Roads Less Traveled | Fixed Gear, No Brakes

Every now and then my husband and I will just go down a road or take a route on a whim. Ride somewhere new to find out when the roads less traveled will take us. Oftentimes it’s a great experience and sometimes: we learn something – even if it’s “don’t do that again!”

Whatever it is, if approached from the right perspective of adventure – an experience out of the norm can be rewarding for just being something new. Nothing ventured – nothing gained, as the saying goes.

It was in the spirit of adventure that I tried out something that I haven’t tried yet: Track Cycling. I will admit that I can be a great big sissy when it comes to doing something ‘new’ on a bike. I have many, many, many scars to prove that a wrong move can hurt. A lot. I’m also stubborn as a mule, so this can occasionally work in my favor.

The opportunity came thanks to a wonderful collaboration between our local Alkek Velodrome and experienced track ladies from two teams (Bike Barn & North West Cycling Club) who came together in order to provide a Ladies Beginner Track Session for local cycling chics. The session sold out in 2 hours. I was very fortunate to make it into the first session and I was thrilled!

2.6.15 track day group pic
Photo Credit to Kenny Lim Photography

Another confession: I’ve never ridden fixed gear before in my life.

Engineers made gears for a reason, yes? Brakes are good – or so I thought. But, understanding that this is Track and therefore different, I thought I’d give it a go. Plus: I heard from somewhere that, if you like sprinting, you will probably like Track Cycling… Ok, sign me up.

Here’s my Run-down:

  • If it scares the crap out of you – go faster.
  • Clipping in while fixed is tricky. Stopping is trickier.
  • Screaming is ok.
  • I screamed a lot, and went faster.
  • Whatever you do: don’t forget to pedal.
  • I learned a lot of stuff!
  • No brakes are for your safety. Really!
  • It’s all left turns, all day, all night, all the time.
  • “Stay” replaces “On your left/right”.
  • I screamed “Stay!” too.
  • Holy crap, you want me to do what??
  • Coordinating slowing down, stopping, and grabbing a wall is absolutely nuts (I screamed).
  • Sprinting is fun. (No screaming)
  • I like pedaling fast – can I just keep pedaling?
  • There are a LOT of different races and LOTS of details!
  • I just want to pedal – to heck with stopping.
  • I don’t really miss having brakes.
  • I need a Track Bike.

In a nutshell, the Ladies Beginner Track Session was a huge hit! The organizers did a fabulous job of putting on a very well-laid out, informative, and frighteningly fun afternoon. Yes, I did scream – but I’m stubborn so I just went faster. The more scared I was, the harder I pedaled because I learned very early that: the slower you go, the easier it was to slide down the 33° turns and I DID NOT want to do that.

track day mel erin adj
Partners in crime – wondering what we’ve gotten ourselves in to.

So I screamed, pedaled, paid attention to what I was being told, tried to put it into use, and decided that going was more fun than stopping. I’m still not sure about that ‘mass start’ thing and grabbing a wall/rail. Full fingered gloves are necessary here. I’m also concerned that I have yet another bike in my future and I’m not sure how that is (a) going to happen or (b) where I’m going to put it. Fortunately: Track Bikes are the least expensive of all competitive racing bike, usually.

I also witnessed a lady unbolting her chainring and putting it back together like it was no big deal. How cool is that? I know quite a few cycling chics that don’t know how to (or want to) even change a tire, much less mess with a chainring! Plus: we had all sorts of goodies thanks to wonderful donations from local bike shops and our local sweet-treats maker extraordinaire: Cyndi’s Treats with Allgood Handmade! All in all, it was great day and well worth all the screaming and terrifying moments that I was sure I would eat pavement. Hopefully, I can avoid that – and yes: there will be a next time to practice having fun turning left!

Here’s to having no brakes!

Sidebar Story | Biking (and Being) Outside the ‘Box’