Track cycling bikes

Some call it the purest form of cycling. The bikes on the track have a fixed gear: that means you cannot backpedal, as the gear is ‘fixed’. Despite the arrival of carbon fibre and highly aerodynamic track bikes, the modern track cycling drive train is not much different to in Major Taylor’s day: a big chain ring on the front, a small one on the back, and a chain linking them together. The bikes also have no brakes. Why? Because it’s in everyone’s interest on the track that nobody brakes suddenly, causing a crash. It’s possible to adjust your speed in two different ways on the track, without brakes – but more of that later.

track cycling

Ultra hi-tech, and yet very basic at the same time. Credit: Getty Images

Track bikes are more difficult to ride than conventional bikes – for obvious reasons – and this is perhaps partly why they were adopted by the bicycle courier scene, who created ‘fixies’. ‘Fixie’ refers to the fixed gear. Fixies often have at least one brake fitted for use on the road, but out on the track, no one has brakes. Sprinter’s bikes have huge gears, while endurance riders often ride with a relatively normal gear (for example, 52 teeth on the front cog and 14 teeth on the rear). The purity of track cycling comes partly from the fact that track cyclists have no gears and so to go faster they must simply pedal faster. This necessitates excellent ‘souplesse’, or the ability to ride very efficiently at high cadence. Souplesse is seen as the mark of a stylish cyclist.