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Monday, 6 January 2014

Why track riding helps sportive riders.

I love track riding. I grew up on it, it's in my blood, I'm a Hallam. But I don't just love the track for the buzz of riding on a steep banking, feeling like I'm breaking the laws of physics. It is awesome training as well. The track forced me to be efficient in my pedal stroke, to be able to accelerate quickly through gaps and provide a fitness that is hard to replicate on the road. These are all things that would benefit sportive riders as well.

And we're not talking about racing here. Tracks like Manchester, Newport, Glasgow and eventually Stratford all put on public training sessions. Once you've completed the track's accreditation process (to learn the skills needed to safely ride the track), these structured training sessions give an hour to 2 hours of group riding that includes short sprint efforts. This type of riding will help your general sportive fitness in a number of ways.

Due to the laws of physics, you have to ride over a certain speed just to stay up right and not slide off the track. Due to the fact that there are no traffic lights to stop and catch a cheeky breather and no free wheel to coast along not trying, you are forced to hold your heart rate up slightly higher than you normally would on the road. This means that you're forced to recover from a short effort while still riding at a reasonable pace. This is exactly like climbing a mountain in a sportive: when you hit a steeper section, your heart rate climbs over your threshold to keep going. But when the gradient backs off a tiny bit you can't just stop to recover. You've got to be able to metabolise the lactate that your muscles have produced while still riding just under your threshold. This is exactly the same on the track.

Because a track bike only has one gear, you're forced to spin the pedals faster when going quick. This helps develop an efficient pedal stroke that will carry you up hills and into headwinds quicker. Look at all the riders from Great Britain that have seen great success on the road while coming from a track background: Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, Peter Kennaugh, Ben Swift, Geraint Thomas, Alex Dowsett. They've all got beautifully smooth pedal strokes particularly at high cadences. I've had many sportive riders say to me that they are "spinning out" on a compact chainset. If I'm genuinely spinning out a 50x11 gear, then I'll be travelling at well over 50mph! Most people are reaching for their brakes long before then. Only having one gear also forces your muscles to be more efficient at contracting at different speeds: contracting slowly with high torque to get going and contracting quickly with high power when travelling fast. This will broaden your available RPM band and increase both your low speed and high speed pedalling efficiency.

While riding around a city, we have to make lots of little accelerations to get through gaps, this is also true in a sportive. When the large group comes rumbling past, if you can efficiently make a quick acceleration, you can jump on the back and get sucked along with minimal effort. When that guy in front of you loses the wheel, you've got to be able to make a quick burst to bridge the gap he's just left and then recover again on the wheel at speed. This is exactly like riding on the track.

This is why we're really excited about our beginner track day on Saturday 1st March. The session will cost £100 include bike hire, 4 hours of track time and personal coaching from David Le Grys (a multiple world masters champion and former GB coach). During the session, David will progress you through getting to know the bikes, getting onto the track and then safely riding at greater speeds and with other riders on track. This will give you valuable experience for when the velodrome opens at Stratford. To keep the coach standard high, there will be limited places available so if you're interested, book early. To confirm your place, contact David Le Grys on

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