A low rumble, felt rather than heard, the roar of air in the ears, a shaking woodgrain blur across the vision punctuated by the dominance of a trembling red line which must be stuck to and followed. The rhythmic push and suck of breath, an insistent whirr of chain on cog, pressure on the right of the bar, the bike at a seemingly impossible angle, and speed, always speed. I had entered into a trancelike state, feeling like I could ride like this forever, until the voice of our instructor Ben called me to slow it down gently and come into the centre of the track where the others waited.
We were at Calshot velodrome near Southampton for an evening session on the track arranged by Andrew Denham of the Black Canon Collective, and Cobble Wobble organiser. Andrew is the kind of person who makes things happen, (more on his latest cycling venture in another post, it’s very exciting) he had promised us a trip to the track, and this had been booked in for several months. So various members of the Fancy Collective including Matt Wellsted, designer of the Cobble Wobble artwork, Jade Berry, the design talent behind Black Ink Comms, Jennie Wood, the dynamite PR Avalanche Media, Fay Goodridge, editor of The List, had piled into Matt’s car and followed Andrew and the Black Canon Collective down the A36.
On arrival at the drome Andrew rushed in ahead in order to see our faces as we emerged from the entrance tunnel to the centre of the wooden track. At first glance it’s a daunting prospect, the angle on the berms is 45 degrees at Calshot, there was no one else there inside the massive warehouse-like structure and it’s all very stark. Two wooden benches in front of a series of racks holding the stripped down black track bikes. No brakes, fixed wheel, clipless pedals. My Lemond Etape has a classic elegance to it, despite being alluminium and carbon fibre. These bikes looked lean and hungry. they had one purpose only, to be ridden at speed around a circular track and to hold the line.
We were booked into a beginner session as most of us had never even ridden fixed before or used clipless pedals. Ben, our instructor gave us a pep talk, before quickly getting us onto the bikes and riding round on the inner, flat track. The bikes were easier to handle than I thought they would be.
Next we went onto the slight camber of the inner track, and finally he allowed us up onto the berms – it was incredible. It’s easy to see why track riding is addictive. The speed and concentration are intense, and a strange feeling of calm and well-being came over me as I circled and circled.
For all of us, I think it felt like something we want to do again.
All photographs by Andrew Denham – and big thanks to him for organising this