Track cycling is almost about as old as cycling itself. It enables an easy way to ride traffic free and also ensure spectators can see all the action. Track bikes are much simpler than road bikes. A proper track bike will be a fixed gear, with no brakes. To slow down, the rider will simply exert pressure in the opposite direction. Brakes are not allowed on the track because when you are riding so fast and close to the rider in front of you, slamming on the brakes could easily cause a mass pile up.
One of the first times seeing cycling on the TV was watching Chris Boardman’s Olympic Pursuit title in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. It was a memorable TV spectacle; I remember the speed, excitement and unique bike. At the time, it was also a rare Olympic medal for GB in cycling. To my great disappointment, (and bewilderment) the UCI have decided to remove this blue ribbon event from the Olympic programme. But, that’s another story and I’ve already complained about this before.
Most of the Olympic track events are now focused on the sprint distance. But, at the other extreme is the 6 Day Races, which are real tests of endurance. Like many cycling stories, the first 6 Day events were held in the UK. A David Stanton cycled 1,000 miles in six successive days, riding 18 hours a day, averaging 13.5mph to win a £100 bet. But, they were later taken on by other countries, done much better, and later leaving no significant 6 Day events in the UK. Six day races were first popularised at Madison Hall Gardens, New York, where they became big money spinners. Later the six day scene moved to Europe, where it was especially big in Belgium.
One drawback of cycling on a track is the boredom of going round in circles. I guess for sprint events it’s no problem, but, a six day race must get pretty monotonous. The Guinness World Record for 24 hour cycling is done on a track. Maybe one day it would be good to have a go at it.
When in New York, I disliked the roads so much, I often went to do some training at a local outdoor track. It’s in reasonable condition, and is a great resouce. You can just turn up and if no organised event you can ride around for as long as you want. It would be great if there were more of these kinds of simple outdoor tracks provided by councils, it is great way to get more people into cycling. Tracks don’t all have to be expensive, state of the art indoor places like Manchester,