Beside the Côte d’Azur
On the weekend Melissa surprised me with a trip to Boulder Indoor Cycling as a birthday present. The facility has an indoor velodrome as well as several indoor mountain bike circuits. It’s a fairly small track, coming in at 142m, so the banking in the turns is a whopping 45 degrees! Looking up at the underside of the track while in the waiting area is not recommended.
Despite my many fears, I decided to trust the physics just as I had done when I first tried rollers. My instructor, Tim, assured me that as long as I maintained a 14mph minimum speed, centrifugal force would take care of sticking me to the track. But without any speedometer, the only way to gauge speed is by feel!
After some orientation, we ventured out onto the concrete apron to begin some slow turns. Gradually we picked up speed until it felt like we would no longer be able to hold the turns on the flat, smooth surface, then we popped up onto the track and all feelings of discomfort were dispelled!
To some extent, riding on the track feels just like riding on the road. You are essentially following an infinitely straight line, the track reaches up to push you around the corners. Just like on the road, watching the line in front of you around the curves causes your bike to follow suit. The biggest difference is the force on your body in the turns. In his book, Flying Scotsman, Graeme Obree talked about the beating that his body would take when forced to ride on a slightly smaller track; the forces are greater, and the turns come more often. I can’t even imagine the feeling of hitting the turns going as fast as he was!
After getting a feel for getting on and off the track safely, Tim took me through a drill where I was required to follow his line around the track exactly. He gradually moved his line further and further out on the track until we were riding right next to the rail. Then he began riding out to the rail on the straights and diving down into the curves, effectively riding down a 45 degree hill into the turn. Each time around we seemed to go faster until I was convinced he must be crazy. But somehow we stuck to the track like glue, and each acceleration worked its way down into my soul. By the time he gave me the go-ahead to go it alone for a few laps I was hooked. I kept pushing faster and faster, trying to hold my line around the sprinter’s lane, the smile on my face getting bigger and bigger each time around.
When the lesson time was up I was tired, sweaty, and sore, but I was so happy to have had such a unique experience! The center offers its “Try the Track” class every Sunday at 2, and it costs $30. They provide the bike, although you will have to bring in your own pedals and shoes.
Update: This last weekend (4/29) Boulder Indoor Cycling announced that they are closing. I spoke with the president, Bruce McPherson, yesterday and he is clearly upset that he had to make the tough call to close. There is still a chance an investor could step in to save the facility, but it would have to happen quickly. There will be a final “first Friday” event on May 4th to say goodbye, if you have questions or are interested in showing support you can contact the owners at 303-CYCLING.