I've taken the liberty to compile some good info I've run across while browsing these forums. If you think that some info should be added, post it up!
How to wisely spend your hard earned cash
Every new racer sees all of the gear and whatnot and wonders what they should get. The fancy frames and wheels are the most obvious to new racers. Many think that is the key to being faster because all of the fast guys have them. That's not the case. The fast guys have them because at that level, they are winning and losing races by seconds and less than a second. New racers win and lose buy 10s of seconds (if not more). You can put a new racer on a $20,000 World-Class bike and they'll still get slaughtered and their flying 200M time will still be in the 15" range. I've seen this happen.
For best results (in my humble opinion) spend money in this general order:
- Track season pass (ride/race as much as possible)
- Road Bike
- *basic* equipment (chainrings, cogs, tools). Notice that I didn't say fancy carbon or aero gear. (See below)
- Race entry fees (but this should be covered in the season pass)
- Skinsuit, aero helmet, booties
- Diet for Athletes book. This will change your energy and fat levels.
- Gym membership (if you plan to be a sprinter)
- Coaching (optional really)
- Travel to other tracks for regional type events to broaden your horizions
- Aero front wheel
- Fancy carbon/custom frame
- Aero disc
The returns diminish as you go down the list.
Regarding wheels as a beginnerQuote:
Expect to change your gearing 2-5 times per training/race session.
Centering it isn't an issue.
You'll get to be fast with it in no time.
1) Get knurled chainring bolts where the nut seats into the crank spider. Don't worry, it can be removed if you strip it out. This makes gear changes VERY fast.
2) Get a set of quality ball-head metric allen wrenches. Trust me. TOTALLY worth the expense. I have a set that i've been using since 2009. Use the short end to torque/loosen and the long end to spin on/off. Using 3-way allen wrenches suck at this task.
Only keep the wrenches that fit bolts on your rig with you. Store the rest at home in your tool box.
3) Get a shop-quality lock ring remover and chain whip. You will be chaining cogs more often than mechanics at your local shop (seriously).
I use Hozan pliers and a Park Tool chain whip (originally 3/32 that I modified with a 1/8" chain)
4) At least TWO quality 15mm wrenches. One to keep in your gear bag and one for the trunk of your car (and leave it there) for when you load/unload your bike. They should be 15mm on BOTH the open and closed ends (not 14mm on one side and 15mm on the other).
It's a pain in the butt to be dead tired from training and have to go digging deep in your gear bag for the 15mm to take your wheels off your bike.
Get one where the closed end is flat (not angled) as possible. When you are applying torque to tighten rear wheels, if the angle is really sharp, it will jump off of some nuts that have narrow shoulders (like on Zipp 900 disks). I'd replace those with Dura Ace anyway. Just remember that front and rear nuts have different thread pitches.
Not too long and not too short. My Craftsman is 7" long (heh heh heh). Shorter is not enough torque and longer is too much.
5) OPTIONAL: Get a ratcheting 15mm wrench. This is helpful, too. I lost my favorite one.
I've been using all of the tools listed above for 5 years or more. You'll use them your entire racing career...or until someone doesn't return something :( As a buddy who owns a high-end wood crafting shop told me when I borrowed something from him a second time during my rookie season, "If you have to borrow a tool more than once, you need your own."
Off-the-rack training wheels (the kind that come stock on complete bikes) are JUST FINE for training and beginner/intermediate racing. You can get a pre-built set for $200. They will last years. When you buy them the only thing you'll need to do is:
- Replace the rim tape with cloth tape (2x$5)
- Have a mechanic double check the spoke tension ($10 tip)
- OPTIONAL: Buy Dura Ace nuts for front and rear ($30) (remember that front and rear have different thread pitches)
No need for custom wheels. Seriously.
Build a custom wheelset if you want to. But, that's like having custom blue jeans made when there are plenty of different styles of Levi's out there that you can pickup today for less than the custom set and just as good.
Then you will likely get most use out of a 48t chairing as in:
48/16 for warmup and training races
48/15 for beginner racing
49/15 for beginner racing
50/15 for beginner and/or intermediate racing
47/14 for intermediate racing
48/14 for intermediate and/or advanced racing
49/14 for advanced racing
50/14 for advanced racing
This is a common gear progression at our track for beginners. As you get stronger you will be able to push bigger gears. Notice how the 48 gets lots of use. If you already have a 48, I suggest buying in this order:
1st Purchase: 48t + 16t + 15t
2nd Purchase: 49t
3rd Purchase: 50t
4th Purchase: 47t + 14t
Those gears will take you through about 2 seasons of racing with LOTS of gear combination possibilities.
As the saying goes, "You can't win 'em all." This is particularly true in track racing being that the events range from less than a minute to 20 minutes or more. Unless you are particularly talented, you won't do well in everything.
In general, beginner racing is all about:
- Learning bike handling in a pack at 80-100% effort (note that I didn't mention any speed)
- Learning to draft.
- Learning about your threshold and how to stay under it...and when to stragegically go above it.
- Learning to think on the bike (Points, Scratch, Match Sprints)
- Learning what talents you may have already (sprint, endurance, bike handling, thinking)
- Learning where you have room for improvement. (Identifying these are a good thing)
- Learning when and when not to attack.
- Learning when and when not to chase an attack.
- Learning about your opponents
- Learning the "flow" of the race.
- Learning where (and where not) to stick your nose in a pack.
- Learning that touching a guy's shoulders at +35MPH is not a big deal.
- Learning to feel when something is about to happen and feeling when something is happening behind you without even looking. Little things like the hearing the change in pitch (sound) of a guy's chain (reflecting off of the boards) letting you know that he's making a move to come around you.
As I've mentioned in another thread, there are more ways to lose a race than there are to winning. Don't do any of the things that will cause you to lose and you'll find yourself in a position to win :)
When learning to train and race at the track, one has to be comfortable and relaxed at higher speed close to the wheel in front. Track speeds tend to be higher so gaps result in a lot more power being required. Both of the training sessions will help you to get comfortable. So ideally, one should be able to ride in close quarters, relaxed looking ahead while using peripheral vision to position yourself in the pack. Great track racers anticipate actions by other racers and see them coming. The more you practice the better you get.
Racing changes the pack dynamics and objectives. Tactics come into play to score in the various races and part of that is being at the right place at the right time.
Once you are comfortable in the pack, riding close at speed and using peripheral vision then have at some cat 5 racing.
I'd like to add more tips:
Sprinters and wanna-be sprinters (like myself) talk a lot about weightlifting, poundage, reps, etc...
Don't get so caught up in lifting that you lose sight of the fact that it is about bike racing. I can out-squat guys that can run circles around me on the track.
Lifting weights is just a tool to help prepare you to be strong and powerful on the track. Adding 50lbs/23kg to your 1 rep max may not be as beneficial as doing very solid sets of 5 reps.
Also, there is more than one way to skin a cat. Squats aren't the only way to train to sprint. Don't be discouraged if you don't have access to a proper free-weight gym. Some sprinters don't squat. Some do leg press, plyometrics, hill repeats, ergo strength sessions, etc... Some don't lift weights at all.
So for us local racers, it is most important that we do *something* because doing anything regularly is better than doing nothing.