Track cycling has seen a resurgence since Great Britain accumulated an almighty seven Gold medals at the 2012 Olympics.
The interest hasn't quietened down, either - and we don't just want to watch track cycling - many of us want to have a go, too. And rightly so - track cycling gives you such a buzz.
Unlike road, mountain biking or commuting, you can't really 'track cycle' anywhere in the country - you certainly can't grab your bike and go unless you live in the shadow of a velodrome.
Most velodromes offer 'taster sessions', where anyone can drop in and have fun. However, if you want to start taking part in structured training sessions, or race, you often have to take an 'accreditation' course, much like a driving test.
The hurdle might seem a little off-putting - but the accreditation sessions involve tons of riding, and clubs and velodromes welcome new members. Here's a look at the UK velodromes, and what you need to do to ride regularly on the boards...
Before you get started...
Your first taster session might feel a bit nerve racking - but it doesn't need to be. Riding fixed - with no brakes or gears - feels weird for the first few laps, but once you get into a rhythm you'll find it's addictive.
What to wear?
Cycling shorts and a jersey are the best option - but some centres are quite chilly, so wear leg and arm warmers, that you can warm up in and then strip off if you get warm. If you're not into the full lycra experience - that's absolutely fine - stick with shorts on your bottom half, and wear a t-shirt that know will wick sweat away from your body.
If you're hiring a bike, there will probably be shoes to hire, too - but check in advance.
What to eat before?
The majority of your time on the track will be technique focused, at a fairly easy pace so you can concentrate, but you might get the chance to put in a couple of higher intensity efforts towards the end. Fuel for this as you would for any other 1 hour ride, with a simple meal a couple of hours beforehand. If you're worries about lacking energy, take some snacks to keep 'trackside' - you'll return to the centre of the velodrome a few times during the session to listen to the coach so your nibbles will be accessible.
What will happen in a taster session?
Sessions will vary, but if this is your first ride, a coach will probably explain to you how to stop, and how to pedal smoothly. Then, you'll start with a hand on the barrier, and ride around the flat, blue section of the velodrome. Once you've shown you can start, and stop in this way, you'll be able to ride onto the boards, and be given a chance to try riding higher. When you're happy with this, you'll work in a group and try riding in a pace line, and a few other formations.
Lee Valley Velodrome
Built for the 2012 Olympic games, Lee Valley is the newest velodrome - it's affectionately named the 'Pringle' after the inventive line it cuts through the city skyline.
Address: Abercrombie road, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London. E20 3AB, nearest train station: Stratford International
You'll need to complete four accreditation sessions to be able to join structured training sessions and race.
Taster session: 1 hour, at £35 (including bike and helmet hire), with women's only options available. This will introduce you to riding fixed wheel on the track, around other riders
Improver session: 1 hour, £32 with bike hire, you will learn basic group riding skills and be comfortable riding 1 metre from the next rider's wheel
Advanced session: 2 hours, £32 with bike hire, you'll ride within half a metre of other riders, and practice stacking - riding below or above other riders
Accreditation: Two hour session, £32 with bike hire, you'll be assessed for accreditation, and passing will enable you to take part in races
Accreditation details here.
Manchester National Cycling Centre
Based at the British Cycling headquarters, NCC is a beautifully kept velodrome that's often used by some of the countries most sensational athletes.
Address: The National Cycling Centre Stuart Street Manchester M11 4DQ, Nearest Train Station: NCC Centre Tram stop
The path to accreditation is a four stage system:
Taster session: £12-15. The rider has a chance to test out their track skills under the eye of a coach, and will need to tell the coach they are looking to become accredited. The coach will need to be able to ride in a line of four riders, and prove they are aware of those around them.
The timetable shows there are plenty of taster sessions available so you would have lots of opportunities to get on track whilst you work your way up.
Improver session: £14. This session will take place when enough riders who have passed the taster session to fill a class. Here riders will practice chain-gangs, riding in pairs, and pace line riding.
Advanced session: £18. This covers the final race skills needed to be accredited and take part in the structured training sessions.
Accreditation: £18 - once this is achieved you can take part in Structured Quality Training (SQT) sessions where you'll practice and learn to race.
Check out more information here.
If you want to have a go, just for fun, you can book the track out for up to 16 people at £185 or £240 at the weekend.
Many of Great Britain's best athletes have come from Wales, and the velodrome in Newport has played a key role in their progression.
Address: Velodrome Way, Newport, South Wales NP19 4RA, United Kingdom
Accreditation remains as other key velodromes, but there are 'drop in' sessions for all abilities, and non-accredited riders on Tuesday lunch times.
You can take the accreditation test once you've attended some drop in sessions, and had an 'ok' from a coach. However, most people take the test having taken part in the four week beginners course, and the improvers course. Bikes and helmets are available for hire for the courses.
Once you've gained accreditation, you can attend Structured Quality Training (SQT) sessions and work towards racing goals.
Check out the timetable and finer details here.
Glasgow Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome
The Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome is named after the legend himself (obviously) and is the only indoor track in Scotland.
Address: Emirates Arena, 1000 London road, Glasgow. G40 3HG
If you're a complete beginner, and just want to try a session for fun, there are Family Sessions - these are coach led and last for 45 minutes - bike and helmet hire is all included and it will set you back just £8.15.
If you want to take it more seriously then accreditation is where it's at.
Introduction: 1 hour, £10.40 with bike and helmet hire. This is a coach led session, and will teach you how to ride on the track safely.
Improver: 1 hour, £10.40 with hire. This session teaches the rider to become more independent on the track, able to accelerate out of the saddle and in the saddle, and able to ride for an hour.
Preparation for Accreditation: 2 hours, £25.59. More advanced skills begin to appear, and the rider needs to be able to sustain 30 minutes with a group, riding in close proximity, and there will be an Italian pursuit race at the end (don't worry - you don't have to win!)
Accreditation: 2 hours, £25.50. With this session complete, you'll be able to take part in open sessions, structured training, competition and bunch racing, as well as track leagues. The rider will be assessed on their ability to be safe in the pack.
You can also hire the velodrome for 15 people, for £258 - perfect if you're part of a club and have fellow members who fancy a go.
Calshot velodrome was, until recently, the only velodrome in the South of England. It was built in 1997, and is within the Calshot Activity Centre, which also hosts climbing walls and tons more- so a great one if you've got dependents who need to be kept busy (significant others included!)
Address: Calshot Activity Centre, Calshot, Hants, SO45 1BR
There are a couple of options at Calshot. You can choose your path dependent upon your fitness - and this scale shows that track cycling really is open to anyone who wants a go:
|Low:||A person who enjoys an active lifestyle|
|Medium:||These people will participate regularly in aerobic activities such as cycling, swimming, running etc|
|High:||These people will participate in aerobic activities (see above) at least twice per week|
|Very High:||Cyclists capable of riding at moderate speeds (18mph>)for prolonged periods (15 minutes>) on the track|
If you rank yourself as 'low' you'll join a one hour TrackStart session, for £28, before going onto stage two, for £48. The next rung, GAS, costs £26, and is for those of medium/high fitness. This will lead you on to GAS Plus, a two hour £58 course where you'll learn all the skills required to race.
If you feel you're already of 'medium' fitness, you can combine stages one and two, with 'Slipstream' sessions - which consist of two 2 hour sessions, for £55.
Each course will be watched and aided by a coach, who will give advice throughout, and assess if you're ready to go to the next level. You can check out the dates for individual sessions here.
Herne Hill Velodrome, London
Built in the 1890s, Herne Hill hosted the Olympics in 1948 - it's got a lot of history. There are tons of sessions available, including 'Road Bike sessions' for those who just want to ride the banks, and women's only sessions.
Address: 104 Burbage Road, Herne Hill, London, UK, SE249HE
Road bike sessions take place on Tuesday, from 6.15-8pm, and novice track inductions take place from 12.30 - 2pm on Saturdays, with women's only sessions taking place on Sunday, from 5-7pm.
The 'Pathway' chart shows you what you can do, and when you're ready for accreditation, the 'exam' will set you back just £15.
Bournemouth Cycling Centre
Opened in 2011, the Bournemouth Cycling Centre is an outdoor track with a regular selection of training sessions and events.
Address: Slades Farm Open Space in Ensbury Park, Bournemouth, BH10 4EP
Regular sessions appear on the centre's homepage and are hosted mainly by local clubs.
Gaining accreditation is a four stage system, but will only set you back £20 (not including bike hire), then you'll be able to get a license to race at the velodrome, for £10.
Sessions at Meadowbank, the outdoor track that Sir Chris named his children's HOY track bikes after, are organised by Edinburgh RC. The track has been through some changes recently, with a threatened closure, so the club are just getting to grips with sessions.
Address: 139-143 London Road, Edinburgh, Midlothian EH7 6AE, United Kingdom
Accreditation is as simple as a 2 x two hour sessions, costing just £25 for both, with a coach and just an extra £5 for bike hire. Unfortunately, you'll need to wait a little while, as the next sessions are on 11 & 18 August.
There are some other sessions available though, and the club have an active Facebook group here with up to date information.
Reading Palmer Park Velodrome
Based in Reading, the Velodrome is used by Reading Velodrome Racing to host training sessions and events.
Address: Wokingham Road, Reading RG6 1LF, United Kingdom
If you fancy having a go on a road bike, the velodrome is open from 8.15pm - 9.45pm - here you can 'do your own thing', but it's best to check no fixtures have prevented the session from going ahead by calling the reception, on 0118 937 5080
Regular training takes place on Thursdays, from 8.15 - 9.45pm, on fixed-wheel bikes from March - September, and road bikes in the winter. The sessions are open to all, though if you'd like to race in the league, you'll need to pass an accreditation.
This is available via a six week course - it's best to contact the club for information but there is a small fleet of six bikes available to hire (if you get in quick!).
Going to give it a go? Check out Track Cycling for Beginners: Top Tips from Paralympian Helen Scott.