Get Inspired: Track cycling

Track cycling sees competitors battle it out at high speeds along the steep wooden banking of the velodrome.

Riders use special bikes and ride anticlockwise around the track in a range of events, from endurance-based pursuits over several kilometres - the aim being to outpace a rival rider or team - through to the cagey, strategy-based individual sprint.

Why is it good for you?

Track racing is an exciting and physically demanding sport, with an hour-long session likely to burn approximately 782 calories per hour.

The strain of keeping the bike in motion at speed increases the heart rate, lowers blood pressure and improves endurance.

Team GB women's track cyclists

Track cycling at the Olympics explained (Part one)

As the thigh, calf and hip muscles are in constant use, it is an effective way to help build lower-body strength.

Unlike other high-energy sports, bike riding has a much lower risk of injury as there is none of the physical contact between athletes found in football or rugby, while it is much gentler on the knee and ankle joints than long-distance running.

As training for track racing is often a team-based pursuit, it is an excellent way to develop communication skills and learn to work effectively with other people.

Clubs also offer a variety of social events beyond just riding.

Get involved

Approximately two million people in Britain cycle at least once a week, and there are more than 80,000 members of cycling clubs. 

Before taking to the track, it is essential to wear safety equipment.

Some clubs allow members to hire bikes and helmets. A decent starter track bike costs from £600, and it is important to buy a track bike as mountain, road and hybrid BMX bikes are ill-suited to ride on velodrome circuits.

Visit the British Cycling,   Cycling Ireland,   Scottish Cycling  and Welsh Cycling  websites for more information.

For parents looking to get their children started in competitive racing, British Cycling are running a number of events for under-16s throughout the United Kingdom this year. Visit the Go-Ride Racing  website for more details.

History

Track cycling was first established in Great Britain in the 1870s when wooden indoor tracks, consisting of two straights and slightly banked turns, were laid.

The sport proved a popular attraction and early races at venues in Birmingham, Sheffield, Liverpool, Manchester and London attracted crowds of up to 2,000 people.

Track cycling events have been organised at all the editions of the Olympics since 1896, with the only exception being the 1912 Games in Stockholm, when only the road race was staged.

Did you know?

Track bikes have no brakes: riders stop by putting pressure on the pedals.

Between 1924 and 1992, the range of events at the Olympics were usually a sprint, time trial over one kilometre, tandem and team pursuit. The individual pursuit was added in the 1964 Olympic in Tokyo, and the tandem was dropped after the 1972 Games in Munich.

Women first competed in a sprint track event in 1988, and the individual pursuit was added in Barcelona four years later.

In February 2011, the London Olympic Velodrome became the first competition venue in the Olympic Park to be completed.

More on the IOC website