TRACK CYCLING 101
Track racing may come across as confusing but really it isn't once you understand the basics it's a lot of fun and can really enhance your cycling or provide a fulfilling stand alone sporting endeavor. Below is some information I have put together to help you learn about the sport... Sorry about the word count!
Track Bike in Warmup Gear
Aerobar Cockpit (If Rqd.)
Disc Wheel (If Rqd.)
15mm Box Wrench
6&8mm Hex Keys
Apron The flat area around the infield just inside and below the banking or racing part of the track.
Attack To go at a faster pace in order to get away from a rider or group of riders.
Banking The steepest area of the track.
Blocking To get in the way or slow down another rider for someone else's advantage. Often used as a team tactic for a teammate who is in a break.
Box A situation where opponents surround a rider.
Break A rider or group of riders that leaves the main group behind.
Bridge To leave one group of riders and join another group that is further ahead.
Category USAC divides the abilities and/or experience of riders into smaller groups or categories based on skill and/or age. Skill categories are from 5 (beginner) to 1 (elite).
Chasers Those who are trying to catch a break or a lead rider.
Drafting Riding in a pocket of moving air, a slipstream created by the rider in front.
Field The main group of riders. Also known as the pack, bunch, or peloton
Fixed Gear A direct drive chain and cog set up in which the rider cannot coast or shift gears.
Flyer A surprise attack, usually done alone.
Gap The distance between a group and individual riders.
Hammering Riding hard, going all out.
Hand-sling Form of changing partners in a Madison Race.
Hook A turn up track cutting off another rider’s path.
Jump A quick acceleration usually developing into a sprint.
Lead Out A type of sprint when the first rider leads a second rider well into a sprint giving the second rider the advantage of sitting in.
Paceline A string of riders who alternatively ride at the front and sit in.
Pack/Peloton The main Group of riders.
Pole Area on the track between the measurement line (black) and the Sprinter's line (red).
Prime A sprint for prizes within a mass start race. (Pronounced Preeme)
Pull To take a turn going hard at the front of the field.
Sitting-in To occupy a position in a pace line other than the lead.
Sprint Final burst of speed for the finish line.
Track Stand A maneuver in a match sprint event where neither competitor wants to lead out, resulting in both riders balancing their bikes in order to stop on the track.
Blue Band or Cote D'Azure
The wide blue band at the bottom of the track represents "out of bounds" During races riders may not advance on or below the blue band.
Pole or Measurement Line
The inner edge of this black line, which runs around the entire track, is the point from which the Velodrome is measured.
The sprinter’s line runs parallel to the black measurement line. This area marks off the zone referred to as the sprinter’s lane. In the final 200 meters of a sprint, if the lead rider is below the red sprinter's line, other riders must pass above the rider who is in the sprinter’s lane
Stayer's or Relief Line
Midway up the track is a blue line named the Stayer’s line The Stayer’s line serves as a guide to riding zones during training or general riding sessions Cyclists riding at slow speeds stay above this blue relief line, while faster riders move to the lower half of the track. Be sure to leave a lane open on top.
Just before the turn one, is a black line in the middle of a 72 centimeter-wide white strip This distinct strip serves as the finish line for many track events.
Indicating 200 meters to the finish line, this black line is just after turn 2 on a 333m track. The official purpose of this line is for sprint timing.
In the middle of the straights are the pursuit lines, these act as start and finish lines for all distances (except the flying 200m).
TRACK ETTIQUETTE AND SAFETY
Using The Track
Riding safely should be your first priority. Always ride as if the other riders of the track have the right-of-way. Be polite. Be friendly. Obey all the velodrome’s rules. Here are some guidelines of riding on the track that are taught during our YCL and new rider clinics:
Enter and exit the track on the back straight. (Opposite side of the track from the finish line)
Always look back on the track before entering the track and immediately go to or above the blue line, midway up the track, if it is clear.
Sprinters lane (low on the track between black and red) is for hard efforts and sprints. Please leave this lane when finished with your effort.
Warm up and easy riding is usually done on or above the blue line (relief line)
Before making a move anywhere on or off the track, look back before you go.
Riding in the space between the red and blue lines is discouraged. This is a transition area on the track.
Riding on the apron is allowed. Just stay well away from the blue band and the track.
We share the track so please communicate while you are on the track. The word ‘STAY’ should be used while you are passing others closely to others on the track.
YOU ARE DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SAFETY OF ALL OTHER RIDERS ON THE TRACK, PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT OTHER RIDERS ARE DOING AND GIVE THEM THE RIGHT OF WAY.
Please Note: Etiquette will change from track to track, due to configuration of that track. If visiting another velodrome it is your responsibility to learn the ‘Local Etiquette’
Track Paceline Etiquette
Maintain a steady pace. Going faster will open gaps; going too slow will bunch up the group causing dangerous overlaps.
Ride at the front for one or a half lap. This is called taking a pull.
Before swinging off, the first rider should do two things; glance over their right shoulder to check if the track is clear and flick their right elbow to alert the other riders that they are pulling off. Caution: When glancing back be careful not to turn the handlebars.
Clear the lead position gradually, as you move up to the stayer’s line, let the bike slow • Ride on the stayer’s line until the last rider in the line is below you
Gently drop down the track banking, the banking of the track will automatically increase your speed. This will take practice. SECOND RIDER IN THE PACELINE
Help the first rider maintain the speed. Tell her when she is speeding up or slowing down, this is the job for the second rider. The rider will call out the following terms to the leader: STEADY - if the pace is too quick, UP - if the pace is too slow, and GOOD - if the pace is just right.
Prepare yourself to take the lead. Make sure you do not overlap wheels especially to the outside. Be careful not to follow the lead rider when he/she starts to pull off. OTHER RIDERS IN THE PACELINE
Ride as smoothly as possible to insure the rest of the paceline rides a straight line.
Remember to look beyond the person in front of you.
If a gap develops, close it gradually. If you find yourself coming up too quickly on the next rider, float slightly up track or to the right until it is safe to come back behind the rider you are following.
If there is an accident, lead the riders behind you up track (to the right).
Rear Dropouts Horizontal Sliding vs Thru Axle or Vertical
Track dropouts allow for the rear wheel to be moved back or towards the bottom bracket to adjust chain tension accommodating for different gearing. They also are set so if the rear wheel slips it moves into the dropout preventing the wheel from coming off.
Bottom Bracket & Cranks
Track bike bottom brackets are usually 2-3cm higher than road bikes and use shorter cranks. This provides more pedal clearance to reduce the risk of pedal strikes on the banking. Shorter cranks allow for higher RPMs with the same velocity of muscle contraction. Road bikes typically have lower bottom brackets to increase stability for cornering especially when descending and longer cranks for added torque as RPM’s aren’t as critical when you can shift into a bigger gear.
Fixed Cog vs Freehub
A track hub takes a single cog that is threaded to the hub, the cog and wheel turn in unison so riders can control speed by applying pressure backwards but must continue to pedal to maintain forward motion. Road bikes have a freehub which allows the wheel to rotate forward freely when stopping pedaling. This is especially useful for descending, speed is controlled using brakes.
Changing gears on a track bike requires removal and replacement of the chaining and/or cog to change ratios which is done between races or intervals as required. On road bikes derailleurs controlled by levers on the handlebars are used to do this in motion. It is important to select the right gear for your event on a track bike as once you have started you can’t change it! The most commonly used cogs are 13-16 teeth with 47-52 teeth chainring options however you will occasionally see cogs as small as 12 teeth and chainrings as large as 64 teeth!
Track riders tend to favor a longer, lower position using the drops the majority of the time for aerodynamics and power as races are short and fast. Road riders often use a higher, shorter position for efficiency and comfort utilizing the hoods or tops of the drop bar more than the drops which are reserved for sprinting. This is due to races and rides being longer and not as intense as track races. Some exceptions occur such as for Madison and longer mass start track races when bars molded to allow multiple hand positions have become popular. For timed events track riders will often swap out their cockpit for an aerobar setup which is possible as track bikes don't have cables.
Track bikes use pedals with stronger retention than road bikes and often also use straps in addition to a clip system to prevent disengagement when riding. Due to the nature of the hard efforts made and fixed gear system pedal retention failure has more significant consequences. Always check cleat and pedal condition for signs of wear or damage.
Hydration & Accessories
Track races are short and riders are not permitted to have on bike hydration, they are also not allowed to use visible bike computers or have anything that could come off when riding. Usually riders wear skin suits that don’t have back pockets as aerodynamics is essential due to the speed and feeding during race is also not allowed. Road races last for hours meaning food and hydration is essential so they have water bottle cages and pockets for food.
TRACK BIKE MECHANICS
While on smooth wooden tracks high tire pressures of up to 200psi are preferred for outdoor concrete tracks like Alkek Velodrome most riders find 80-110psi to be optimal depending on rider weight, tire size and model.
Check the tightness of the bolts on the bikes. The general areas to check are the handlebars, cranks, wheels, headset and seat ideally with a torque wrench. A quick spot check can be made by purposely trying to move each out of their original position. If any of these parts move or rattle you should tighten the bolt.
Proper chain tension for fixed gearing is important. If the chain is too loose, it will rattle and may fall off the chain ring. There should be approximately a half-inch of play in the chain. To check the chain tension, hold the rear wheel off the ground and spin the cranks slowly. There shouldn’t be any popping, and it should run smoothly. If this is not the case, you must adjust the rear wheel to correct the tension.
Bigger Chainring/Smaller Cog = Harder/Faster gear (Lower RPM per MPH)
Smaller Chainring/Bigger Cog = Easier/Slower gear (Higher RPM per MPH)
Adjusting the chainring one tooth will have a smaller effect on the gearing than the cog will. Approximately 4 chainring teeth will equal 1 cog tooth.
Remove chainring bolts, swap chainring and reinstall chainring bolts. Apply grease periodically to prolong lifespan.
Use a lock ring tool to remove lock ring by turning clockwise, then use a chain whip to remove the cog by turning it anti-clockwise. Tighten the new cog on (clockwise) using the chain whip before installing the lock ring by tightening anti-clockwise using the lock ring tool. The lock ring prevents the cog becoming loose when back pedaling.
Most commonly track bike drivetrain specifications are 144mm Chainring Bolt Circle Diameter (BCD), Chain Width of 1/8” RH threaded cog with LH threaded lock ring. However, there are some exceptions such as 130mm or 151mm BCD’s 3/32” chain widths and cog carrier systems so always check compatibility when purchasing or borrowing equipment.
RACE PLANNING AND PREP
What do you need to eat and when, to give you the fuel for the evening? Everyone is different, use training to experiment, it’s not advised to try new things on race day.
Be prepared!! At the start and end of the season have warm clothing, jacket, even if it is 90* at the start of the session. Have a packing list and check each item. Most riders have a track bag with all their gears ad tools in to make it easy.
Check your equipment after each session and fix it immediately Do not wait until race night for mechanical assistance.
Camp Set Up
Define your space, know where everything is Chair, trainer, bag, bottles/food
Must get your HR up to race tempo during warm up From your training log, write your ‘recipe’ for your warm up How long (time) in a pace line How many jumps, long efforts Total time required Between races, keeping warm. Consider using rollers or a trainer as it’s likely you won’t be able to use the track to warm up and cool down between races.
What / when do you need to eat to fuel you for the evening? Sip on a gel, nibble on a bar, fruit Sip water constantly After racing, within 40 – 60 minutes, eat a light meal. Again use training as an opportunity to try different nutrition to see what works best.
The pre-race rider meeting allows the officials and race director to brief riders with information on the night's racing and protocols. It is important you attend and this is the time to ask questions.
The schedule will be posted before racing starts. Make a note of it and use this to ensure you are ready for race starts. Consider when you need to start warming up and feeding. Don’t be the rider that misses or delays the start of a race!
10 – 15 minutes on the wind trainer or rollers after your last race, Very low resistance RPM’s – Start at 80 – 85, gradually slow to 60 – 65 When am I cool? HR down to 60% Legs feel lighter, not tight
End of the Evening
Find the positives Where you need to improve? What did you do really well? HAVE FUN!!!
Example Race Packing Checklist
Every rider will be slightly different, you don’t need everything listed here to be able to race however this is what I typically take with me: