Alec Conquers the Velodrome (Half Day Creative)

“I hope you remembered to wear two tee-shirts because if you fall off, your skin will only stick to the bed sheets for a week rather than a fortnight.”

A slightly disturbing start but thankfully I had remembered to wear two tee-shirts. Unfortunately, as you’ll see from the piccie, I’m a ‘none of the gear and also no idea’ kind of cyclist, so had forgotten to bring gloves…

As part of the ClientsFirst Half-day Creatives, I had chosen to try a taster session at the National Cycling Centre Velodrome Track in Manchester. The brief for a half day creative is to choose something that you wouldn’t normally do (I’m not in good shape) and something that takes you out of your comfort zone (I like to be in control and the lack of brakes doesn’t conform to ‘control’ in my book).

So there I was, about to clip myself into a fixed wheel (see the opposite of free wheel) professional velodrome bike. I have to say, the briefing was thorough but fairly light-hearted – I’m not sure if that made me feel better or worse. After clipping into our pedals whilst we leaned against a barrier, we each pushed off one by one and joined the flat area of the track practising accelerating and decelerating, both of which were done by pushing and pulling the pedals. A few laps in, it was time to try to join the banked area of the track, much harder than I had imagined as I kept unintentionally veering back onto the flat on each bend.

After a few laps trying this out, we were instructed to leave the track safely for our second briefing. Now that we were able to join the track, it was time to try to move further up the bank. I explained my issue to the instructor and he reminded me the two things I had been forgetting – accelerate into the corner (seemingly counter-intuitive) and don’t look around the bend, rather I had to focus on the top of the bank (where, helpfully, the big sign read, ‘keep pedalling’) and not lean into the corner. Having listened intently this time, I went for it and result! I stuck between the red and blue lines (more or less), improving on each bend.

The instructor had informed us that riding a velo bike for 5 minutes was like riding a road bike for 20 minutes, neither of which I had previously done anyway so when I decided that I was ready for a break, I was surprised to see that I had been on for about 6 minutes. A quick breather and onto the track again. I was spent after another 3 minutes so, figuring I’d rather not make a costly mistake for my skin’s sake, I decided to call it a day.

And what a day it was: I learnt a new skill, a newfound respect for the men in long hats on the telly and to follow instructions, even when they seem to be the exact opposite of what you think you should be doing.

Importantly, I had a great day out and felt buzzed up when getting back into the office that afternoon.

Definitely worth a go if you’re anywhere near Manchester.

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