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?