Low Cost Starting Options
I live near the Calshot track in the UK, and definitely want to give sprinting a shot. I'm concerned though that I'll like it, and then won't be able to afford what I need! What's the most affordable way to start out? I guess the two most obvious options are a Fuji or something of that sort brand new, or looking for an older but higher quality steel framed bike on Ebay. Are there other places I should look for used bikes? Do the tracks have "for sale" boards or the like? Are there track forums where used bikes are up for sale?
I guess the bottom line is, a Fuji is going to cost me £250 or so. Are there other options in that price range that are worthwhile, new or used, or should I treat that as my only option. Also, as a guy who never wears any cycling gear, and uses clips and straps with trainers, what can I expect to need to buy in addition to a bike.
asleep at the wheel
Calshot should have rental bikes (says so on their site). So by far the cheapest way is to rent for a few sessions.
After a few sessions you'll know whether you like it and then you'll be better informed as to what you need. You can also get a sense of where folks scored their bikes from; there may be a club notice board as well as a host of fellow trackies who can help you out.
As Calshot is quite steep, I'd take the advice of riders down there as to what equipment is needed (short cranks, high BB, stiff wheels probably).
There some great shots of Calshot as well as further info here:
BTW I've seen people doing the beginner sessions at Herne Hill in clips, straps and trainers.
All good advice from fixedpip. I ride at Calshot quite a lot, both training and racing down there. The hire bikes are fine - they're Dolans with a mixture of Navigator Pista and standard 32spoke wheels. Some of these are a bit agricultural but are fine for starters. Riding these for a few sessions will give you a feel for riding track before throwing down for a bike of your own. The hire bikes have clips & strapa - bring your own shoes / pedals / pedal spanner if you want to use clipless.
As Calshot is pretty steep (45 degrees) and fairly narrow you should go on one of their coached taster / induction sessions (see fixedpips link for details) and ride a few sessions there before doing anything more serious. You'll be taken through track etiquette etc and be introduced to riding in a group on the tight track.
As for the Fuji, one of my regular pals down there rode one for a couple of years until upgrading - the BB height / crank length combo was fine for Calshot (the BB is really high - higher than my Koga track bike), and the wheels were safe although they were the first thing he upgraded when he could. Put some decent black rubber tyres on it if (eg Veloflex Paves) if you do purchase as the stock ones are poor and coloured silica based tyres (eg Michelin Pro Race) can slip on the wooden boards.
Give it a whirl and enjoy yourself - the compression you get when blasting round the banking at speed and the subsequent acceleration you get coming out of the transitions is a real buzz that I've never got tired of to this day
Thanks guys - I definitely want to try it, I'm just afraid of the hit my pocket will take if I like it! I'll definitely be going on a coached session before I do anything else - apart from anything, I've never ridden fixed before. I think I'm a decent bike handler, but I'm sure there's nothing like riding in a pack on banking to test that!