Rhik Samadder tries … track cycling: ‘It’s like being overtaken by lorries on a motorway designed by Escher’

2 months ago 66

This is hardly the spot to admit it, but I hatred cyclists. I ne'er cognize if they are going to halt astatine postulation lights oregon plough through; they’re often precise shouty owed to ever being successful danger; and the worst happening is, they’re right. We should each beryllium cyclists arsenic it’s bully for the planet. I hatred being astir radical who are close but, to my credit, I americium ever consenting to person my rabid roadworthy prejudices punctured, truthful I person agreed to springiness way cycling a go.

Track cycling is similar cycling squared, but successful an oval. You’ve seen it astatine the Olympics: supercharged, smooth, oddly soothing – until a collision takes retired fractional the cyclists due to the fact that they’re riding specified millimetres apart. I americium amazed anyone is capable to person a spell astatine whipping astir the London 2012 velodrome connected a two-dimensional motorcycle that looks similar it weighs little than a toaster. The Lee Valley VeloPark, successful the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, eastbound London, is immense and engulfing. On the main floor, different radical trying today’s taster league beryllium successful three-sided metallic pens, spaced isolated similar we’re astatine a sheep auction. I consciousness arsenic if I’m successful the hive wherever they marque cyclists. I scan astir for a elephantine alien ovipositor. Where is the Queen?

Rhik Samadder
Two wheels atrocious … Rhik comes a cropper soon aft mounting out. Photograph: Andy Hall/The Guardian

I consciousness grimly compelled to effort cleats, since I’m here. Cleats are my nightmare: to beryllium clamped astatine the ft to a perineum-mashing instrumentality that is perpetually falling over. “If you crash, your feet travel close out,” chap rider Gabriel, who belongs to a triathlon club, reassures me. Oh, excellent. Our permanently upbeat teacher Rory teaches america the elements of the track. The acheronian bluish apron is simply a level “safety zone” wherever thing goes. The dreamlike turquoise band, called the Côte d’Azur, is for casual riders. Then the way begins to bank: mildly astatine first, towards a achromatic line, past higher and higher, marked by a reddish sprinter’s line, past a bluish line, and past determination is simply a wide expanse of panic to the precocious apical of the track, wherever determination are nary much lines due to the fact that you whitethorn arsenic good beryllium successful space.

The others peel away. They whitethorn beryllium beginners astatine way cycling, but I haven’t been adjacent a motorcycle successful 15 years. I fto spell of the wall, wobbling violently. I consciousness similar a kid again – puerility being a clip of monolithic anxiety, wherever 1 lacks centrifugal skills and autonomy. Track bikes are twitchy, without brakes oregon gears. I overcorrect, wrenching the handlebars wildly. The crushed rises to conscionable my panic. I crash, not hard but shockingly, spilling crossed the floor. Other cyclists steer astir me. On the positive side, my feet did travel retired of the cleats.

I perceive a reassuring voice; a cyclist has stayed behind, to assistance with my cleats, and cheque I’m OK. It’s Gabriel. I could cry. Rory is there, too. “You’re bully to go!” helium encourages, with nary grounds whatsoever. I enactment low, hugging the achromatic line. Low-friction environments ever consciousness similar alternate worlds, with unpredictable carnal laws. Instead of slowing down for corners, we’re taught to velocity up. An hr connected the way requires the aforesaid vigor arsenic 3 successful an mundane environment. The higher one’s way position, the longer the circuit and steeper the bank, requiring much enactment to maintain. I walk a fractional hr successful terror, being passed by higher riders, who are instructed to outcry “STAY” oregon “HOLD YOUR LINE” arsenic they hurtle supra maine astatine a 45-degree angle, lest I alteration my presumption and origin carnage. It’s similar being overtaken by lorries connected a motorway designed by MC Escher.

Steering into the corners, arsenic I intuitively do, makes maine suffer height, and driblet down the markers. (Bad quality for riders behind.) “It’s an endless consecutive line!” Rory shouts. His epiphanic exhortation unlocks the magic instrumentality astatine the bosom of way cycling: erstwhile is simply a ellipse a consecutive line? Attacking the corner, I constituent the motorcycle astatine what feels similar an uphill angle, letting the way crook me. Or possibly the satellite turns, and I enactment successful place. The paradox of velocity and stasis feels similar being successful a video game.

Rhik Samadder
Tyred retired … Rhik opts to locomotion the remaining fewer yards. Photograph: Andy Hall/The Guardian

Wanting to consciousness superhuman, I ascent to the apical of the track. The level of powerfulness required to enactment present is immense, arsenic if the aerial is thinner. I tin consciousness the laws of the aged beingness pushing down connected me. But there’s a rider below, and I’ve committed. I pump and gasp and effort not to wobble, my legs wanting to shear disconnected my assemblage arsenic I instrumentality the corner. I’m cycling connected an untenable angle, held up by my ain power. It’s a rush; I get it. I deliberation of upland goats. I clasp it together, earlier I tin safely driblet to a enactment connected the straight. It takes maine 3 laps to stop.

I americium panting truthful hard my lungs are extracurricular my body. The hour’s not up but I’m done. Full respect to cyclists and their legs. I person cycled a mile successful their terrifying shoes, and portion it virtually got maine nowhere, I present recognize them better. Although portion of maine inactive thinks they’d each beryllium happiest here: successful this alien cocoon, cycling a futile ouroboros and shouting “STAY” astatine 1 another. We could powerfulness the National Grid.

Unicycles connected escalators?

I don’t caput cyclists present that infantilising e-scooters person deed the roads. What’s next? Motorised tricycles? Adult prams with Porsche engines?

Smugness points

Steep learning curve. 2/5

Velodrome Taster Sessions astatine Lee Valley VeloPark outgo £40 and are disposable to publication astatine visitleevalley.org.uk/lee-valley-velopark.

Want to suggest an enactment for Rhik to try? Tell america astir it here.