Learn to ride

Burnaby has one of a very small handfuls of indoor velodromes in North America. It's a special facility. With the five year plan in place, I knew that if I wanted to spend some time on a track, it probably had to be now.

In the winter of 2009, we were two and a half years out from the Cross Canada ride. I never really took a break from the bike, but Hillary had taken a fairly lengthy one. Through the summer of 2009, Hillary had trained for and run a half-marathon in Victoria.

So we were both in reasonably good shape and the velodrome loomed. I found a 'Learn to Ride the Velodrome' thing that was running and suggested to Hillary that we sign up. She thought it was a pretty good idea, though she was nervous.

We got to the track and our coach for the evening was a local Cat 1 rider, Claire Cameron. She helped us get fit on the rental bikes and started talking about riding these things. I won't go into too much detail, but the bikes have a very aggressive geometry, are fixed gear so you always have to pedal, and have no brakes.

We did a number of slow laps around the bottom part of the track. Then we were invited to to up onto the track itself on the straight stretches. Finally, once we were hitting speeds in the low 30km/h range, we could stay on the track around the corners. The corners have a 47 degree banking and dropping below about 30km/h puts you at risk of sliding down the track. For novices, a somewhat higher speed is encouraged.

The four or five of us doing the course were mostly riding together as track riding is primarily a group event. Hillary was very much not comfortable with this. Her group riding experience had been much looser, spread out groups on casual rides. On her bike. With brakes.

That combined with the banking lead to her deciding more or less to not go up too much. Claire and her had a brief discussion at some point and during one of the short lecture periods of the evening, Hillary stayed up on the track by herself. She rode around the côte d'azur by herself, spending time getting more comfortable with the bike.

This continued. The rest of us would ride up higher on the track, Hillary would slowly be increasing her speed down near the bottom. When we all stopped, she kept going.

At some point towards the end while we were down again, listening to Claire talk about racing on the track, I saw that Hillary was up above the pace line and pedalling hard. She came down as we went up for the last time.

After thanking Claire for her time and work, we headed home. We discussed in the car as I drove. It wasn't for Hillary, even the non racing parts were too stressful for her with how close everyone was riding. If she could get hours more practice on there without other folks, she might have been interested, but that wasn't possible. She didn't ride on the track again.

I always appreciated that she made that attempt and explicitly mentioned it many times over the remainder of our marriage. I can remember looking up during Claire's chat and can still see Hillary actually coming around the corners on the banking for the first time.

I didn't go back to the track for a couple of years. The drive from White Rock was over an hour. I couldn't justify that amount of commuting for a biking hobby when I could just leave from my front door for a road ride.

I won't lie though. There are many, many factors to consider when buying a house. The proximity to the velodrome from this house in Burnaby definitely bumped it's appeal on my personal scorecard by a couple of points.