By Cynthia Nelson
On a snowy weekend in February, the West of Quebec Wheelers hosted a few training days at the Forest City Velodrome in London, Ontario. My husband is part of this riding club and we thought it sounded like fun and decided to go.
About a dozen or so of us made the trek from Ottawa through the snow. I had no experience with either a fixed gear bike or a velodrome so I was a bit apprehensive at first. When we first arrived at the track on Saturday morning there was a free ride session going on and I was surprised to see the slope of the track and the number of people who were comfortable riding around in such a small space together. It is only 138m long and is the shortest and steepest indoor track in North America.
We started with a 3hr course, Track I, on Saturday morning. I was nervous, but I decided that I was going to have fun doing this and I am quite capable so I left all my apprehensions outside in the parking lot. First we rode around on the infield, getting used to the bikes and pracitising things like getting on/off, varying our speeds, and steering around obstacles. I did not realize how relatively easy it was to slow down by resisting the force of the rotating pedals using my legs. Once we were fairly proficient at this we progressed to the track. The instructors were excellent. Rob Good, the lead instructor, was very patient with us and before we knew it we were riding around the track with varying speeds and even learning how to dive bomb the corners.
Saturday night we returned to the track to watch some racing. I had never been to watch live racing before and it was awesome! I was hooked and wanted to be on the track racing too! However for that we would have to take Track II and probably a learn to race course as well. One very brave little Wheeler did take part in the racing though, Joel Atkins, who learned to ride a fixed gear on the track the same day. He was awesome and even won a race complete with a victory lap holding the Canadian flag!
The next day we were allowed to ride on the track during an open session, however since we had not competed Track II we were not allowed to go above the red line or pass anyone. We still had a good time anyway, and I thought it was really cool to feel the centripetal force acting on me as I went faster and faster through the corners. We all had such a fantastic time there, and I can’t wait to go back and try it again.
It would be really great to have an indoor velodrome in the Ottawa area; there are certainly enough cyclists that would enjoy using it and many other young people who would probably get into track cycling if one were here. If you build it, they will come…
Thanks for the report, Cynthia!