Track 1.1: The track bike
Gather everyone on the infield with their bikes. Grab a bike yourself and, using it as illustration, go through a bike check and introduction.
0. Introduce yourself and welcome everyone to the track. Before doing anything else, be sure everyone understands where the washrooms are and appreciates that they are not to attempt to cross the track in socks or cleats. Cleats chew the track up and socks are too slippery.
1. Explain that the first part of the session consists of an introduction to the use of the track bike. Draw people’s attention to how a track bike differs from other bikes: one gear fixed to the hub (so that you must pedal while the wheel is turning), no brakes, and dropped bars.
Why one gear fixed to the hub? Because you don’t need multiple gears on the track, and when you don’t need multiple gears you don’t need a freewheel mechanism, which compromises efficiency and control.
Why no brakes? Because with one gear fixed to the hub you can brake by resisting the pedal motion and because on the track there is no need to brake. Everyone is going in the same direction and there are no intersections. Braking would only cause havoc for following riders.
Why dropped bars? Because riding on the drops maximizes control. Through almost all of this session people will be expected to ride with their hands on the drops.
2. Tell people that they should be standing on the side of the bike opposite the chain. Point out that it is important that nothing get in the spaces between the chain and the chain ring or cogs. Clothing or fingers caught in this space could be crunched or torn.
3. Tell people that removing their feet from the pedals while the bike is in motion is not a good idea. The pedals will keep turning and could smack you.
4. Get everyone to do a quick bike check. Check tires to ensure they are well inflated. Spin wheels to make sure they are true. Try to wobble the wheels back and forth in the drop outs to make sure they are securely bolted on and do not have loose hub bearings. Bang down on the front wheel to make sure it won’t drop out. Spin the handlebars to verify they are turning smoothly. Bang the front wheel up and down to determine there is no rattling in the headset. Pick up the chain midway between the cog and chainring while the bike is stationary to verify it has just a bit of slack. Help people get their tires pumped and adjust their chains. Rental bikes can be difficult to tension and this job should not be left to learners. You will obtain the best results if you always keep one side or the other tightened. With the left bolt tightened and the right bolt loose, “walk” the wheel to the correct chain tension. With the right bolt tightened and the left bolt loose, “walk” the wheel to center it between the stays. Repeat as necessary.
5. Demonstrate the proper technique for getting on and off the bike. Straddle the bike, reach behind you, and lift the rear end to spin the back wheel until the chain side crank is just below the down tube. Sling a leg over, stand on the crank, pick up your other leg and move off. To dismount, slow the bike down by resisting pedal motion and remove the back foot, tipping the bike slightly to put that foot on the ground.
6. Get people practicing getting on and off the bike by riding around the infield and stopping at center ice. As they are doing this, ensure that they have their hands on the drops and that their chins are up. Also check their bike fit. Adjust their saddle height or give them larger or smaller bikes as necessary. Legs should be just slightly bent at the bottom of the pedal stroke and arms should be a bit ahead of perpendicular to reach the handlebars. As long as people can stop and start and get in and out of the pedals without crashing they are ready for the next step. Those who have difficulty doing this need to be kept back for extra practice. If they still have difficulty, someone may have to be deputized to push them on their way and catch them on the way off.
7. Move everyone up onto the apron, 3-5 bike lengths apart. Get them to experience braking by having them accelerate down the straights and slow the bike down just before the turns. Have them do this drill standing as well as seated. Check that they have their hands on the drops and their chins up. The purpose of this drill is just to get people acquainted with how to slow the track bike down. The idea is not to be able to accelerate to high speed over a short distance.