets and pushing pedals.
This summer, the Pan-Am 2015 games are taking center stage and with the building of the brand new state-of-the-art Velodrome in Milton, avid cyclers are not only anticipating the thrill of watching the competition but with access to velodrome facilities people are trying their hand at track cycling. If you have an interest, there are already lessons available for anyone curious about this sport which has now become accessible to us in the Southern Ontario area.
For those of us with a cycle enthusiast in our family, this means more sports gear and a new bicycle to consider and store as well. Yes, the road bike purchased last year will not work for the sport of Track Cycling.
How Does Track Cycling Work
Riders will need a track bike with no brakes and fixed gear. It is designed for racing on a track at a velodrome. The track is a banked wooden track so the bike is lightweight, aerodynamic for racing and high gear. These professional riders are reaching speeds of 80km/hr while many of us are cycling at 20km/hr on the road.
Track biking is both a team and an individual sport and has its own set of unique rules and events. The following is what you can expect to see at this year’s Pan-Am games.
For the Pan-Am games there are three types of sprinting events:
- The individual sprint where cyclists begin racing with a flying start (from a moving position rather than a stopped position), and race for 200 meters.
- The team sprint, which is slightly different for men and women. For men, three racers sprint over three laps of the course, with each rider participating in one lap. In the women’s event, it is two racers over two laps of the course.
- The Keirin sprint in which a motorbike is used to set the pace. The cyclists follow the pacer over a kilometer or two as it gradually increases in speed. When the pacer moves from the track, usually with about 700 meters left to go, the cyclists battle it out to the finish line.
The endurance event for the Pan-Am games involves two teams racing at one time. The teams of four riders begin on opposite sides of the track and the race is completed over a distance of four kilometers. A winning team is declared when one team catches the other or whichever team finishes in the fastest time.
The combined cycling event for the Pan-Am games is called the Omnium (which is Latin for “belonging to all”). In this competition, cyclists compete in a series of six events over the span of two days which include:
- Flying lap – Where cyclists complete one lap from a moving rather than a cold start.
- Points race – Which is a mass start marathon race, 30 kilometers for men, 20 kilometers for women.
- Elimination race – Where a rider is eliminated over a series of races.
- Individual pursuit – Where two riders compete over four kilometers (three for women) from a stationary start position.
- Scratch race – Which is a simple race where the riders start together and the first one over the finish line wins.
- Kilometer time trial – Where the cyclists are timed over the length of one kilometer (500 meters for women).
If all of this makes you want to try out track cycling, there are already lessons offered at the Velodrome in Milton . People are also thrilled at the opportunity of all-year training. With the building of this facility, Canadian cyclists no longer need to worry about the weather.
What Do I Need for Track Cycling?
You’ll need a fixed-gear track cycle and a body hugging skin suit as well as an aerodynamic helmet all in an effort to reduce drag and get every little bit of advantage out of drafting behind team mates while on the track.
Fixed gear means there is no coasting on this bike. The pedals are attached to the crank set so if the bike is moving so are the pedals. If we want to travel 10km then we will be pedaling the entire 10km. Think back to riding your first tricycle around the neighbourhood and you get the idea. There has also been a rise of other fixed gear bikes as city hipsters are bringing back retro no-gear bikes and riding them as commuter bikes. Track bikes are little more complicated but the basic idea remains the same.
In addition to the lack of coasting, these bikes have no brakes, as streamline design is more important on these wooden track speedsters. Therefore, stopping is different than on a regular road bike. There are two ways to stop on a fixed gear bike.
- The skid stop – Think back to that tricycle again; you place backward pressure on the pedals so the back wheel stops spinning and skids to a stop. On a bicycle, you also need to remember to lean forward over your front wheel to improve the stability of your stop.
- Have brakes installed – Many cyclists have front brakes installed for increased safety on city streets and while learning how to properly ride a fixed gear bike.
Surprisingly, with minimal technology, the track bike raced in a velodrome is still a bit heavier than a road bike even though, you would never see a spot to put a water bottle. In fact, water is not allowed on the wooden racing tracks.
How to Store Your New Bike
Chances are that if you (or someone in your family) has purchased a brand new track bike, there are already a number of bikes in the garage. No doubt you have a mountain bike, a high-end road bike, a leisure bike and even a few bikes for the kids. Fortunately, there are innovative solutions to your bike storage issues that keep your wheels secure and easy to access and still leave room for the car and lawn mower.
- Automated bike lift on a pulley – This system can store up to five bikes at a time, raises them up to the ceiling, and out of the way, yet still keeps them easy to access.
- Ceiling mounts – If you have a tall garage, you can take advantage of the space up top and store your bikes overhead on ceiling mounts.
- School yard-type bike rack – This is the perfect solution for the warm months when everyone is riding. Park the cars in the driveway to allow this simple solution for bike storage. Easy to store, even for the kids.
The best bet is to talk to an expert who can evaluate the space you have, the bikes you need to store and the ease of access you require. They can help you use both the vertical and horizontal space in your garage to ensure you have enough room to store the entire family’s bikes, no matter how many that may be.
It should be an exciting summer for all athletes, but especially for the cyclists. The Pan-Am games are bound to rejuvenate the sport of cycling and the Milton Velodrome just may change the way Ontarians think about biking. Just ensure that if you take up track cycling you know the rules, purchase a great bike and store it securely.