30 Days of Rapha – A Day at the Track

Velodrome Session: 12 miles on the track
Weather: Sunny Temp: 55 deg.
Rapha Kit:  Merino Base Layer, Rapha Bib Shorts, 2008 Rapha Winter Jersey
Accessories:  Merino Socks, Softshell Gloves

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.

6 Responses to 30 Days of Rapha – A Day at the Track

  1. Pingback: 30 Days of Rapha – Today's Garbage Miles | VeloDramatic

  2. Scott H. says:

    Thanks for your first impression of the track, it is on my to-do list this holidays. Sounds like you really enjoyed yourself.

    Quick question regarding the winter jersey (hope you don’t mind) is it cut identical to the Long Sleeve Sportswool? I own neither, but I like the cut of the Long Sleeve from the marketing pictures. The problem is you can never be sure whether they put the guy in a super-tight fit just for the pictures sake.

    If they are cut the same I will be very tempted by the Winter Training Pack currently on offer…

    Thanks for any help and sorry for hi-jacking your post (again!).


    p.s. Thanks for your last comment on my report, much appreciated. I tend to write those report in the heat of the moment. It captures my mood accurately, but they can come across harsh I think.

  3. Scott,

    I’ve got a new long sleeve coming this week. Rather than comparing apples to oranges, I’ll wait until it arrives and then give you a comparison of the ’08 Winter and ’08 Long Sleeve. My long sleeves are ’07s.

    It’s good that you’re pushing to understand why you do better in one race than another. It’s no surprise that PROS often peak in their late twenties and thirties. It takes that long to figure out how best to prepare body and mind in the week before a race (and that’s their only job) and then nutrition, tactics and a bit of luck plays out on race day. If you’re getting good results here and there… that’s awesome.

    You may never have consistent finishes in every race, but hopefully you’ll get to the point where you have consistent performances in the ones where real life doesn’t intrude on your preparation, and you really want to do well.

    That’s the end of this non-racer’s advice.

  4. chris tree says:

    Navy and Black I thought were a sartorial no no, but you are right they look great together!

    The Langster looks pertty cool too, to complete the picture, for such a value machine!

    As for track gearing, fixies are always going to be a compromise on acceleration or top end, one of the reasons why pedal speed and technique can be so important.

  5. Pingback: 30 Days of Rapha - A Day in the Park with Photographs | VeloDramatic

  6. Chris,

    I think the paring works well because the black is just an accent and to my eyes Rapha’s Navy Blue has more red in it (it’s almost a purple) than what I normally think of as Navy.

    The Langster was great looking and fit me like a glove. Probably luck but I didn’t even have to adjust the seat height. It was a perfect bb to seat – 28.25″ I did a double take when it was right on my numbers.

    I mentioned I’m converting my Trek hybrid to a singlespeed commuter with drop bars. Looking forward to starting that project once the Rapha series is over. I might even consider a rear hub I can flop between SS and fixed for fun.