I will begin by offering a disclaimer. I am not an expert on the track, nor do I pretend to be. But now I have done a track race, which just happened to be the National Championships, and all with just under a week of preparation, I am no longer just a participant. I am a competitor. And I survived.
Track Bling. (Rule #7)
How did I survive the intimidating track culture and racing? Good question. In case you ever find yourself on the track, or even at a track race, you will need to try to make the “roadies” proud. Trackies don’t always let roadies onto their domain, but when we enter, we have to show that we can survive. We will survive. We may not have the cache of track experience where you can rattle off gear inch ratios and spin to a reckless roller warm-up, but we do have the love of bikes (although I prefer mine with gears and brakes, but that is besides the point) and speed (who doesn’t love a good excuse to use aero equipment).
More Aero. More Better. (Rules #3 & #4)
I am a roadie that entered a national championship track race, and here is my “The Roadie’s Guide to Timed Event Track Racing Vol. 1”. If I ever choose to do a mass start race, I can write a Vol. 2, but for now, since I did not enter any mass start races, I will wait until I have more immersion into the sport before I do that. Or not.
Roadie Stamp. (Rule #10)
- No one having brakes is supposedly better. When a sprinter comes careening down the embankment directly at you, screaming, “Watch out! No brakes!” Do not flinch. Just hold your line and keep moving in a predictable direction. They want you to react and see what a roadie you are. Remember, none of us of brakes. I was told this was supposed to be comforting. Speed changes don’t happen as drastically without brakes or gears, or so I am told.
- No matter what, don’t stop pedaling. Right. You can’t stop pedaling. Even if you want to. Just remember to keep your legs moving, or else you will end up getting bucked off your bike like you are riding a wild bronco in the rodeo. I found out that the harder the effort, the more I wanted to stop pedaling after. Resist the urge. A few more pedal strokes is better than ended up with splinters in your hind end, or adding entertainment to the three-ring circus.
- The more carbon on your wheels the better. Can you do a double disc?! Absolutely. If you want to sound like a jet engine when riding, I suggest going for the full aero regalia. You may not always be the fastest, but you will still look and sound the fastest. Who doesn’t want an excuse to use more aero equipment?
- Skinsuits are not only acceptable, they are preferred. Have you won a QOM skinsuit once and never knew when you were going to be able to wear the polka dots again? Fear not, because skinsuits are not only common on the track, they are actually encouraged. Even in training. I still prefer the ease of bibs and a jersey. I am not entirely comfortable strutting my stuff in an opaque skinsuit, but if you feel the need, know the track is the place for you to rock whatever skinsuit your heart desires.
- Learn track etiquette. I am not a professional on all the unspoken rules of the track, but I like to fit in, therefore, I try to learn my place and the lines and speeds that are required for me to be on the track. Just like the rules you like to enforce on your group rides, you also need to follow the rules and etiquette of the track. Remember you don’t know it all, nor should you pretend to. When in doubt, ask.
- Track sacks and chain tension. I don’t have a gear bag for track, but I borrowed one. It is pretty funny a gear bag is called a track sack. I was more excited about the gold cogs than I was concerned about what gear they actually were. You want to learn how to change your gears and make sure your wheels are tight and your chain tension is sufficient. Never be afraid to ask for help until you are proficient in this task. Your safety and the safety of those you are riding the track with are dependent on the reliability of your bike and equipment
- Gold Chains, Gold Cogs, and Aero Helmets. Yes, yes, and yes. Bling is alive and well at the track.
- Asking someone to hold you. The track is a very appropriate place to ask to be held. I found myself saying, “Oh Hey, Sugar, will you hold me?” His name was Sugar for the record. And yes, you are always allowed to ask for a holder at the track. Most people don’t mind. Who doesn’t like to be held from time to time? For a standing start, that is.
- Intimidate your competition and pump yourself up by aggressively hitting your head and screaming. Or don’t. But I did witness this. I think it was a sprinter thing though. I might try it in road racing just to see if my competitors think I am completely loony so they let me ride away from them. It will be called Tactic Intimidation.
- Socks are not required. Sounds like a stinky situation, but apparently tall socks are not a fashion “do” on the track. Short socks or no socks are worn. But with shoe covers now being UCI illegal, tall socks will probably be worn in the endurance competitions for aerodynamic reasons. I wear short socks for the tanlines, and tall socks for the fashion, I mean aerodynamics. If you show up wearing tall socks, you might as well have a “roadie” sticker attached to your forehead.
- Take recovery seriously. Laying down for recovery on a blow-up mattress is best. Once again, I think this is a sprinter thing. But track efforts are really hard. And then you recover really hard before you do it all over again. I have seen inflatable air mattresses and donuts being associated with recovery. Much different than the road, but when in Rome…recover.
- Look both ways before moving up or down track. There are lanes on the track just like the freeway. There are sprinting lanes, slow lanes, passing lanes, and merging lanes. Be aware of your surroundings, your speed, and use your peripheral vision. Even though the track looks like chaos, it is ordered chaos. Add to the order, not the chaos.
- Winning is always preferred, but getting a medal is considered appropriate bling. And we got a silver medal for a shiny 2nd place at the USA Cycling Track National Championships. Like I said, track is all about bling.
- Take left turns, and join in the fun! It will be the most fun you can have without joining the circus. Only put yourself in situations you are comfortable in, or if you are uncomfortable, ensure you can handle the situation calmly and rationally, and then gradually increase your experience. I may or may not have gotten “stuck” on the track during warm-up once… or twice… Just think of the more k’s I logged! Oh, and you always turn left. Enjoy!
Skinsuits and More Bling. (Rule #13)