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Getting started with track cycling

Getting started with track cycling

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National Cycling Centre coach, Peter Deary tells you why and how to give the discipline a go

How long have you been riding and coaching on the track?

I have been riding and racing since the early sixties and started coaching at Manchester Velodrome nineteen years ago.

Why should I try track cycling?

It is great fun, it will help your speed, skills and fitness, it is different from road cycling and is certainly more enjoyable than sitting on a turbo through the winter. If you do decide to compete, there is something for everyone from explosive sprint events through to longer endurance races.

How old do you need to be to get on the track?

We do schools’ sessions with nine year olds and upwards. For public taster sessions you need to be 12 and to become accredited and take part in a Structured Quality Training (SQT) session, it’s a minimum of 15.

What is my first step?

Book onto a taster session at the track you intend to ride on. At Manchester you get an hour on the track being coached, helmet and bike hire. It is recommended that you wear two layers on your top, you have to have your shoulders covered and you should wear mitts or gloves. Check to see what cleats are used at the particular track and whether you will need to hire some shoes.

I am a bit worried about the fixed gear and lack of brakes, is it safe?

Yes, as long as you listen to the coach and do exactly as they tell you.

If I enjoy my taster, what’s next?

You can then begin working towards your accreditation. All of the UK’s velodromes have a slightly different system but the end goal is to make you a safe and confident rider. At Manchester you start on the skills trail where we teach you how to ride the track safely. There are three stages and then a final fourth stage, the induction, which is like a driving test. If you get through that you can then move on to the 2-hour public SQT sessions. The accreditation process is all about safety, not how fast you are.

How long does it normally take to become accredited?

If you are an experienced cyclist who is used to riding in groups, it can be as little as four or five sessions. If you are more of a novice, it can take considerably longer, and we recommend that you do at least three or four taster sessions just to get used to riding the track before moving on.

Any tips for someone working through the accreditation process?

Listen to the coach, relax and enjoy yourself. Don't get hung up about going fast. It is not about how fast you are, it is about how safe you are. It is better if you are used to riding in a group before you come on the track. You could join your local club run, not for fitness but for becoming comfortable with other riders around you.

What does an SQT session involve?

It varies depending on the coach and level of session, but it will typically be a warm-up followed by both sprint and endurance exercises. For each exercise you will be on the track for 15-20 minutes, come down, have a break and a drink and then go back on again. On the 'B' SQT at Manchester, you will normally cover 30-32 miles in the two hours.

Want to know more?

Find out more on the British Cycling Track homepage and track specific content on the Insight Zone.