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  1. #1
    A wheelist
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    Passion, one gear and the wooden wall.

    Last night was Night #1 for me on the new local indoor velodrome in London Ontario Canada and the maiden voyage of the Colnago trackie bike.

    As a track racer and rider from waaaaaaay back (don't ask but I was still in high school) I had no choice but to ride this wonderful resource so close to home. I'd shown some interest last week in helping the people who will be running the programs, so the fellow in charge of Learn To Ride and Beginner/Rec asked me to attend on Thursday evening, take the Learn to Ride program (everyone takes it - even a world champion if one came along) and pick a session to oversee.

    I bought the used Colnago last week from our area's most proficient trackie (he's ridden six-day events even) and spent two days overhauling it. I installed new rims, spokes, tires, saddle, seatpost, bars & stem from my cache and overhauled all the bearing systems.

    I also lovingly tied & soldered the spokes (a trackie tradition) and gave the whole bike a final Pledging. The bike was ready; was I?

    As this is a new track and run by volunteers, a program to teach beginner riders to ride this serious track had to be devised. One just doesn't jump in at the deep end on this track. It would be suicide. Last week a fellow went out of control and the finally fell off three corners and two bankings later. He left a black tire scuffmark on the boards at the top of the banking in turn 4. I hope he had wet-wipes to clean himself up with.

    Tonight we went over the program that our leader proposed and yours truly and another fella Paul (both of us potential instructors) let our leader practise his course on us. We started, like ALL newbies will start, (even the world champs) with babysteps to get everyone on the same page and operating with the same skills and under the same rules. Plus, the program builds confidence and skills in increments - one skill helps the progression to the next one.

    The first step was "this is a track bike with no gears or brakes". I'm sure the world champ will know that but his/her credentials mean nothing at this stage.

    Soon we progressed to rolling along the flat infield and unclipping and stopping on command. I told you it started out really basic. Heck eventually we even got up ONTO the wood! At first it was on the flat apron around the bottom. Then we progressed to entering the track at the start of the straight and off at the end - not totally as easy as it sounds as the straights are banked at 17 degrees - nothing like the fifty degrees of the banking. Oh I didn't tell you? This track is just 138m around, fifty degrees in the bankings and seventeen on the straights. It's built on what was the ice surface of a disused hockey arena.

    If you stand at the bottom of the banking and extend your arm you will just about touch the banking. It's that steep.

    Then we had to weave in & out of toilet plunger rubber suckers zig-zagged on the straights. That wasn't too hard but it teaches steering and fine speed control by back-pedalling.

    And finally we were ready for the big test. Instead of coming off the track at the end of the straight we were to ride right into the banking. This thing extends beyond your peripheral vision when you ride into it so it looks like you're crashing into a wooden wall. No place for the timid! Once you're into the banking, its 50 degrees dictate that you keep a speed of about 30kph (18-20mph) or you'll slide down on your arse. The track's instigator has ridden as slowly as 20kph (12mph) but he's a very expert track racer. I'll take his word that you can go that slowly.

    I rode into the wooden wall and was sling-shotted left with a force that has to be experienced. Like a complete Newb (ok it's 41 years since I last rode a track) I white-knuckled it and went into a steering wobble. Some divine force kept me upright and miraculously I was sling-shotted out of the banking with both tires still under me. I can't imagine why.

    I had three seconds to give myself a pep-talk. "Relax [yeah right]. Spread the fingers out. Eyes back into sockets, heart back down into chest and.......................". Whumph, I was sling-shotted sharp left again. The track record for one lap is in the eight second range so nothing on this track last much longer than three of the twelve seconds that it probably takes me to wobble around.

    The second banking experience went light-years better than the first. Heck what a fella can't learn in three seconds eh? Four laps later and the instructor called me in. "You did better that *I* did on *my* first lap" he rejoiced. "I hit the first turn and went down on my arse". And that was just last week. I told you that we're all new at this didn't I?

    I was hooked. I regained my breath and asked Teach if I could try that again. The second time up the banking I was actually enjoying myself. After that little "pink knuckle session" (somewhat more relaxed than white knuckles) we did some drills that will allow us to ride a pace line in the future. At the end of the straightaway we were to go STRAIGHT when we hit the banking and not turn left. This moves us UP the track without any effort while it slows us at the same time which would allow the rider behind to come through. That was cool after the fright of NOT turning left had gone.

    Then it was just free ride. We did a bunch of laps and then drenched in sweat and sporting grins like Cheshire cats Paul & I rolled to a stop. Bob Schelstraete was there; the track's builder and son of the designer Albert.

    "How was that?" asked Bob.

    "An experience of a lifetime Bob. Thanks for building this track" I replied. Then we all departed. I'll be back next Tuesday to take the class all over again, this time with a real class of Newbs. Next Thursday I'll be in charge of the Beginner/Recreation four hour evening session. The blind leading the blind!

    The bike did way better than I did. It's a complete thoroughbred and it has built-in compensation for my inexperience.

    Mike T.

    PS - that's not me in the pic.
    http://www.forestcityvelodrome.ca/index.html
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    Last edited by Mike T.; 05-06-2005 at 11:10 AM.
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  2. #2
    paintbucket
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    Great write up! Pretty bike!!

    I've always wanted to try riding a velodrome. Maybe one a bit bigger than yours though....
    When the going gets weird its bedtime.

  3. #3
    i worship Mr T
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    wow! eMTea. just looking at the banking on that track gives me the chills. i don't think i could do it. you are, as always, my hero.

    rt
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  4. #4
    dirty hippy mountainbiker
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    What's up with the hand holding going on in some of the pics on that website?

    Anyway. Looks scary! I'd like to try it sometime.

    -M
    Mike Henderson, Dirty Hippy Mountain Biker and part owner of Jet Lites.

  5. #5
    beer thief
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    Hey, what's this have to do with MTB!? ;D

    That is cool as sh!t, Mike. Those banks look incredibly wild, puts a smile on my face looking at the pics.

    Good on ya for going for it 4 decades later, very impressive.

  6. #6
    beer thief
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    Quote Originally Posted by wolfy
    What's up with the hand holding going on in some of the pics on that website?
    Slingshotting each other (there's undoubtedly a proper term for it, but I don't know it). Check out the video, pretty cool stuff.

  7. #7
    A wheelist
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    Quote Originally Posted by radair
    Hey, what's this have to do with MTB!? ;D
    Well I went out on my mtb today for a recovery ride! I had to do something nice & easy.
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  8. #8
    Ebo
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    Cool stuff....sweet ride....Cheers.

  9. #9
    Olde Phartette
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    *woot* *woot*

    Awesome stuff Mike!

    That track looks killer! Good for you and like *rt* said:

    you are, as always, my hero
    Kate
    "Life is like a 10 speed bike, we all have gears we never use."
    Charles Schultz


    "Love them hills!" ---MikeT

  10. #10
    Mythical Creature
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    138 Meter track - yow!

    Cool story - great to see cycling passion in all it's forms. I've only tinkered with an old Tuesday Night beer series WAY back in the day, in Queens, NY (Kissena Track - 333M) and have been waiting and waiting for the Albuquerque Bike Park to get built, as they have the 1998 Pan Am games track in storage; a 250 meter wooden track - should be FAST! Not 8 seconds a lap, but maybe 12-14 My old ghetto-style ex-messenger-mibile Duracycle Moth is anxious to get on a track again! Track bike riding is one of the best ways to improve & smooth form. And hella fun!
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  11. #11
    It's the axle
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    Talk about nostalgia from the old San Jose velodrome days. Guys I knew were riding their track bikes up to Skyline, on the road. I remember the wired spokes. And special gloves for braking when they were coming down through the hills. I was too timid to go to the velodrome, but now I dearly wish I had what you have. It's pretty darned rare to have a velo built up these days. I would SO be there. Lucky you.
    Thanks for sharing that.

  12. #12
    There's no app for this.
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    Nice new Passion Mike

    [As I said before I don't know squat about them tracks but it sure has got you under it's spell. And also it'll keep you outta the malls and pool halls.

    50 degrees, that's a steep angle to deal with, can't imagine it unless it's a fall line and I'm on a big bike.

    Keep us posted on your progress! Jim

  13. #13
    A wheelist
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    Quote Originally Posted by glenzx
    Cool story - great to see cycling passion in all it's forms. I've only tinkered with an old Tuesday Night beer series WAY back in the day, in Queens, NY (Kissena Track - 333M) and have been waiting and waiting for the Albuquerque Bike Park to get built, as they have the 1998 Pan Am games track in storage; a 250 meter wooden track - should be FAST! Not 8 seconds a lap, but maybe 12-14 My old ghetto-style ex-messenger-mibile Duracycle Moth is anxious to get on a track again! Track bike riding is one of the best ways to improve & smooth form. And hella fun!
    I just got an e-mail about the Saturday night racing - "In the first 20 minute (150 Lap) Madison, the racing was very fast with lap times in the 9.7 second range which works out to 53 KPH."

    Yowzers!! That's 32.934 mph for you Merricans.
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  14. #14
    Olde Phartette
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    Yowzers is right!

    I just got an e-mail about the Saturday night racing - "In the first 20 minute (150 Lap) Madison, the racing was very fast with lap times in the 9.7 second range which works out to 53 KPH."
    Man o' man I can't imagine the leg power behind that speed Mike. I've hung onto the vertical side of a sand dune relying on the centrifugal force behind the speed of my motorcycle to keep me from hitting to bottom of a bowl, but heck I had control of the gas! Doing that on sheer pedal power is totally awesome!!!!

    For an old phart you truly inspire me Mike........NO I will not try the velodome don't even go there! *blush*

    I love seeing your new passion Mike, keep us posted eh?

    Kate
    "Life is like a 10 speed bike, we all have gears we never use."
    Charles Schultz


    "Love them hills!" ---MikeT

  15. #15
    A wheelist
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikerchic
    Man o' man I can't imagine the leg power behind that speed Mike. Doing that on sheer pedal power is totally awesome!!!!
    For an old phart you truly inspire me Mike........NO I will not try the velodome don't even go there! *blush*
    I love seeing your new passion Mike, keep us posted eh?
    Kate
    Oh don't confuse ME with THEM Kate! There is no way on earth *I'll* be going 30mph+. I'm sorting out gearing so I'll be able to train comfortably at 20-25mph. The good guys would lap me in four-five laps.I'm not the least bit interested in racing again. Bin der, dun dat.

    Yep I'll keep you posted about my tentative efforts. I'll be taking again and helping with the Learn To Ride tomorrow night and my own Beginners/Recreation session on Thursday night.
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  16. #16
    Olde Phartette
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    Comprehension is everything......

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike T.
    Oh don't confuse ME with THEM Kate! There is no way on earth *I'll* be going 30mph+. I'm sorting out gearing so I'll be able to train comfortably at 20-25mph. The good guys would lap me in four-five laps.I'm not the least bit interested in racing again. Bin der, dun dat.

    Yep I'll keep you posted about my tentative efforts. I'll be taking again and helping with the Learn To Ride tomorrow night and my own Beginners/Recreation session on Thursday night.
    I guess I was just so excited for you I didn't read it right! *blush*

    Have fun in class and pay attention damn it!

    Kate
    "Life is like a 10 speed bike, we all have gears we never use."
    Charles Schultz


    "Love them hills!" ---MikeT

  17. #17
    A wheelist
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikerchic
    Have fun in class and pay attention damn it!
    I'll just trundle around and let the grannies lay a whuppin' on me
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  18. #18
    A wheelist
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    After this first post about track riding some of you had e-mailed me and asked for updates of subsequent visits to the track. As a potential instructor and session leader I returned last night to help out with, and somewhat take part in for good practice, another Learn to Ride program. It's a great deal for Newbs, they get to take the one evening course for free plus they get to use one of the track's fleet of banana yellow KHS Flite 100 bikes.

    We had a mixed group of a couple or four fellows with their own clipless pedals, who gave the impression that they had some biking experience, one or two fellows who looked like they had no biking experience, three early teenagers with no experience and a lady who looked like she had ridden a bike before. None had any fixed gear experience and the kids with toe clips & straps and large knobby-soled sneakers didn't fare too well.

    But no matter, as stated in my previous post, everyone starts out at the same place with baby steps until they can demonstrate that they have control over the bike, the fixed gear and the pedal systems on the flat track center. One of the young fellows had many problems getting his feet in and out due to his inappropriate footwear (yes they had been warned in advance) and fell onto the cement a few times. He didn't complete the evening's session.

    As a group in general they progressed quite well and soon had the fixed gear under control using it as the necessary brake.

    It was noted at this point that there were more and less confident people in the class and I wondered how well the confident looking ones would fare when the chips were down and they had to venture up the bankings. We continually stressed "control and slowness" but a couple of people pushed the pace faster than was intended.

    Eventually all the baby-steps were over and it was time to put it all into practice to achieve the holy grail - a trip around the 50 degree plywood wall. A few nervous grins adorned faces. One at a time off they went. As each one completed their first lap a loud hooting and cheering drove them on for a repeat. Then it was the next person up. As expected, the most confident person did the worst job. He was going too fast when it was time to drop off the track onto the flat apron and he had to take to the banking again or he would not have made the corner. We should have a rack at the door where egos can be parked.

    Note to self: Stress totally the need for slowness, control and precision. Once we get good THEN we can worry about getting fast.

    After everyone had done a couple of tries it was time for open riding. We were all on the track at the same time and everyone survived. Instructor Paul P. and I then gave them a well-oiled demo of a two man pace line with changes every lap. That will be their goal at the next session - the Thursday evening Beginner/Recreation time. I'll be the leader for that session and we will re-practice some of the drills they just learned and hopefully work our way up to neat, smooth four-man pace lines.
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  19. #19
    Ska
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    Hell yeah Mike!

    I e-mailed you a while ago to see if you'd get there (not that I had any doubt that you would) and was glad to see today that you did!

    I did the "learn to ride" session as well last Saturday with Rob (one of the racers/builders) after going to watch a couple of the races. I did all the same drills you spoke of too and had an absolute blast! For the last hour and a half (after all the entry level stuff) like you, he gave us free ride time to get used to the place. My wife was there helping him get stuff ready for that evening's events and he was asking some questions about me and how much riding I do. She laughed and told him that I was obsessed with all things biking and said "I can guarantee that he will not stop for the remainder of the session. He's ridiculous." I don't think he quite believed her but he was smiling when I did finally get off. She was totally right. I have no idea how many laps I did but I was pushing the entire time and was soaked when I got off. Not to mention pretty thirsty (stupid I know). Many times I found myself alone on the track while the others took breaks so I started to practice sprinting out of the corners and Rob had me start to try to learn to ride the corners one-handed. Not easy to hold the line with one hand! Pretty weird on the track/track bike. If I didn't have to leave for family stuff that day, I'd have just kept going around until the racers kicked me off that night ;-)

    Seriously though, It was so much fun that I am now looking into a track bike as well. I wouldn't mind getting into the racing once I get a lot more experience out there. It is so very different and I'd hate to jump into this game before I felt totally comfortable with it.

    Let me know when you're going next time Mike. Maybe we could hook up again!
    Nice ride dude.

    Ska!
    Another newb.
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  20. #20
    A wheelist
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    Hi Steve! Yeah the track's addictive isn't it? It's going to be great for the winter as a means to get in some comfortable miles.

    I'll be there for the Tuesday/Thursday/Sunday beginners/rec sessions for the forseeable future. Phone the contact people ahead to reserve a space as some of the sessions are getting filled and we run out of rental bikes too. CU there!
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  21. #21
    Ska
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    Damn! Unfortunately I'm racing the opener at Boler tonight so I definitely can make it to the Velodrome.

    You may see me there on either Tuesdays and/or Sundays though. What a great thing for us in the area, eh? Have fun tonight Mike.

    Ska!

    Off to race the mtb.
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  22. #22
    Tear it all out! SuperModerator
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    Thanks for the post Mike!

    It reminds me of going to watch the track racing session at the Burnaby Velodrome in the fall.

    Looks like fun, one day...

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