Ever since my somewhat impulse/"quarter life crisis" purchase of a Jamis Sonik track bike last fall I was super excited to try it out on a velodrome. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s basically like a running track with banked curves, but for bikes. (General Velo Information). Unfortunately the closest one is all the way down in Rochester Hills, so it’s a bit out of the way. Luckily I was headed down that way for a wedding and figured I could bring the bike and find some time to check it out. For some reason doing this (albeit at a much, much, much less intense level and without crashing) seems fun. Basically like NASCAR but human powered.
After checking out Bloomer Park’s website,
I saw they offer a Track 101 class so I figured it’d be smart to get
the low down, instead of just hopping on the track. I got there on
Thursday July 5. The day it just so happened to be 95 degrees. So I
showed up and Dale Hughes, a regular volunteer, gave the basic idea
behind track riding and how to follow the progression to get comfortable
on the track.
So the track is 200m long and has 40 degree banking, which can be
pretty intimidating when you ride into a wall that is 15 feet higher
than your head. In fact, it is pretty darn easy as long as you keep
peddling and look ahead. The bike itself tracks around the curve and you
don’t even have to steer it; just commit.
After getting more comfortable on the track, I started riding with a
regular named Joaquin, who gave me some guidance on drills and group
riding. Holding someones wheel on a track is different, because you’re
constantly changing efforts into and out of curves. This is because
you’re going uphill into the curve and accelerate downhill out of it. We
did some build up laps before going into an all out lap, which is super
fun and a little scary at the same time. You come blasting out of the
top of a curve and sprint down through the bottom of the next one as
your bike slingshots around the curve. Needless to say I couldn’t hold
his wheel and he was doing mediocre efforts. It’s unlike anything I’ve
experienced before on a bicycle. Super fun.
If you have a chance to get down to Bloomer Park I would
highly recommend the experience for any cyclist. There are “loaner
bikes” available and the cost is only $5 to get in the park. The “Track
101″ class and riding time is free. There are 10 year old kids zipping
around as well as 65 year old men, so there’s no reason to be
intimidated by anyone. I would highly encourage the experience.