"Turn left, go fast". Such is the mantra of the track racer. While track cycling may involve the simplest equipment of all the cycling disciplines, the skills required to successfully ride the Velodrome are unique and challenging. For those unfamiliar with riding a fixed-gear bicycle, many track skills will be new. The steep banking in the turns of a Velodrome also creates unique challenges that riders must manage.
Mounting and Dismounting
Mounting a track bicycle can be clumsy for the uninitiated. Track racers typically clip in to the top pedal first, then push off with the second foot. As the second pedal comes around during the first stroke, the second foot is clipped into the pedal. Since the pedals move continuously, engaging the second foot may take a revolution or two.
Dismounting is easier, but must be done at a slow pace (walking) to allow the rider to easily disengage the second foot and put it on the ground.
Without brakes, a track bicycle's speed is controlled with the legs. Applying backward pressure on the pedals (backpedaling) will reduce the speed of the bicycle. Applying excessive backward pressure will not dramatically reduce the speed of the bicycle - and can dangerously force the rider out of the saddle.
In order to stay on the racing surface, riders must maintain a speed at which he or she generates enough inertia against the banking in the turns to allow the bicycle to overcome the force of gravity. This speed is between 20 and 25mph for a 250m track such as the NSC Velodrome. It is not realistic to expect to always be riding at that speed on the track. Racers can safely negotiate the banking at a slower speed using the proper technique.
When a racer is riding at a moderate speed, he or she will create some inertia against the track surface - enough to cause the tires to have friction against the surface. To counter the pull of gravity, the racer will be more upright (perpendicular to the ground). This can cause the right pedal of the bicycle to strike the track surface in the turns, causing the rear wheel to skip off the track and sending the racer sliding down the track.
To avoid this, racers must learn to lean the bike away from the track - to the left, or inside of the track. This is accomplished through counter steering. Racers will lock their left elbows straight, bending their right elbows and pushing their bicycles to the left while steering it straight. The center of their torsos and their noses will be to the right of the bicycles' top tubes. Counter steering is generally not required in the straightaways.
The track at the NSC Velodrome is 7 meters wide. This is plenty of room for a number of riders to race or carry out workouts without any problems - provided that riders know where all the other riders are and what they are doing. It is absolutely essential that riders look over their right shoulders before moving up track (to the right). It is also essential that riders look back over their left shoulders when moving down track (to the left). It is also crucial that riders hold a straight line while looking backwards.