Track Cycling 101: What to Know

Track cycling is one of the most thrilling and spectator-friendly cycling formats available. It differs significantly from other types of bicycle racing.

The race is held on an oval-shaped track with wooden boards and large banked edges to allow riders to move at high speeds, and it includes two types of events: sprint and endurance. Below each rank, there are a variety of races to choose from. So, while the Six Day program’s events come and go, there is always a mix of sprint and endurance events for men and women to compete in.

In this post, we go through the fundamentals of track cycling, including the events that will be included at the Six Day Series, as well as the special equipment and skills required to cycle on the track.

The Route

Cycling on the track takes place in a specially constructed stadium known as a velodrome. The circuits for the Six Day Series will be 250m or 330m in length, with a 45 degree ‘bank’ or angle of the track on the bends. Other competitions are less stringent, allowing the track to be twice as long and the bank to be closer to 30 degrees.

An indoor track is often built of wood, synthetics, or a combination of the two. There are also outdoor velodromes, which usually have a concrete or asphalt surface. Depending on the event, a track will have various coloured bands that operate as “lanes” for the riders to follow.

The warm-up area is a marked blue area beneath the track surface that is prohibited during races. The ‘measurement line’ is a black line on the track that sits 20cm above the blue region and is the shortest route around the track. A red line runs around the perimeter of the black line. These two lines form a ‘sprinters lane,’ and riders in this lane are not permitted to overtake on the inside.

Track cycling is a potentially deadly sport that requires equal parts talent and bravery due to its high speeds, fixed gears, and lack of brakes.

Bikes with a Track

Track bikes are designed to handle the immense power that track cyclists can create, allowing the rider to develop speed quickly. Modern track bikes are often composed of carbon fibre with aerodynamically designed tube profiles, although they can also be made of aluminium or steel, just like road and mountain bikes.

Track bikes also lack a standard groupset and brakes, preventing riders from free-wheeling or changing gears, necessitating the use of gear selection and riding skills.

The frame and fork, handlebars, wheels, cranks, pedals, a single chainring on the front, one cog connected to the hub on the rear wheel, and the chain itself are the only components on a track bike.

A track bike’s handlebars are identical to those on a road cycle, but they’re narrower and have a deeper drop, allowing the rider to assume a more aggressive aerodynamic stance. Riders can only come to a halt by slowing their pedalling.

To improve aerodynamics, bikes competing in the Keirin, Omnium, and Sprint competitions often use a solid disc back wheel and either a deep rim, tri-spoke, or five-spoke front wheel. They’ll also have conventional drop handlebars, which will make it easier for the user to operate the bike.

Bikes used in the Team or Individual Pursuit usually have a front and rear disc wheel, as well as time trial-specific handlebars that allow the rider to assume an extremely aggressive aerodynamic stance.

The time trial handlebars allow the rider to rest their forearms on the bars, resulting in a low frontal profile and less aerodynamic drag. Around 85% of the resistance a rider must overcome is caused by them, therefore the more aerodynamic a rider can become, the more speed they will gain.

Apparel and Equipment

Skin suits are commonly worn by track riders because they hug the cyclist like a second skin, preventing any slack places from catching the wind and increasing the rider’s aerodynamic drag. Some suits even have ‘channels’ on the shoulder panels and arms to facilitate air flow from the rider’s front to his back. Anything for a few tenths of a second savings.

The shoes worn by track cyclists differ slightly from those worn by road cyclists. Sprinters will use massive amounts of energy in order to get out of the starting gates as quickly as possible. They will not only use clip-in cleats and pedals, but also straps as an extra degree of protection to prevent them from pulling a shoe or slipping out of their pedals. Track cyclists, unlike road riders, are not permitted to wear shoe covers and are restricted in the height of their socks.

These rules were put in place to level the playing field and make racing more about the riders than the technology.

The Bicycle Doctor