Beautiful sunny days on the West Coast of Scotland were few and far between during the Great British Summer of 2012.
I got rather used to riding club runs and sportives in the rain and figured that I’d been well hardened for a winter season of much the same - but I had conveniently forgotten that along with winter rain comes dark mornings, sub zero temperatures, road spray that tastes of salt and far more bike cleaning than I am interested in.
As much as I like to try and tell myself that I rode through my first winter season last year the truth is I didn’t. I probably made it to a handful of club runs between early November and late February and of those it was probably only on bright crisp days that I turned up.
That’s not to say I was slacking (much), I just preferred to sweat it out in a spin class rather than risk breaking my neck on black ice. But this year was going to be different, I was going to ride on the road whenever possible and only admit defeat when it was too dangerous to do so.
I was full of good intention until something happened in early November - I rode my first accreditation session at the Sir Chris Hoy velodrome in Glasgow. All of a sudden I had discovered a way of riding a bike that doesn’t involve climbing hills, the bike doesn’t get dirty, the weather doesn’t change and if you get dropped you at least get to see the bunch again... and again... and again!
I love my road riding - as cyclists I’m sure you all know that ‘knackered but content’ feeling of coming home from a five hour ride in good company on a good day. But this track malarky - well, I just love it.
I never thought I’d ever ride on an indoor velodrome. At best I thought it was maybe a bucket list thing, I certainly didn’t think that in the space of three months I’d have been a spectator at two world class events, ridden three accreditation sessions and taken the plunge to participate in a ‘women only’ race coaching session with Scottish Cycling.
So for those of you who have only seen the inside of a velodrome on television and have always wondered what track cycling is really like I’ll let you in on a few things I have discovered.
Number one - you will not be going as fast as Chris Hoy but you will think that you are. I did always wonder how aerodynamics were important indoors but the rush of air passing by as you pick up speed really is incredible and drafting makes a very, very noticeable difference.
Brings me onto the next point - picking up speed is essential if you want to have a hope in hell of staying up on those bankings. It is rather frightening to walk into track centre and look up at them, it is even more frightening when you first get over taken on them and are looking directly up at the cleats of a passing rider’s shoes but the exhilaration of flying round the top and managing to stay up there is quite something!
I’ve never thought I was good enough to compete in races but track is helping to improve my handling skills, pedalling efficiency, speed endurance and giving me the confidence to consider some friendly track league racing in the New Year.
I’m hoping Scottish Cycling put on more sessions to encourage women to come along and give track a go. It was a very successful session with a wide range of abilities and experience on display and I enjoyed testing myself alongside the other girls.
There is a real drive to get more women involved in racing and sportives at the moment which I think is wonderful and I have decided to bite the bullet and enter a women only APR road race at the start of the season - I’m yet to decide if this is just pure insanity. I will let you know how it goes! For the time being I’ll keep treading the boards and getting out on the road when Jack Frost stays away!