The Lee Valley VeloPark at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is now open for the cycle enthusiasts amongst you. We dared Elle Linton to take to two wheels at the world-renowned site. This is what happened.
I've never seen track cycling. I've never heard stories about track cycling. I've never ridden a fixed gear bike. I'd class myself as a slow cyclist. And I'm not known for taking risks. So how, you may ask yourselves, did I end up at the Olympic Park Velodrome on the Track Cycling Taster Session?! I'm wondering too. This is how it went down.
A 9am start, but kit set up is not included in this time so I arrived at the venue at 8. 30am to collect my bike and helmet (included in the £30 cost). I also had to take along gloves and optional clip in shoes (or pay to hire). For some reason I decided against kitting myself out in my best cycling gear – I feared this may make me look like I had a clue what was about to happen.
Fixed gear bikes are controlled by the pedals. I know, I know. Sounds simple. When you pedal the bikes moves. When you stop or pause pedalling... the bike stops. You drop. So you don't stop pedalling unless you have something or someone to hold onto. You get clipped in for the session and technically, your feet don't touch the floor again until you finish the session.
By now I've lost that teeny weeny bit of confidence I had. What also didn't help was seeing the gradient of the track wood. A sideways hill. How does that work?! First things first, we learn about the different areas of the track, what all the lines mean etc and then crucially, how to set off, control the bike and stop. Okay, some confidence creeps back in. A few laps round the safety zone (the flat bit) and I feel like I could avoid the embarrassment of falling off this thing.
Next up, we get to try the first little slope. Not too bad. The next slope to me looks a little too much. I try, but my legs aren't pressing hard or fast enough. Again. I get up there, and come down on the bend. My quads are burning and I'm breathing heavily. Eventually I get there, by which point everyone else is miles ahead, even on the (what looks) vertical bit (we learnt overtaking by this point). I'm happy where I am though... down low... legs still moving, butt still on the saddle.
It's like I've blinked and the 60 minute session is over. I made it up a couple of (what I call) levels. Nearly white knuckled, but I've definitely done one thing today to scare me. So am I the next big name in track cycling?! Far from it! But it has inspired me to hit up that spin class to let my legs get used to moving fast as opposed to my humble commuting pace.
Go on, book yourselves in, right here.