Well I survived! Our taster session at the Manchester Velodrome went well, no-one fell off and we all enjoyed it.
It was a bit of a shock to get on to a bike so lightly equipped, modern road bikes are nearly as complex as their motorised cousins. I'm not sure what the gearing was but it was fairly easy and you didn't need legs like Sir Chris Hoy to get things moving. The banked curves looked very intimidating.
The hour long session included a basic lesson with instructions on how to slow down and what the lines on the track meant - I can't remember what the red and blue lines are for, the black line at the bottom is the racing line and the measured length of the track. A couple of test laps at the inside of the track, some more instructions mainly about overtaking and then we are let loose for the rest of the session.
Apparently you need to be going around 18mph to make use of the banked sections, if you go slightly less than this you can hear your tyres squeak as you slip down the bank which is a bit disconcerting to say the least. Once you do reach the required speed then things get easier and harder at the same time. Easier because you actually go round the banking without feeling as if you are going to fall off, harder because there is simply no respite - you can't stop pedalling at any time.
It took a few laps before I had enough confidence and went above the black line, then it was just a matter of working higher and higher. Of course as you move up the bank you have further to travel so in order to use the banking you have to move faster - I think the blue line is 15 metres longer than the black line so you have to go 265/250 * 18mph or just over 19mph to keep pace with someone on the black line. Of course even though the best line is the one at the bottom of the slope everyone is seeing how far up the banking they dare go! Most of us got above the blue line at some time, I managed to get towards the top of the advertising banners which is still quite a way from the top of the bank - there's a shot here of the track - some definitely got higher.
By the end of the hour, or half hour of actual full-on riding we were all pretty knackered - there's no freewheeling, the only way to get a rest is to slow down and move to the inside of the track and get off the bike. One of the first questions everyone asked in the cafe afterwards was how many times you forgot to keep pedalling. The common answer was two or three, if you were doing 20mph then it was an interesting experience with the bike bucking around under you.
All in all a lot of fun and we've already booked an improver session - chain lines ALA team pursuit, along with something called "stacking. If you've not done it then it's well worth it and when you consider that you are renting the national stadium for just £120 for an hour it's really value for money.
Bring on the next session!