Just Me and My Bike,
Editor's note: This is the essence of old skool track, from someone who has been in it for a quarter of a century. He's been on track bikes a long time, as a messenger, competitive rider, and picked up tips from some of the greats, including Nelson Vails.
Oldskooltrack, that certainly says a lot to me. Me -- now 45 years old and riding track for over twenty five years, mostly on the street.
I can still remember my first encounter with a fixed wheel machine at about thirteen years old (my older brother's bike). I had just learned to ride at 11 years old, and one day acquired enough courage to upgrade my skills to an English racer, which is what we then called any full adult-size bike that didn't have balloon tires. Anyway one of my older brothers had a red, white and blue fixed wheel machine. It could have been a legitimate track bike for all I know. So I decided to take a ride on it thinking that it was just another racer. Boy was I ever surprised when it decided to not stop pedaling but to go faster! Yes, and I did have the great big crash, getting thrown over the handlebars and the whole nine yards. Naturally I was scared to death thinking how could he ride that suicidal death machine and smile about it!
It was years later in the seventies that I started to ride competitively. I've had too many road bikes and track bikes to count. But it was while training in Central Park that I met people like Nelson (Aakbar) Vales, Donald (The Duck) Stewart, Charlton (Swiss Cheese) Tucker, and others. And I experienced the true simplicity and beauty of track bikes, and learned the finer points of these rides, including "F-Grades" (custom track bikes), "production jewels" (off the rack models), "firecrackers" (just add a fixed wheel) which ping and pop all the time, and even "conversions." Because back in the day your local bike shop even carried Campy dropouts which could replace your road dropouts. All done professionally. of course.
To make a long story short, I fell in love, and by the time that you learn how to stop on command your attraction to any other type of bike is pretty much over. I've had all kinds of track bikes I started out with a Drysdale (now defunct), then a Raleigh, then a Gitane, then a Legnano, then a Frejus, then an Atala and a host of others. The most memorable track bike I've ever owned was a dark blue Geoffrey Butler. Man that bike was a dream! Some of my most memorable rides and trips started out early in the morning with hardly any traffic or street noise and all you could hear was your tires on the street singing a synchronized song with your cadence.
It sometimes occurs to me that when I first started riding tracks there was not near as many extreme sports as today. Riding track in the street - that was very extreme in the eyes of others. We seemed to careen downhill with reckless abandon. That's the way it appear to onlookers. But if you ride track, you know it's controlled to the utmost. On descents, a track rider needs much more control than a brake jockey.
Yes, I consider myself an Old Skool track bike rider, 'cause that's what I am. Now that I've seen track bikes making a strong comeback, I have respect for the New Skool. (Editor's Note: The New Skool refers to those riders who come to street track from other high-motion and extreme sports such as inline speed- or aggressive-skating, BMX and MTB downhill.) But know that real track biking is an art form from way back. So, ladies and gentleman, continue to ride your hot machines and keep the art alive for the next generation, so they can experience the indescribable feeling of control that comes only with riding track.