Events: Trexlertown Velodrome’s Try the Track Program
Cover photo is lifted from Wikipedia and does not belong to us.
I remember my first time being led around the Trexlertown velodrome. A teammate of ours at the time, Jim, dispensed information quickly and succinctly. After each set of instructions he added, “…and keep pedaling!” Through his approach I can proudly state I never got blown over the bars because I thought to freewheel on a track bike. It had been a few years since my last lap around the T’town velodrome, but I returned, and so did all those tidbits Jim gave me.
I arrived late for Doylestown Bike Works’ Try the Track session prior to their evening of demonstration with Penny Farthings on the banked oval. The spotty forecast left one second-guessing whether severe storms were going to can the entire track session. It was decided to make a go of it and the participating employees of Bike Works were on a break from buzzing around the track.
Try the Track is exactly that. The velodrome provides groups older than twelve years old with a fixed-gear bike. If you have pedals and shoes bring them. The crew will put them on for you. They will also provide you with a coach who advises the basics of track cycling. Though the pros make it look easy, there is a lot of orchestration taking place.
Some of the basics of track cycling can be identified when watching events on television or in person. If there is no track activity and riders are warming up, there are two areas to ‘hang out’ so to speak. If a rider is not up to speed s/he can cruise around the apron on the track, the flat part at the bottom of the banking referred to as the cote d'azur. If a rider wants to cruise on the banking, that’s what the blue line is for. A rider can ride off-pace above the blue line - or the stayer's line - on the banking that exists halfway up. Anything happening between the cote d'azur and the stayer's line is done at speed.
Before a rider can join the banked fun, he must look over his shoulder to make sure there are no speedy riders bearing down on him. A simple look over the right shoulder can indicate whether the path to the upper portion of the banking is safe. As a matter of fact, when Jim took us to the track all those years ago, the second rule he repeated was to look over the shoulder to make sure we weren’t moving up or coming down on anyone. The Try the Track coaches cover this too.
When a rider is ready to move down into the speedy area of the track there are rules there, too. It starts with – naturally – a check over the shoulder to make sure no one is ripping through and an immediate duck down to the bottom of the banking, onto what is called the datum line. It is the black line around the bottome of the track. This is where the track's official measurement is recorded. Here altitude is traded for speed and the bike displays its purpose. With pedals cranking and the exhilaration of whipping through the corners, the track bike can feel like a missile compared to road bikes.
When on the racing line everyone has a different capability of speed. This is where more coaching comes in. Regardless of how fast one is going there is procedure for an overtaking. On approach of a slower rider a quick glance over the shoulder (in non-racing) and a quick imperative of, “Stick!” is given. Stick tells the rider he is about to be passed and must maintain his line. The same is true if we were going to be passed. If a rider shouted to us to “Stick!” the line must be held. For safety purposes no rider should ever bounce around the racing line, especially during an open track. To bounce out of the racing line is to either blend down onto the apron of the track or give a check over the shoulder and head up the banking.
We went over all these items on Try the Track and culminated with several races to get the feeling of traffic on the velodrome. This was my favorite part of the Try the Track experience. Employees from a bike shop are capable of racing; it felt great to work with guys to pull other riders back. With the consideration that track bikes are most cooperative in the hooks – or in the drops – it added to the feeling that we were cooking around the track.
With final events handed out, guys decided to wind down the experience. In an hours time the stands would fill up for Golden Wheel and Tandemonium! Dark skies crept in. They must have been Belgian storm clouds because they kept coming towards us despite the flags showing a headwind for the storm. With bikes returned and guys heading out to local restaurants to plan the second half of the night, I stayed back to wait for friends who would share the velodrome night. No sooner did those friends show up, tickets acquired, and food ordered, did the skies open up. Shortly after an announcement was made that the schedule for the night would be cancelled. Tandemonium! and Golden Wheel would take place the following Friday.
Try the Track is a great community builder for any company. Though Try the Track is listed as a Sunday event that is three hours long, groups of ten or more can reserve other times such as Friday afternoon. Bring a few of your determined friends and a little bravery to try the banked bike track in Trexlertown. Once out on track don’t forget two things: always look over your shoulder and never stop pedaling.