RAF Marham Cyclists Venture on to the Track

In recent years the popularity of cycling in the UK has exploded in a flash of Lycra and carbon fibre; fortunately shaved legs have yet to catch on with the hundreds of MAMILs (Middle Aged Men In Lycra) who can be regularly found clogging the lanes of Norfolk.

Many put the recent rise in popularity of cycling down to Bradley Wiggins’s Tour de France win and Olympic success in 2012; Wiggins recently added to the hysteria with a return to the track and a successful attempt at the ‘hour record’. It was this attempt that inspired a group of ‘elite’ cyclists from RAF Marham to ride the velodrome – supposedly the purist form of cycling sport. Whilst we dreamed of Olympic glory the reality was much different…

We arrived at the RAF Cycling Association sponsored track day at the Newport Velodrome as novices, daunted by the steepness of the banked track and intimidated by the speed that the British Cycling Youth Team were lapping the boards in the session before ours. However, our instructor soon put us at ease as he explained the key differences between a road bike and the bikes we were about to use on the track; fixed gears and no brakes – yep NO brakes! Once we’d got our heads around the fact that the only way to stop was to pedal slower – but don’t stop pedalling as the bike will try to upend itself on to the front wheel ending up in a catastrophic accident – we were ready for the off. In our first session we moved from the flat safety zone on to the blue ‘Cote d ’Azure’ and then before we knew it we were lapping the banked track; which felt like we were two metres up in the air! After 45mins of pedalling we descended the track and retired to the inner sanctum of the track normally reserved for athletes and competitors. Here we refuelled with power bars and sports drinks heartened by our new found speed and technique. Our second session concentrated on riding in formation, following the rider in front as close as you dare in order to gain a tow. So far all was going well and in the break we talked of ‘marginal gains’ and ‘aero technique’. The third session was where we could really show our mettle and test ourselves against the clock for two timed laps of the track. The benchmark to beat was 40 seconds, to put this in to perspective the track record for the girls under 12’s is 38.4 seconds! Whilst the results have to remain confidential I can report that several of us would have beaten the record, but only just!

As the day drew to a close we left the track full of confidence at our new found skills but slightly deflated at our lack of speed. However, we all agreed that it was a fantastic experience that anyone could try. Indeed if you fancy a go either contact the RAF Marham Cycling Club or search online for the RAF Cycling Association. Editor’s Note: As a self-confessed MAMIL the author will next time be shaving his legs  in an attempt to beat the girl’s under-12 record!

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