For most roadies, the velodrome offers an exciting new experience. Those used to basic things like gears and brakes suddenly find themselves out of their comfort zone and re-learning some bike skills. There’s also that feeling akin to playing football on the pitch at Wembley. Riding around the Lee Valley Velopark gives amateurs the chance to retrace Bradley Wiggins’ hour record and the 2012 Olympic heroics.
Most people in the UK aren’t more than an hour or two away from the 6 indoor velodromes, although there are some gaps in that coverage. Lee Valley in London has played host to the Olympics and the Manchester Velodrome saw the 2002 Commonwealth Games and 3 World Championships. Glasgow’s Chris Hoy Velodrome hosted the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the 2018 European Championships and is scheduled to host the Worlds in 2023.
There’s an accreditation system in place to ride all of the velodromes, so you can’t just turn up and expect to be let loose on the boards. Most people try a taster session which includes the basic skills needed to ride the velodrome safely. Riders begin to get more comfortable with riding the fixed-gear bikes, how to move around other riders and the odd training drill too. I’ve written before about a taster session I took part in at Derby Velodrome.
Experienced cyclists may find themselves attending with novices which can feel a touch like sucking eggs sometimes. Riders with experience will probably get a better session by attending as part of their club where each rider will have a similar ability and be used to things like being clipped into pedals. Velodromes will hire track bikes, shoes and mitts to you if you need them. If you have your own shoes, you’ll need Look Keo cleats in order to use them with the hire bikes.
Accreditation is normally a 4 stage process and applies to each indoor velodrome individually rather than track cycling as a whole. Individual velodromes will often ask you to perform a demonstration of your skills in an accreditation session before letting you loose on their own velodrome. Once you’re accredited there’s all sorts of track leagues to race in, taking in the full set of different races.