Still groggy from too little sleep the past few days (posting late into the night), I roused myself and headed down to the Hellyer Velodrome for a Saturday morning beginner session. This was my first experience on a track and only the second time I'd ridden a fixed gear and I wasn't quite sure what to expect, other than banked turns and no brakes.
Rapha's updated Winter Jersey got the nod on this day of firsts. The 2008 jersey has a windproof lining up front and repositioned mesh-lined vents for better temperature control if things warm up. I think the navy and black colorway is a new combination that really works.
I signed my waiver form, took possession of my Specialized Langster rental (for the princely sum of $5) and joined a group of 20 riders milling about on the infield. Instructor Matt Martinez walked us through basic track terminology, riding etiquette and safety before splitting us into smaller groups for practice laps.
"Keep pedaling, relax... relax" Matt's constant reminders helped and as the laps counted off I gradually became comfortable with the pedaling motion. Eliminating the freewheeling instinct takes time. Hellyer's banking is not particularly steep so it's easy to ride just about anywhere on the track. We practiced pacelining, coming off the front we'd drift up towards the rail and then drift back to catch the tail end of the train. Done properly, gravity does all the work.
Our last drill, the flying 200, was my first chance to make a hard effort and the most fun. When it's your turn you get the signal from Matt and you gradually wind things up for a lap until you dive out of turn two, cross the 200m line on the backstretch and sprint to the finish. I pulled a foot out the pedal crossing the line on run number one, but was smoother, and a little faster on run number two. I could have used a bigger gear... I was spun out by the time I reached turn three both runs.
The session ended all too soon. I'm sure I'll be back just to feel the rush of those slingshot dropins again. The Winter Jersey over Base Layer was right on the money for the cool morning air. It did a good job of wicking away moisture, so I left the track warm and dry.