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Given Team GB’s dominance on the boards you could be forgiven for thinking that Track cycling is easily accessible in the UK, but you’d be wrong. With only a handful of indoor velodromes finding time on the banking is tough. But working in Southampton puts me within spitting distance of Calshot indoor track, the quirkiest track in the UK, and I’ve been lucky enough to ride it regularly with the thanks to a V-Drome 9.0 AL LTD from Canyon UK and the University of Southampton Road Cycling club.
Wedged into one end an aircraft hangar and dangling off a peninsula on south coast the Calshot velodrome track looks more like an after thought than a custom build. But that’s its charm. At just 142m in length the banking is steep - it’s an experience every cyclist should try at least once.
I’d ridden track once at Newport a long time, but really I started as a complete beginner to the track this year. The German word “Radsport” sums up track cycling for me. A direct translation would be Bike Sport or Cycle Sport. But to me “Radsport” has a bit more subtlety to it; I like to think implies a culture, a mindset, a dedication (but it may be my completely misguided interpretation). To me there is two disciplines that are “Radsport” in its purest form – Cyclo-cross and Track. The only two cycling disciplines that were invented for the sole purpose of racing. Coming from a background of XC racing this is so refreshing. Everything about XC racing detracts from what it is to be a proper Mountain Biker in my eyes. It takes a natural and explorative form of riding and wedges it between tape with repetitive laps, feed zones and technical support. It’s not “Mountain Biking”. That’s not to to say it’s not amazing: it’s just different. But everything about the Track screams racing: the bike, the boards, the history.
Track bikes are simple and clean. Canyon’s V-Drome definitely sits at the plush end of out-of-the-box track bikes. Aero-profiled tubing, carbon forks and seatpost, deep section rims splashed with Ritchey WCS and Dura-Ace for good measure. It makes for quite the ride. But as so often the case with Canyon bikes, the depth of the spec impresses. Riding on a track as steep as Calshot you need good rubber. Coming out of the box with Continental’s GP4000 S tyres with Black Chili compound makes all the difference. If you’re new to the track they’ll give you confidence. If you’re experienced they’ll let you ride slower than you dare. Out the box the V-Drome AL 9.0 LTD is ready to race, in fact bet it would be disappointed if you bought one and didn’t race it.
Coming to the track from XC racing I was amazed at how much of the skillsets are transferable. Fitness is a given, but what you don’t pick up on the TV is the bike handling requirement of riding the boards. Fitting the inertia to hold you’re line in the bends, shooting that gap that’s knuckle wide, pulling up to the top and firing back down. In our group of riders it’s the MTBers with the most control on the boards and that makes you fast.
I’m a convert. If you’ve got kids – take them to your local track for a taster session. If you’re a member of a cycling club – organise a group session for your club. If you like racing bikes – go race the track.