Beacon Roads Cycling Club
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Advice on getting involved in other clubs' track races

As the title implies, track racing takes place on tracks, or velodromes as they are sometimes called. There are many similarities to athletics, with events taking place on purpose-built tracks, usually 400 metres (440 yards) around, although the size can vary. Races range from sprints of 400 to 1000 metres, through middle distance of two miles to five, right up to events of an hour or more in duration. World-class riders compete in team races that last for six days.

First, talk to your club coach, so that you will know the rules that apply to the various events and the safety protocols that must be observed when entering and riding on the track. Then go to the track and put some time in riding laps in the company of an experienced rider or coach. Beacon does not have its own track, but hires a local one whenever there is sufficient demand. The club's Track Secretary can give you more details. Track bikes take a little getting used to, but you should be reasonably competent after an hour or so's practice.

For the beginner, the place to learn your craft is a local track league. These take place at Halesowen on a Friday evening, and Wolverhampton on a Wednesday evening. Once you have paid the registration fee, you just turn up and pay to ride on the evening you want to race.

Here the similarity to athletics ends. Whereas a runner competes in one, maybe two events, the cycling trackie will try to get into nearly every race on the programme. You can expect to ride in four events at least in the course of a couple of hours. Track leagues cater for all classes, from juveniles to those of sixty years plus. Girls and women can have their own events or mix it with the boys or men.

When you feel confident, you can enter open events. These normally take place on a Saturday or Sunday, and usually involve travelling. Information regarding locations, closing dates for entering, etc. can be obtained from the BC website, or handbook, which you can get hold of through the club Track Secretary.

The equipment for track racing is delightfully simple. A crash helmet, then a frame with saddle, handlebars, transmission (chain set and chain) and wheels fitted with the lightest tyres you can afford. No gears, no brakes, no mudguards or bottle cages. If this worries you, be reassured that track racing is the safest form of cycling competition. No traffic, no potholes, no fallen trees, branches or broken glass. Everybody is going in the same direction and because no one has any brakes there are no sudden stops. Control is maintained by all riders being on fixed cogs (you can't freewheel) and using the track banking to slow down or accelerate. If you should suffer a puncture or fatigue, the changing rooms and refreshments are just beside the track.

Aside from buying the bike, the costs are as follows. You must join British Cycling, the national governing body, which will set you back between 12 and 32 depending on the type of membership you want; then you need a racing licence, which costs 30. The club Track Secretary will help you sort things out. To join a track league costs 10, and then it's 2 to 3 for every meeting in which you compete. These costs are greatly reduced for people who are less than eighteen years of age.

The outdoor season lasts from Easter to late September, and for those so inclined, they can race indoors at Manchester or Newport near Cardiff during the winter.

For a totally informal experience you can enter the Beacon club track championships that take place on a Sunday in late summer. Britain is a world leader in this sport, so be ready for Olympic fame and fortune. The club coach will tell you how to prepare for stardom.

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