If you live on the Colorado front range, check out the velodrome in Boulder (www.BoulderIndoorCycling.com). Several months ago I read a short article about them in one of the free sports magazines while dining in Denver. I was intrigued at the time but didn’t think it was anything that I’d be able to do. Somehow, it seemed exclusive and perhaps a bit intimidating.Recently I came across one of their advertisements and for some reason it sounded really fun and not nearly as scary. My new perception is probably linked to the fact that I am trying to find some off-season training to supplement the stationary bicycle and riding out in snow and freezing weather. Well, today I signed up for a 5-week introductory course and went over to the track and tried it out. The 5-week course is designed to teach you the terminology of the track, the rules and regulations of riding on the track and give you enough experience riding so you can riding during open-session or compete without getting hurt (or hurting someone else!)
The velodrome is housed in a warehouse-looking metal building in an industrial park on the east side of town. There were a couple of toddlers racing tiny tiny bikes on a series of wooden ramps, jumps and paths that are set up around the outside of the track. They were having a blast! I could feel my own excitement growing. After filling out all the requisite release and membership forms, I was given a track bike (Fuji single-speed with no brakes!) to put my pedals on. You have to bring your own pedals, shoes and helmet but they ‘rent’ you the bike…for free. The class before mine was on the track so I wandered to the rail to watch. From my observation point (right outside the red door shown on the left side of the track in the photo) I could look down the sloping track to the infield. The instructor and his two young (junior high age) riders whipped around the track. It was quite a sight. I was fascinated by the way the bikes seemed to hold the slope of the track. The track has a 45 degree slope! To keep from sliding off the track a rider must maintain a speed of at least 16 mph (which isn’t as hard as it sounds).
My coach for the day, Conner, started off by explaining the different parts of the track (the ‘apron’, the sprinter’s lane, the ‘measure’, the ‘stayer’s line’ etc. ) and how to safely enter and exit the track. From the moment I clipped in and pushed off along the apron I was hooked! Once we got onto the track and started moving along the slope between the apron and the top railing an ear-to-ear grin emerged that remained for the rest of the hour. I got to cruise around numerous times while Conner gave instructions to the other rider in the class. The only way I can describe it is that I felt like I was flying. I’m used to riding outside where the terrain, wind and weather conditions are always changing. Here those are all the same, all the time. What will happen when you increase/decrease your effort by some amount is a known quantity and it is repeatable! The track is very much like riding on a flat road — and the banking and slope allow you to ride REALLY fast on this flat road without worrying about going too fast. And, you don’t have to lean or corner — the banking does all that for you. It is really a most bizarre and wonderful feeling! And, it’s a great work out too.
I can’t wait until next Monday when I get to do it again!