Track cycling has been misconstrued by recreational cyclists as an elitist form of cycling. Some believe that its only open to those who have skill and power when riding a bike. But contrary to this belief, a lot of road cyclists, recreational cyclists, and novice cyclist also try out and race in the track for a couple of reasons. It is open to ALL. But why race on a track?
If you like racing on the road, you’ll like racing on the track. That’s probably the main reason to race on the track. But here are some other considerations as well:
Strength & Skill Development: Track racing is used by many elite road racers to develop top-end speed, smooth pedaling at high cadences, and better bike handling skills. Especially for criterium racers, there is perhaps no better training for the road than periodically racing on the track. For professional road racers, one of the staples of road training is motor-pacing to develop high-end speed. Most amateurs don’t have the resources to do much motorpacing, but track racing can provide an equally intense speed workout. And you simply can’t race on the track without improving your sprint – it’s essential to the sport.
No Equipment Needed: Most tracks have loaner bikes, either onsite or with a local shop. If you want to try out the track, you can use a loaner bike. Sometimes it’s free, sometimes it’s $5 or so. Show up with your pedals, shoes and clothes and you’re ready to ride.
Shorter Training Rides: Training for track racing can be less time consuming because the races are shorter. Most races are 10km or less, and the longest races at your local velodrome are probably 25km. If you never train for more than 60 or 90 minutes at a time, that’s OK as long as the training is intense. So it can work well with a tight work schedule.
You Might Be Better At It: If your body wasn’t designed to go fast uphill, well, I’ve got good news for you. Velodrome designers have cleverly omitted hills altogether. You might just be better at track racing. (Though I’ll note that the opposite isn’t true – many good track racers are small, and great climbers.) Similarly, if you don’t have great aerobic talent, it’s likely that you will do better on the track than on the road, particularly in the short events.
Location: If there’s a velodrome in your area, you can do a whole lot of racing without ever having to drive or fly. It’s all there in one place.
Timing: Races tend to be on weeknights in the summer (at least in the USA), so if you have a family, track racing frankly fits in better because there’s little or no racing on weekends. And if you race on the road on the weekends, you can do both.
Spectating: Your friends and family aren’t very likely to come see you race on the road, particularly if the race is somewhere else. But they can come out to the velodrome, and even kids can appreciate what’s going on – because they can see all the racing, all the time.