THE STEEPLY pitched banks of the Calshot velodrome can play serious mind games with a track cycling virgin.

While the brain attempts to offer feeble encouragement, a sudden uncomfortable clamminess cannot be ignored.

Further contemplation simply intensifies selfdoubt before full-scale psychological warfare begins to rattle the skull.

How do you cycle around a sweeping 45 degree velodrome bend without falling into the precipice below?

Why do the bikes have no brakes?

And the most obvious question of all: why on earth am I here?

High above, a lone rider ghosted silently by and a rare moment of rational thought penetrated a mind turned to mush.

Somewhere within the dim, dark recesses of ancient grey matter, a school physics lesson and centripetal force was vaguely recalled.

The details were sketchy to say the least, but it was something to do with force enabling a body to follow a curved path.

Top boffins like Isaac Newton couldn’t be wrong.

I was good to go.

Trepidation is excusable when confronted with the second steepest velodrome banking in the world.

But it’s glory which is ingrained in the creaking Siberian pine boards of Calshot.

Stand still and the faint roars of yesteryear can still be heard echoing around the cavernous hangar where seaplanes were once housed.

While the tight curves of the current track have tested the best since 1997, its predecessor was a national venue dating back to the 1970s and one which hosted World Champions.

Over the decades, countless nervous novices have also been catapulted around the dizzying 143-metre oval.

And their numbers have recently swelled thanks to another Olympics of inspiring, iconic imagery.

No one imagined Britain’s track cycling team could emulate its achievements at Beijing in 2008 when seven gold medals were won.

But match it they did at the 2012 London Games.

Chris Hoy, his 27-inch thighs pumping like pistons, won his sixth Olympic gold, weeping as the Union flag was hoisted; Victoria Pendleton, as cool as ever, powered her way to another gold; and the women’s Team Pursuit broke world record after world record en route to the podium.

The telephone at Calshot has not stopped ringing since.

In fact, the velodrome, the only banked indoor venue in the south, is now taking course bookings for the autumn.

Training sessions aim to slowly build confidence and begin with learning to clip cleated cycling shoes into the pedals.

Stopping a fixed wheel bike with no brakes comes next – a matter of turning the pedals increasingly slowly while resisting the urge to back-pedal or stop pedalling at all.

Steady acclimatisation to the velodrome’s ramped banking follows.

Starting on the flat, light blue “Cote d’azur” band, the black “datum line” is the first target and then the red “sprinters line”.

Further up is the blue “stayer’s line” before the upper reaches beckon beyond.

I’ll be frank.

It’s a somewhat anxious moment when you venture above the blue line and approach the end curve for the first time.

Speed, line and nerve must be held as you sweep across from one side of the banking to the other.

It’s actually colder up there and you get a good idea of just how steep it is when the bike plunges back down to the red line on the opposite straight.

The wind whistles past your ears, the stomach relocates to another part of the body and it’s difficult to remove the peculiar grimace that’s distorted your face.

Within seconds, the opposite end curve looms and you climb once more to spin across the great divide.

It soon becomes ridiculously addictive.

Once the basic techniques are mastered, a brave new world of slipstreaming and team riding awaits.

And, surprisingly, the senses soon casually accept that the tops of other riders’ heads can be seen circling below at lower altitude.

The sleek Dolan bikes are not equipped with speedometers so I was unsure whether Hoy’s records were at risk.

It sadly transpired I was outstandingly average, the old chest wheezing like bagpipes after completing a seven-lap 1km effort. I won’t lose sleep over it.

For the briefest of moments Hoy was struggling behind and the gold was mine.



The velodrome is at the Calshot Activities
Centre and anyone able to ride a bike
can have a go under the watchful eye of
a coach.
You will progress at a pace suitable to the
group you join, allowing you to learn the
basics. Bikes, helmets, shoes – and first
rate coaching – are provided.
There are five levels of progression - from
the ‘have a go’ first timer through to race
ready track rider.
Most courses are open to youngsters of
12 upwards with an accompanying adult,
while 16 and 17 year-olds can cycle on
their own.
Courses are booked until the autumn
but additional sessions are added
throughout the year. Contact the centre
for availability.
Private sessions are available for groups
of friends. Again, contact the centre for
For full details and prices see
or call Calshot Activities Centre on
023 8089 2077.