What age can Kids get on a Velodrome Track? From 8-years old depending on the Venue! If your kids love their cycling, then some Track time at the Velodrome could be quite an experience. Our roving-race parent David Lea paid a visit to Derby Arena with his 10-year old daughter Jess for a fantastic day out…

The phrases ‘Olympic Legacy’ and ‘Inspire a Nation’ are ones we hear multiple times via the media during the 16 days of the games but possibly never more so than this year with Team GB’s incredible haul of medals which had us all glued to our TV screens and cheering for the athletes.

Many of us will also have been sat alongside our children watching their favourite sports and their little minds no doubt wondering whether one day they could also be representing their country and fighting for a medal.

As we sat at home watching the track cycling I turned to my 10 year old cycling mad daughter Jessica and asked her if she fancied having a go on the track and before I knew it I was having the phone thrust in my hand and being told to hurry up and get it booked.

My son had already ridden the track a number of times so I was aware of the process to follow and a quick call to Cycle Derby had her booked onto one of their summer holiday programs and her track riding dream was about to take off.

This summer Cycle Derby have run three track days throughout August for beginner and improving riders and have just reduced the minimum age requirement to 9 years old which opens up the track to even more children.

The format of the day begins with arrival at Derby Arena at around 9.30am, which for us meant an 8am start but with everything packed and sorted the night before it’s a pretty civilized starting time. Registration takes place inside the velodrome and then after the formalities are completed the kids head outside to the car park where half of it has been cordoned off to allow the children to practice their general bike handling skills in a safe traffic free environment.

Jessica took her own road bike but Cycle Derby have their own fleet of loan road bikes and helmets which anybody can borrow for the session and it’s all included in the current £25 cost of the day. Once everybody is fitted up with their bikes they then spend the next 90 minutes working on general skills such as correct gear selection, cornering and braking. The session is then rounded off with a couple of fun but always highly competitive races to put their newly developed skills into practice.

After an hours lunch break in the velodrome clubroom which gives some tired legs a chance to recover, its time for an introduction to track bikes and how they differ from the road bikes they’ve been using in the morning session. The concept of no brakes and no gears causes some initial apprehension from some parts of the group but soon everyone grasps the fundamental lessons of ‘don’t stop pedaling’ and ‘make sure you look before you move’ and then everybody is ready to move up to the ‘Riders D’ area which is where all the bikes are kept.

Derby Arena use track bikes made by manufacturer Moda and they have a large selection available in multiple sizes, but fit for smaller riders can be difficult, especially as they have 152mm cranks on the smallest models!

Once they’ve sized up their bikes the kids move onto the shoe section where we quickly found out that the smallest size available is a UK size 5, which was an issue. Jess normally wears a size 3, so these were a tad on the large size but once the three Velcro straps were done up tight they were fine and didn’t move about. (Update: Derby now has shoes down to a size UK13, thanks to Kids Racing!)

Riders are allowed to bring and use their own road shoes if they have them but they must be fitted only with Look Keo cleats that fit the pedals used on the hire bikes. Jess uses the Shimano SPD clipless system for all her bikes so using her own shoes was not possible. There is an option though for any child to ride in flat sole trainer shoes if they prefer and use toe clips instead of the clipless system which might be more preferable for some children who are not confident to go straight to cliplesss pedals.

Once everything was fitted then the kids were ready to hit the boards. The session that Jess was on only had 10 children on it so all of them took to the track at the same time. Other session we have attended with my son have had up to 30 kids and these then get split up into multiple groups, normally three, and they get 20 minutes track time each per hour.

The kids in Jess’s group who had previous experience on the track were set off to ride a few warm up laps while the first timers were taught the basics of getting on and off the bikes correctly and using the handrail to set off and stop.

Soon all the riders were circling the track on the flat blue apron section and then they are gradually moved up to first part of the track known as the Cote d’azur which is the light blue section on the inside of the track which has fairly shallow banking and gives a good introduction to the track proper.

After a little break and further instruction, they are then moved up to the black pursuiters line and then the red sprinters line. Its quite amazing how quickly the kids pick up the whole fixed wheel idea and learn to judge and adjust the distance between them and the rider in front of them by altering their pedaling speed rather then just grabbing the brakes which they would normally do on their bikes at home. Its no surprise that often the most skilled road riders come from having a long track riding background as for improving your bike handling and awareness of riders around you, there is nothing better.

The final half hour or so of the session involves the more confident of the riders being allowed to move further up the track to the blue line and you can almost see the pride and confidence oozing from them as they cruise almost effortlessly around the banking, something they wouldn’t have dreamt possible just a couple of hours before.

All too soon though the session was over and after a round of thank you’s to the coaches and saying goodbye to the friends they had made it was time to head back to car and off home. Had the next generation of track riders found a new addition? Yes I think so, Jess certainly had a great time and is eager to get back as soon as possible and get the laps in ready to give Laura Trott a run for her money in a few years time.

Here’s what Jess had to say, in her own words…

“What I really enjoyed about the track is that I got to learn a lot of useful tips and pointers such as stopping, as there are no brakes on a track bike you have to slow down really slowly. Also as you get higher on the track you have to push harder and a key pointer is observation, which is to check before you make a move to check whether it is safe. I gradually moved up when I felt I was ready for the next challenge. First I moved onto the light blue section, secondly onto the black, and then the red. Finally I thought that I couldn’t do the blue line but I did and it’s an amazing experience. I hope to go back and learn more and maybe one day I will have an Olympic medal around my neck.”

Hope to see some of your kids on the boards in the future. Keep ’em riding!

David Lea.

Derby Arena Velodrome Information:
This session runs from 10am to 3pm and currently costs £25 including bike hire if required for both the road and track sessions, helmet and shoe hire. The next sessions should be during the autumn half term and can be booked once released by calling Cycle Derby on (01332) 641747.

Children over 12 years old can also undertake a track taster session and then progress to full track accreditation by contacting Derby Arena directly on (01332) 640011 or www.derbyarena.co.uk

There is now a growing number of Velodrome around the UK. Alongside their indoor Velodrome, many also have outdoor road circuits, BMX and MTB facilities. Here are some website links;

British Cycling Go-Ride Track Events (can run for younger aged riders than the Velodromes usually allow)
Emirates Arena (Glasgow) – riders from 8-years old upwards
Lee Valley Velopark Velodrome (London) – riders from 12-years old upwards
Wales National Velodrome (Newport) – riders from 10 upwards
The National Cycling Centre (Manchester) – riders from 9-years old upwards