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Best track bikes: a complete buyer’s guide

Track cycling has soared in popularity since the big medal haul from British athletes in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Great Britain’s success continued into London 2012 and then Rio Olympics captured many eyes, with many folk, both dedicated cyclist and general public too, realising that track bikes can be a fantastic entry point into a uniquely fast and exciting cycling discipline.

Sir Chris Hoy, Laura Trott CBE, Sir Bradley Wiggins, Katie Archiebald to name but a few, have carved amazing careers out of the boards and believe it or not track cycling is very accessible to the masses.

The UK has six indoor velodromes including; London, Newport, Manchester (which is home to British Cycling), Southampton and two relatively new additions in Glasgow and Derby. We also have over 14 outdoor velodromes spread between Wales, England and Scotland; Herne Hill Velodrome in London being one of the most famous as it is the last remaining venue from the 1948 Olympic games.

Video: A beginner’s guide to the team pursuit

What is a track bike?

The track bike is a simple machine. It has one fixed gear, meaning you cannot stop pedalling. No brakes, you use the fixed gear to speed up and slow down and that is it. Of course you have two wheels, a saddle and handlebars.

A good track bike should handle well, giving you the confidence when changing direction at high speed, accelerate quickly and be strong enough to withstand the harsh forces track riding involves. But also it needs to be stable at high speed especially when going for a flat out sprint for the finish line, we don’t want to be suddenly changing line, what’s knowing as giving a dirty flick in track speak.

Unless your planning on attacking the hour record, comfort isn’t really a consideration as time spent on a track bike is relatively short but it does need to fit correctly.

Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

Our pick of the best track bikes

Here is our pick of the best bikes and deals on track bikes.

With each bike is a ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Best Deal’ link. If you click on this then we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer when you purchase the item. This doesn’t affect the amount you pay.

Vitus Six £699.99

The aluminium frame and fork combo has been specifically track tuned geometry, which Vitus say is the perfect blend of stability, and the ability to react quickly with confidence in tight situations.

The 43mm wheels are aimed at being alrounders, enabling you to mix it up at any track discipline.

There is the option to keep the Tektro calliper brakes that the Six comes with and create a road going fix, or thanks to a flip/ flop hub, a freewheel singlespeed, but this will require an element of faff due to internal cable routing and will silver the anodised black braking track of the rims.

Moda Forte track bike £699.99

The triple-butted 7005 aluminium frame is teamed carbon forks for what mode say is a blend of  stiffness and agility.

We last saw the Moda Forte a while back, but found it omfortable, fun and easy to ride, making it a great playmate on the banking of any track.

As with most track bikes, there’s always a few builds to choose from, and the option with the American classic victory 30’s seems like a sensible option to get you up and running.

Ribble Eliminator from £699.00

There are four bikes in the Ribble Eliminator range, which includes two track specific bikes, and the option to take it to the streets with road going wheels and brakes.

The AL Sport build (as pictured above) is the entry point and features a aluminium frame and carbon fork. The wheels are Ribble’s own and come fitted with Continental Ultra Sport 2 tyres.

The Aero Pro build comes with the same frame and fork, but this time with carbon bars, deep section tubular wheels and Vittoria Pista G2.0 tubs for £1,199

Cinelli Tipo Pista Track bike  £849.99

Obviously with brakes on board, the Cinelli Tips Pista track bike allows you to take the fixed gear track bike out of the velodrome/ crit races and on to the streets.

We’ve also featured it in our fixed gear bike buyers guide thanks to it’s versatility, and with external cable routing means that you can remove the caliper rim brakes front and rear allowing  you to go straight from work to the evening track meet no problems.

An aluminium frame and carbon fork help keep the bike down to a claimed 7.8kg, which is impressively about three kilos lighter than most of the single speed bikes at this price point.

Boardman TRK9.2 £1650

A carbon frame and fork designed under the name sake of one of Great Britain’s  best riders of all times Chris Boardman. 

Boardman say that the TRK9.2 has been developed specifically for the track with aerodynamics in mind while also offering excellent power transfer. There are four seat post positions for flexible geometry for all track events, and the TRK wheels have been designed to work in harmony with the bike and track riding, although it’s worth noting that they say it is specifically for track racing in enclosed environments.

BMC Trackmachine TR02 one £1799.00

A younger sibling for the BMC TO01, that was designed for the Swiss National Team to ride at the Rio Olympics, and went on to be used for Rohan Dennis’ hour record. The TRo2 doesn’t have quite the same aero credentials as the TR01, but does make getting on the track slightly more affordable at around half the price.

An aluminium frame and carbon fork duo is paired with DT Swiss wheels and Continental Grand Sport Race SL tyres for a race ready bike out the box.

Dolan DF4 track bike from £1949.99

Dolan is still probably one of the most popular track bikes at the velodrome and it isn’t just down to price. When you hear ‘for the money you get a great bike’ it can often shout buying on the cheap but we’ve found that you really are getting a professional level track machine.

There are three bikes in the DF4 range, all full carbon with the finishing kit defining the price tag, with the all singing Dolan DF4 Carbon Track Bike, SG47 Mavic, as pictured above, topping the range with a £6349.99 swing tag.

Fuji Track Elite £1689.50

Developed in the A2 wind tunnel, the Track Elite was, according to the American company, one of the stiffest frameset it had ever made, and at the time one of the first-ever track platforms to utilise a tapered head tube and fork.

It’s a bit dated now, but the science behind the design is still current, and slightly more affordable track frameset only option than the medal winning caliber elsewhere.

Buy now: Fuji Take Elite at Santafixie for £1689.50

Cervelo T4 frameset £3,199.00

There’s no denying the pedigree of the Cevelo T4, with it’s proven, no pun intended, track record winning countless medals for Team GB at both the London and Rio Olympics.

Made from Cervelo’s own track-specific frame shape and carbon lay-up to give the bike optimal aerodynamics and extreme stiffness.

The full carbon frameset only allows you meet your own personal requirements, but does require deep pockets as a budget build isn’t going to cut it on this beauty.

Look T20 Speed Track Frameset from £6999.00

Launched at the beginning of 2020 to coincide with what should have been an Olympic year, the Look T20 is the French national team’s weapon of choice for the boards. While we await to discover it’s medal giving properties, there’s no denying that the frameset carries all the marks of a rapid machine, with claimed 10% weight reduction, 12.5% lateral stiffness and 11% drag reduction  and a whopping 27% increase in power transfer over it’s predecessor.

The starting price for the frameset is hardly pocket money, but if you want the full Tokyo ready Worx WX-R Vorteq experience, be prepared to part with a cool €28,000!

Track bike frames

The usual mix of carbon, aluminium and steel are the main purchase options for track bikes. Depending on your budget is will effect the material you buy. Aluminium is the most common, the cheapest, most robust (in crashes), with pretty much all brands offering a decent mid-level options for those budding racers.

Carbon is of course the most expensive but the advantage here isn’t weight, it’s aerodynamics. Bikes like the BMC TrackMachine and Cervelo’s T5 are designed to be a slick as possible whilst maintaining immense stiffness. Exactly what you need for racing on the boards. They achieve this by beefing up some of the key areas, head tube and bottom bracket mainly and, as weight or comfort isn’t too much of a concern, companies can do this in without penalty.

Aerodynamics is everything on the track

Steel is still seen on the track cycling scene, though it’s not as common as carbon or aluminium. Eddy Merckx held the Hour Record using a standard steel frame. Although you won’t see these at World Championships or the Olympics any more, you’ll see them regularly at training sessions and amateur races.

Track bike specification

Although a simple machine, starting out in track cycling can leave you a little dazzled by the array of components and gear options. With indoor and outdoor velodromes being almost worlds apart to ride and different disciplines favouring a variety of wheel, gear and bar options, the initial outlay might seem expensive but you don’t have to buy it all at once. An off the peg bike will come with all that you need to ride.

Gears

The standard gear is between 84 inches and 90 inches (chainring size 47 teeth – sprocket size 15 teeth or 50 tooth chainring – 15 tooth sprocket) which will come with most track bikes out of the shop. The smaller the inches (a common reference to gear sizes taken from the size of the wheel from a penny-farthing) or the smaller the front chainring and the larger the rear sprocket, the easier it’ll be to pedal. The opposite for bigger/harder gears; large front chainring, smaller rear sprocket or higher inch count.

To put that into context, Bradley Wiggins would have been riding well over a 110inch gear at the Olympics in the team pursuit. If you want to get into racing be prepared to try different ratios, training specifically on pedalling efficiently or just riding different tracks, as they can be different lengths, steepness for both indoor or outdoor velodromes.

Check out our gear table below.

Tubular or clincher 

As with the road you still have the option of tubular or clincher tyres. Tubular tyres are more common as puncturing is far less likely. These are harder to change (due to being glued or taped to the rim) when they do wear out and are more pricey but you’ll see a performance benefit and you’ll be able to run much higher tyre pressures than clincher tyres. The least amount of rolling resistance is key.

Clincher tyres of course still have their place. Easier tube changes and generally cheaper than tubular tyres. This will depend on the type of track riding you want to do or if you want to race. Clincher is a good option for outdoor riding, tubular is for more performance and racing orientated riders.

Unless you are Sir Chris Hoy or team pursuit starter Joanna Rowsell-Shand, the chances are a standard, middle of the road chainset will do. What you are looking for is stiffness and longevity of wear. The thing to remember here that a top end Shimano or Campagnolo chainset won’t feel any real different from a half the price Miche Primato Advanced chainset for example.

The main thing to look out for here is bolt circle diameter or BCD (the measurement between the chainring bolts on your chainring and chainset usually measured in millimeters). It doesn’t really matter what size you get or have, the most important thing to remember is that you need to match the chainset with the chainring BCD size otherwise it will not fit.

The BCD should be written on both crank and chainring, if not you’ll simply have to measure between two adjacent bolt holes to get the size. Match this with a track chainring and you’ll have no issues.

Crank length is something to consider. Traditionally you’ll ride between 165mm cranks and 170mm. Any longer and you’ll likely hit the banking when pedalling, too small and it wont be very efficient.

Miche Primato Advanced chainset

For beginners, a standard drop handlebar is all you need. If you want to do pursuit or do individual timed events it’ll be worth investing in a set of aero tri-bars. Without any brake or gear cables to worry about change between is very simple.

Track bike wheels

Like the frame, you can purchase standard aluminium equipment at a reasonable price.

Box rim spoked wheels, clincher or tubular can be found for less then £200. These will be apt for everyday riding on the track. Likewise you can go down the expensive carbon route and buy into a disc rear wheel and either deep carbon front of five spoke wheel.

Unlike the rest of a track bike, wheels are one element where weight will penalise you. With many of the track disciplines needing sudden acceleration, rolling mass needs to be kept to a minimum. If you’re looking for performance improvements, its likely that investing in a set of fancy wheels will be more of a game changer than buying a new bike will ever be.

For most bunch racing events, it’s generally accepted that the best rapid wheelset option is a five spoke front wheel and a disc at the back. The aerodynamic effectiveness, weight saving and reduced rolling resistance all add up to be something special when you need that extra zip.

Fixie yeah!

If you’re thinking of pottering about town on your fixed-wheeled bike, it’s not too difficult to transform your racing beast to a road legal bike simply with the addition of a front brake. Although, if this is your intention, first check that your bike of choice can accept a front brake (not all race forks will have a front brake mount hole).

We would also suggest opting for a much smaller gear than standard, ideally no bigger than 72in (eg. 45×17). This should make riding up inclines, away from lights, junctions and general manoeuvres in traffic much easier. Of course at night you will also need to apply the usual Highway Code rules on lights and reflectors.

This content was originally published here.

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