Saturday, 2 March 2013

Velodrome and road rides

Last weekend was a weekend of "Firsts".

Saturday: a track in Calshot. An amazing experience! I hadn't known it would be so steep, it didn't look like that on TV! Some 5m high, 45 degrees angles, jaw-dropping.
I expected some fear or reluctance to going onto that weird-looking wall, or to riding on that weird-looking bike, however it all went surprisingly quickly and smoothly.
First, the bike. A fixie. No gears, no brakes, no parts to mess around with, which is cool, but how do you stop?! You can't stop pedalling because as long as the back wheel is in motion, the pedals turn themselves and if you try to stop it'll throw you of the bike. Turned out to be doable though.

Then the track itself. Steep. Very steep. However, the angle is constant along its height so if you can ride at the bottom, you can ride at the top. At least theoretically, you start having doubts looking at it. Well, 5 minutes from the start we were flying at crazy speed, up and down, up and down... with a grin on our faces. It's surprising how slowly you can go without sliding down. When at the highest point, I was looking under my wheel and couldn't help thinking "How the heck am I still up here and haven't slid down?" Somehow it works though. Matrix.

2 issues that proved to be not so easy: First, figuring out when to push harder and when to ease off to keep a steady pace and not to ride into a rider in front of you. Second, staying within the lines - if you move out, you may cut the rider behind you, which happened to me for the first half an hour at almost every corner, when the speed was just throwing me of the course and moving upwards. And riders are always trying to stay as close to each other as possible to make a use of draft, as the air resistance is the only significant resistance you're working against. A trick: don't try to control the bike, just fix your eye on the line and the bike will follow. More or less ;)

Riding on a track is a very hard workout, you're pushing hard all the time and in our session there were endless races in various configurations involved. Two groups, one group, solo sprints, fours, changing the formation, over and over... I managed to stay with the guys for 2.5 hours, which made me delighted with myself, just close to end of the third hour my arms gave up.
General impression: fantastic! Maybe not something to do every weekend, as I know I'd grow bored, but an amazing thing when done every now and then.
If only I have an opportunity to try it again, I'll jump on it with no hesitation!                                              
                                                                                   
                                                                                       (These photos are from the Internet, we don't have
any of us, just to show the steepness of that thing!)



Sunday: a Reliability Ride with West Drayton Mountain Bike Club (my new club). The first road ride I've ever done in a big group. Start with some overambitious group making me ride at a race pace for an hour after which I decided to leave them and join a slower group coming from behind. I was finishing with Sean (and using his draft, thank you :) ) who, after starting much later and getting a puncture in the meantime, caught up with me. I could hardly get off the bike after the ride! Nonetheless, it was another fun day. Loads of people, which is always good, some of them helping me out or even dragging me back to the group when I was losing strength, some chats and laughter. Other people performing the weirdest things, acting as if they'd do anything but giving or using draft. Isn't that one of the nicest thing in group road riding? Oh well, it's their legs.
101 km in 4 h, after 3 hrs on a track a day before. Nice.

A great weekend, filled with new experiences, filled with people. Maybe not standard activities of a mountainbiker but perhaps that made them so refreshing...

Now I'm really missing singletrack.

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