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Riding a ‘fixie’ around the Olympic Velodrome — Parklife reporter Freddy Mayhew goes for a spin

Reporter Freddy Mayhew on the track at the velodrome. Reporter Freddy Mayhew on the track at the velodrome.

Friday, March 14, 2014
12:48 PM

“It didn’t look that steep on TV”, I say to myself while nervously strapping both feet into a bike with no brakes.

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Reporter Freddy Mayhew on the track at the velodrome.Reporter Freddy Mayhew on the track at the velodrome.

Voicing my concern to one of four coaches I’m told that while to my eyes the two corners of the indoor cycling track look like a sheer wall, they are in fact banked at an angle of 42 degrees.

There’s little comfort in this new knowledge but no time to reflect as I’m ushered over to begin some basic training with the fixed gear bike which is to be my trusted steed around what has been billed as the fastest indoor track in the world.

I had never ridden a “fixie” before and it’s an odd thing to get used to.

For those who don’t know, the speed of the bike is entirely controlled by how much or how little you peddle — in essence your legs are the brakes.

Reporter Freddy Mayhew on the track at the velodrome.Reporter Freddy Mayhew on the track at the velodrome.

As both of your feet must be strapped to the peddles at all times for proper control, you quickly develop a dependence on the central hand rail to stop without injury (although falling over is still an option).

After a few laps of the track in the flat “safety zone”, me and my fellow novice riders move up to the “cote d’azure” — the blue-painted bottom edge of the track which in a competition is not part of the race track.

Not long after getting used to the sloped wooden surface we are encouraged to move higher up it, into the body of the track where Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton powered to victory some 18 months earlier.

Climbing the wooden piste is a surprisingly difficult feat, not least because your brain is naturally advising you against what your about to do, and any potential “wall of death” scenarios, as a matter of precaution.

Reporter Freddy Mayhew on the track at the velodrome.Reporter Freddy Mayhew on the track at the velodrome.

I fight against the sensation that I might topple over at any moment and heed my coach’s cries to “keep up the pace”.

The final lap comes as a relief, by now I am exhausted and can feel my legs burning.

I wobble off the track, leaning heavily on my bike which has doubled as a handy walking support.

The Team GB riders certainly make it look easier than it is.

This isn’t simply riding a bike as fast as you can, it’s a serious test of strength, stamina, skill and stability — and that’s without the pressure of trying to win.

• For more news on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, check out the Parklife section of the Newham Recorder

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