In January 2018, the Lexus Velodrome opened its doors right in downtown Detroit. This is great news for the Michigan cycling scene. At a time where USAC memberships are declining, road race and criterium participation continues to decrease, and cyclists are gravitating towards gravel road events, where there are in slightly less danger from vehicular traffic, the future of amateur bicycle racing is unknown. Participation by women is especially low, leaving advocates searching for ways to entice more women to ride competitively.
Personally, I’m a roadie. I’ve never had any interest in track cycling. At 5’1” and under 110 lbs, I fly up hills, but lack the raw power that track cyclists are known for. I’m also a little bit afraid of going fast, as anyone who has waited for me at the bottom of a mountain (while I ride the brakes all the way down) knows. If you have spent any time on youtube watching the “track cycling fails” videos, walking into the center of the velodrome and staring up at the 50 degree banked turns that rise up like a wooden wall before you, will make you shake a little bit. But, I’m a firm believer in stepping outside your comfort zone and doing things that scare you. So in March, I signed up for a Track 101 course on a Saturday morning.
The velodrome provides fixed gear bicycle rentals for only $10, and has multiple bicycles in every size. The bicycles were in excellent condition. They are fitted with Shimano clip-less pedals, but if you don’t have compatible cleats, the velodrome provides shoes as well for no additional cost. The morning started with about 20 participants sitting in the infield while Dale Hughes, the velodrome designer, gave initial instructions on the track itself and riding a fixed gear. As he talked, I looked around. There was only one other female participant besides myself. The majority of the male participants were over the age of 40. Welcome to cycling.
Soon, we were up on the track! I was petrified going into the first turn, convinced I was going to slide down the track and end up with a side full of splinters. When I finally realized that I’m not special and I was going to keep my tires down on the track just like everyone else, I relaxed and began to actually enjoy the speed I could maintain. All in all, we each got to be up on the track at least three times for 5-10 minutes during the 2 hour class. There were three sit-down instructional segments, and then 1 solo attempt on the track and 2 group exercises. Afterwards, there was open track so teammate, Bobby Munro, and I were able to work on additional skills.
Overall, it was an excellent experience. Dale did a great job with instructing, and the bikes and shoes were of good quality and excellent condition. I’m not planning on switching to track cycling any time soon, but I would highly recommend that other cyclists give this a try if given a chance! It’s definitely a “bucket list” experience!
My tips: don’t worry if you’ve never ridden a fixed gear bicycle. As long as you are comfortable riding with clipless pedals, you will be fine. Make sure you bring CLEAR glasses. The air can dry out your eyes when you are traveling at high speeds, but you will be indoors so sunglasses are not ideal. It’s also a little chilly in the velodrome so bring a jacket to wear while sitting around the infield.
The post Stepping out of my comfort zone… the Lexus Velodrome appeared first on Team Athletic Mentors.