Can I train at a velodrome to improve my cycling?

We explain how hitting the boards can give triathletes a silky smooth cycling stroke, and how to go about getting accredited

Velodrome racing

With more velodromes being built across the country, are you interested in trying out riding the boards? Nik Cook explains how to get going…

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With indoor velodromes currently open to the public in Manchester, Newport and Calshot, London and another under construction in Derby, chances are there’s one not too far from you. Riding the boards is a real thrill and can be a brilliant addition to your training regime.

Unfortunately, you can’t just turn up at a velodrome, jump on a track bike and start riding hard. Getting used to fixed-gear bikes, having no brakes and learning safe track technique takes a bit of time, even if you’re an experienced rider. You’ll start off taking part in a novice taster session, but by the end you should be confidently riding round the track. Don’t worry about not having a suitable bike as all the indoor velodromes have a fleet of quality hire bikes.

You’ll then work through a series of levels, getting signed-off at each before becoming fully accredited. With steep banking and riders whistling around at 50+kmph, the coaches have to be sure you’re safe.

Once accredited, you’ll be able to book onto SQT (structured quality training) sessions and/or take part in track league racing. Both provide fantastic workouts and are good as substitutes for torturous turbo sessions. As well as delivering intervals of varying lengths, sprints and sustained high-end efforts, you’ll also be working on your bike handling while having fun in a way that even the most expensive virtual reality trainer can’t compete with.

The biggest gain though will be to develop a smooth and efficient pedal stroke. Your cadence will rarely drop below 100rpm, and will regularly go over 130rpm; the fixed gear will force you to spin smooth and even circles, eliminate dead spots and stomping, which, with regular track work, will translate to the road; and the silky-smooth pedalling style will not only mean faster bike splits, it’ll also deliver your legs to T2 fresher.

(Main image: Jonny Gawler)

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For lots more advice on how to swim/bike/run faster, head to our Training section