One of the benefits of living in Seattle is being close to the Jerry Baker Memorial Velodrome (JBMV). JBMV is located at Marymoor Park in Redmond, WA. In May, I took their beginner’s Adult Track Class to learn how to race bikes on the velodrome. It can be intimidating for a beginner to ride on the track, but the class provided all the training necessary to have fun riding around the track at high speed. Most of all, it makes you a better rider on the road as well.
The class started with students getting set up with rental bikes. A track bike is different than other bikes in two significant ways. First, a track bike does not have brakes. The rider simply pedals with less force to slow down. That may seem like a problem, but because no one else has brakes on the track, there are few circumstances where stopping quickly is really necessary. Second, a track bike is fixed gear. In other words, the rear wheel is directly connected to the pedals and it won’t spin without the pedals turning. For beginners, one of the hardest things to remember is to keep pedaling after you have finished a race.
After getting our bikes, the class began with a series of drills to get us comfortable riding on the track. Starting and stopping on the track, negotiating the banked turns at different speeds, and riding in close proximity were all covered. For those who hadn’t raced on the road previously, rubbing shoulders and actively bumping into each other was a new experience. After a couple of hours, we were circling the track in a rotating paceline like we knew what we were doing. Finally it was race time.
Racing on the Track
With our fresh skills of riding in a group, it was now time to start racing. First, we learned how to do a standing start. A standing start is where a helper holds you up while you are clipped into your pedal. This allowed us to do a 400 meter time trial to split ourselves into similarly paced groups. Once we were split into groups, we learned the two main types of mass start track races: scratch races and points races. Scratch races are simple since the first person across the finish line after a number of laps wins. In a points race, however, the first through fourth riders across the line on specific laps are awarded points. The rider that accumulates the most points during the race wins. Tracking how many points you have as well as your competition all while racing hard is very difficult, and often the winner is not the first across the final finish line.
After finishing our races, we were all ready to graduate to the weekly beginner’s race series held on Thursday nights. The beginner’s races provide a consequence-free environment, where cyclist gain the additional experience needed to race safely in larger groups in the velodrome.
All I can say is that I highly recommend the Adult Track Class to anyone who loves to ride bikes. If you live in the Seattle area and are bike-curious, you really must try it.