Monthly Archives: September 2012

166 Meters Closer

Today marks two weeks and a day since my first ride on the Cleveland Velodrome.

I’ve ridden 8 or 9 days in that time, so I figure that’s getting close to 2000 laps. I should be completely convinced by now that you can ride the steep part of the banking without sliding down. But every time I ride, I have to convince myself all over again that it’s possible. The first lap I just have this feeling that the wheels are going to slide out or my pedal is going to hit the high side of the track.

But each time I ride, it takes fewer and fewer laps to get over that feeling. See someone fall? That introduces some doubt again.

I’m thinking that learning to ride the track is going to be as much a mental exercise as a physical one.

Take riding up at the top of the track. Watching the “roll up” from last weekend’s race, I figure I need to be able to ride in a paceline up high, and be able to pull off up higher.

Logically, I know that it shouldn’t be any harder to ride in a straight line up there. But riding up close to the edge of the track makes me feel like I’m on a roller coaster and I’m trying to keep myself from looking down. So I try to make myself look out at the track, and get a little closer to the edge each time.

It doesn’t help that Gary tells me he clipped a pedal on the plastic bumper at the top of the track. More doubt.

But I figure each of those laps is 166 meters closer to confidence.


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From 0 to 60 (km/h) in a week, part 2

The day after my first dizzying ride on the Cleveland Velodrome, I went to work feeling like I had a hangover. If this was how I would feel after riding on the track, then there was no way I could keep doing it. It would be a case of “did it once, it was cool, but it wasn’t really for me.”

I emailed my wife, on deployment in the Air Force Reserves. She’s had to deal with air sickness in situations a lot worse than riding around a velodrome. It gets better, she said. Or maybe it’s more like, you get used to it, not sure which.

That didn’t exactly make me feel better, but I needed to find out if I could do it. So I went back for some “hair of the dog”. The next day.

“Don’t look down at the track”, Brett told me. “Look out ahead. If you’re coming into the turn you should be looking at the exit. Don’t stare at the wheel in front of you.”

Simple instructions, and it made all the difference. I rode by myself for a while, then jumped on to the back of a paceline as it came by. After 90 minutes worth of riding, I had only a few moments of mild discomfort.

I went back on Tuesday. And again on Thursday (4 times in 5 days). There’s something addictive about being on the early part of the learning curve.

The state championship race was scheduled for Saturday. I never thought I would be ready to do something like that so soon. But they were all individual events — no mass start races. And we practiced them Thursday evening, so I knew I could at least get around the track. Why not?

One week after riding the track for the first time, I was pinning on a number. By the end of the day I had a couple medals and a jersey.

Then I started looking online for a track bike. And wrote a check to make a donation and join the Founders Club.

Kudos to the people who did all the hard work to make this happen. This has to be one of the coolest things in Cleveland.

You can donate via the website:


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From 0 to 60 (km/h) in a week

[Note: this started out as a single post that quickly got out of hand]

Back when I decided to learn to snowboard (10+ years ago), someone commented, “oh, you mean you want to strap your feet to a plank and throw yourself down a mountain?”

I was reminded of that comment the first time I drove up to the Cleveland Velodrome for “Track 101”, just one week ago. I looked at the steepness of the banking and thought, “there’s no way I can ride on that.”

I’d seen pictures of people riding it, but at that moment no way could I picture myself doing it.

I was reminded also of how my kids had no self-consciousness when learning to snowboard. They had no problem not knowing what to do. Nor did they have any fear of falling. As an adult though, you have to get over that feeling of needing to be competent even though you have no clue. And get over the fear of falling down.

And so with some trepidation I threw my leg over the fixed-gear bike and slowly rode around the infield. I’d been warned by several people that it takes a while to suppress the reflex to stop pedaling and freewheel. I was told I would be in for a nasty surprise if I tried to stop pedaling while going fast. So I also had that fear in the back of my head.

It as an odd sensation at first. The little movements you do without thinking — like adjusting the pedal position before pushing off — you can’t do in the same way. But after riding around for a while I started to get the feel of it.

Then it was time to start, for real. We first rode around the plywood apron. Then up on the track in the straightaway then back on the apron. Then higher up on the track and back down. We did this several times.

Brett Davis, who was teaching the intro class, told us we needed to go 18mph to ride the banking in the curves. So if we followed him and kept his speed, we would be fine. I wanted to believe that.

We did 3 laps on the track and no one fell. OK, I was convinced. We did this a few more times, then time was up, and the class was over.

In the meantime, another experienced rider (Jim Behrens) had shown up. Brett said, OK let’s do some paceline. Uh oh. I had just ridden the track for the first time, and now he wants me to ride in a paceline.

Part of me wanted to say. “thanks, but I need to get going.” But the other part was jazzed at riding the track and wanted to take the next step.

Next thing I know we’re going around at 23-24mph, with the lead rider pulling off to the high side every 2 laps. The first time coming through the line, with the rider up above me on the track, was a bit scary. I pictured him sliding down the track and into me.

One of the things I learned that first day: you need to have some amount of trust that the others around you are competent and are going to ride in a straight line.

So around we went. And around some more. Until at one point I realized I was starting to get motion sick. I took a break, then rode some more. And got more motion sick.

I felt like I had just gotten off the Raptor at Cedar Point. At that point I’d had enough and needed to stop.

This was now a dilemma. I’d had a taste of riding fast around the track. But could I do it without getting dizzy every time?

Next up: Can you ride while taking dramamine?


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