I figure I’ve ridden a couple thousand laps at the velodrome in the last 6 weeks. I’m pretty comfortable riding by myself, or riding in front with someone on my wheel.
But staying tight on the wheel in front of me? Not as much.
I don’t yet have a good feel for modulating my speed without brakes. I know this is largely a mental thing. They keep telling me: the good thing about “no brakes” is that no one is going to grab a handful. Overall it’s more smooth and predictable. I know that’s true, but it’s hard to undo the wiring of all those years of relying on brakes.
The other aspect is trusting the others you’re riding with. When you’re following a wheel at 25mph+ and you have no brakes, you have to trust that the others around you are going to ride in a predictable manner. That’s a big reason why everyone has to learn the track etiquette and have the basic skill of being able to ride in a straight line.
The trust aspect is there when we race on the road too, but it seems more critical on the track. If you’re in a criterium and there’s a rider who’s making everyone nervous, it’s usually not a problem to just avoid them. But on the track everything seems more compressed.
Thursday night we had 4-5 guys in a paceline (see video above). We started out with 2 laps pulls. Then from the infield Brett called for 1 lap pulls. Then 1/2 lap pulls. So we had someone pulling off frequently, combined with passing some other riders below. This is when it registered: I just have to trust that the other guys are going to do the right thing. They’re going to keep a steady speed, hold their line when they pull off, see the other slower riders that we’re passing.
I still wasn’t holding the wheel in front of me as tight as I’d like. But it was progress.
Before doing the paceline, Brett showed off by riding no-handed: