At the beginning of Rollerball there is a scene where the teams emerge through the player’s tunnel into the centre of the arena. They look mean. They look purposeful. They look ready for the fight of their lives. I felt like that as I walked through the tunnel to the infield of the velodrome last night. However the lack of grip of the carbon soled shoes on the polished concrete ramp soon brought me back to reality with a comedy wobble. I was Andrew from Simister, not James Caan from The Future.
Me, Neil and Jason had booked ourselves onto a ten quid taster session organised by Eighteen Bikes. Neil was struck down sick so Lee manfully took his place at the last minute. I’d never ridden a fixie before, let alone a fixie with no brakes on a banked track so I was expecting the unexpected. I was quite surprised at how easily the bike handled as long as I remembered to KEEP PEDALLING. Stopping pedalling would result in the bike riding you rather than you riding the bike. Stopping pedalling is bad.
After a 10 minute safety briefing we were away. First on the infield, then on the fantastically named Cote d’Azur and finally, once the coaches were happy that we wouldn’t die or cause others to die, we were up on the banking. The banking looked frightening from the infield but it was worse when you were on it. Speed is your friend, speed will keep you up on the banking. If you show fear you will slow and if you slow you are down to the bottom like a spider flushed down the khazi. I can’t say that I enjoyed the first couple of laps because it was so counter intuitive but when everything settled down it was ace. Awesome in fact. STAY ON THE BLACK… CHECK SHOULDER… UP PAST THE RED… OVERTAKE… BACK DOWN TO THE BLACK. Once it became apparent that the whole group knew what we were doing we were called back down to the pits for some organised party games.
First up was individual pursuit racing. We were split into two groups and sent to either side of the track from where we would each race the guy opposite over two laps. We were 4-3 down when it was my turn to wobble away from the fence to where the coach would hold the bike and wait for the start whistle. With a PEEP and a shove I was off. Head down, legs pumping, front wheel on the black line. About half way round the second bend I heard the other guy’s lap bell. I was getting caught at an alarming rate so I pushed harder. After turn three it felt like I would burst. This was probably more down to the fact that through the effort and concentration I had decided not to breath. With the lungs back on again I charged at the line (in my mind I did anyway) then took a lap to slow down before rolling back to my team. I was amazed to be told that I had won by some margin. The other chap must have run out of steam or tried my not breathing trick for the whole race. I hadn’t heard a THUNK so he hadn’t fallen off. Lee was next and he won too as did Jason who was the last man out. Jason also did the first race because we had one man less. He got beat by some 17 stoner so I won’t mention it further ;-). 40 seconds of effort had taken its toll though. I honestly felt like I was going to barf. I wasn’t alone in feeling queasy either judging by the expressions on a few other faces.
Photo by Richpips at QWERTY photo.
Next up was a timed flying lap. I put in a rather poor 22.06 seconds for 250m because I still felt like I was going to blow my tea all over the track. Lee beat Jason. I won’t mention that again either.
We finished the session with 10 minutes of free riding so I had a go at riding at the top of the banking which was an experience. I couldn’t go to the velodrome and not do it!
The night at the track was brilliant fun. If I had the time and the money I would do it more often, but I haven’t so I’ll have another go in a year or so if I can get on another session.