Hidden away, off a suburban road in South London, is Herne Hill Cycling Track. I’ve always known it was there, less than a 30 minute cycle ride from my home, but I’ve never taken the time to investigate. In fact it’s been there since 1891, being one of the oldest cycling tracks in the world and the only remaining venue still in use from the 1948 Olympic Games.
Despite being slightly intimidated by its impressive history, I was inspired by a colleague’s 14 year old daughter who trains there weekly with a junior group. Every Tuesday evening the track runs a road-bike session, so this week I went to try it out.
I admit, I was a little anxious, but I reasoned with myself …
1. It was a dry (and trying to be sunny) evening, the conditions were good
2. If a teenage girl can happily ride around a velodrome, I can at least give it a go
3. I would be riding my own bike, it wasn’t as if I was going to be on a fixed wheel
When I arrived at the velodrome, it was all very relaxed, I explained that I’d not been before and asked if I needed any instruction. I was advised of a few rules such as no water bottles, and talked through safety on the track. I noted that it was always important to look over your right shoulder for other cyclists passing, and cooling down laps should be done at the top of the circuit, close to the barrier. Other than that the helpful marshall said to ask if I had any concerns, and enjoy.
I headed to the track, on the way contemplating that ‘cooling down’ laps implied that I was expected to work up a sweat. I crossed the track into the centre, and felt a little nervous because…
1. The banks looked very steep
2. There was a guy wearing a professional looking aero-dynamic helmet
3. The juniors were riding around in a very organised chain-gang
I felt a little out of my depth, however I was there, and I wasn’t going to back out, so on I got, and went round and round…it’s marvellous!
The Velodrome is 450m of beautifully smooth track, banking at 30 degrees at the steepest part. I didn’t keep count of the laps I rode, I took a break every now and again to have a drink, practicing getting safely on and off the circuit.
I’m very much looking forward to going again. I’m aware that there is probably more to it than going round and round, and I would benefit from planning my velodrome sessions. If anyone has any training tips, I’d love to hear from you.