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Learning new tricks at Herne Hill Velodrome

On Sunday 25th April 30 Wheelers headed to Herne Hill Velodrome for our annual track skills day, which caters for both new and experienced track cyclists. We weren’t able to run the session last year due to lockdown so it was great to be back at south London’s famous velodrome. The sun was shining and we had a great afternoon practising skills and exercises put together by the fantastic coaching team of Thea, Elisabetta and Boru. These included Herne Hill staples such as “pairs on the blue”, more technical skills such as “stitching” and a bit of fun at the end of the session with a round of “Australian Pursuit”. There was great feedback from everyone who attended and it was great to catch up with clubmates at one of the first social events of 2021 post-lockdown. Thanks to our members Jasmijn, Jess and Lloyd who tried the track for the first time and have given us a flavour of the day…

Jasmijn Muller

“Every year the club organises a track taster day at HHV. Every year, since joining the club in 2011, I hesitated. This year I finally joined. What fun did I miss out on for 10 years?! At first, when having to leave the safety of the railing, I wondered how I was going to get this bike moving without falling over… But it really is as simple as riding a bike: just push on the pedals. The drop down moment after riding high on the bank is such a cool feeling: free speed. My fears of track riding being scary or risky were totally unfounded. No spills. No dramas. Just a good time had by all. It was also good to see some familiar faces and meet some new club members. Having a fun afternoon in the sun. Doing something as a group. An afternoon that was anything but normal, yet felt refreshingly like a return to normality.”

Experienced cyclist Jasmijn trying track for the first time

Jess Hardwick

“As a total cycling newbie, the track taster was my first-time setting foot in a velodrome and my first ever experience riding a bike fixed gear, without brakes. After an anxious first few laps of the track I got the hang of stopping, and the different drills were a great way for me to develop my bike handling skills and build my confidence riding in close proximity to other cyclists. My legs were on fire at the end – those banks are steep! The session was great fun and a nice way to meet some more Wheelers. I’d definitely recommend it to any other beginner who is thinking about having a go. I’m keen to have another crack at it and who knows, one day I might even enter a track race!”

Jess getting stuck in at one of her first club events

Lloyd Grose

“I’ve always wanted to see what it’s like to ride on a velodrome. As a kid I lived across from Birmingham’s’ only Velodrome, Salford stadium in Witton which is located next door to Spaghetti Junction. The tarmac track surrounded an athletics track and a large field where the Birmingham Bulls used to play. I have a recurring memory of holding my dad’s hand at the top of the bank alongside a large crowd whilst my sister competed in the Midland Athletics Championships. Salford Park used to host many track meets and the British pursuit champs in the 60’s and Graham Webb broke 10 mile, 25 mile and 1 hour records there, and Roy Cromack became the first man to ride more than 500 miles in 24 hours there in 1969. In 2002 it was demolished with a promise of a replacement which never arrived, even for next year’s Commonwealth Games where Birmingham is the host city.”

The velodrome at Salford Stadium in the 60s

“When the club announced the track day I jumped at the chance and I couldn’t wait for the day to arrive. It was a perfect day for riding; a clear blue spring day with a crisp breeze. There was a good turn out from the Wheelers and after saying hello to everyone, three excellent Herne Hill instructors split into two groups. Being a fresher I put in the beginners group. As it was my first ride fixed gear, my initial concern prior to getting on was regarding the gears. Would the gear ratio be comfortable for me? I didn’t need to worry. I asked a friend of mine why I found it so comfortable riding a track bike. One thing that they said was that the geometry makes the track bike a comfortable ride. The other worry of course was the issue around the need to not stop pedalling, but again that didn’t take any time to get over.”

Lloyd loving his first experience of the track

“For the next couple of hours we went through a series of drills to get us more accustomed to the track bike and riding in groups. One technique I quickly learnt is stopping and it reminds me of skiing, it’s an acquired skill! What I really loved was gaining an appreciation of riding the banks of the track and it was such a fantastic feeling learning and executing the drills successfully and competently. Not only do I feel confident enough to negotiate the track, it has given me a new found love of this discipline and I can’t wait to set foot on the track again real soon.”

Photos by Phil Feather

Big thanks to Declan for organising the event and the coaches at Herne Hill for putting on a safe and fun day for us. All photos by Phil Feather, the full gallery can be found here.