Herne Hill and the neighbourhood track culture

©Barry Sandland/TIMB - Herne Hill velodrome in London

©Barry Sandland/TIMB – An outdoor track and subject to weather, but still one of the best locations to be introduced to track racing

Track racing used to be a massive presence in Europe, in the UK. Tracks dotted the landscape. Then, slowly, one by one, the tracks have disappeared. Today, in London, while the Olympic velodrome has become the gold standard, Herne Hill, dating back to the 1948 Olympics, and nestled in the southern neighbourhoods of London, is the track of a bygone era – and yet remains an essential to introducing a new generation to track riding.

I visited the track recently, encouraged to visit when one of the Brixton Cycles riders encouraged me to drop by. I had the misfortune of arriving for the “Old Git” session, a one hour training session for riders too old to offer decent competition to younger, more fleet footed riders. For a mere £5, I was offered a bike and access to the track for an hour of torture.

If you are interested in trying a bicycle track, then Herne Hill might be an ideal starting point. At 450 metres in length, it is far longer than Olympic velodrome styles – so the straightaways are longer, the banking far less steep.  You can learn the basics of the lines and rack protocol, without the life-threatening challenges of riding on a  wall. They present sessions for every standard of rider – just go shopping for your preferred group.

Fair warning – when you visit the first time, the entrance can be a little tricky to find. A small sign on the alleyway entrance and then it its hidden behind the neighbourhood homes.

Over the next few days, a short series on some of the riders I met at the track and, withcurrent  it, some of the history and current potential of Herne Hill.

I already know I will be heading back to the track when I get to London again. Hopefully, I will get in a  few short road sessions and have enough leg strength to stay in the pack a bit longer.

Links:

Herne Hill Velodrome official website…

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