Manchester Velodrome, March 2nd 2003

by Carol Hague

This year, as in the previous three, Rob will be competing in the BHPC racing. However, this year will be a little different. After waiting three hours for a train home from Derby last year, we finally threw in the towel as far as transport to the races is concerned and bought a van. This meant two things. Firstly it was now feasible for Rob to build a full fairing for his Greenspeed GLR. Secondly, as the only driver in the family, I would be attending all the races this year, and thus decided to have a go at this racing stuff myself...

The construction of the fairing was delayed by a cold that knocked us both down for several days, but it was, if not entirely finished, at least in a useable state for the first race of the year, at Manchester Velodrome.

The fairing for Rob's GLR is constructed of aluminium strips, coroplast and a material called Solarfilm, which is more usually used in the construction of model aeroplanes. Building the fairing also necessitated the acquistion of a new toy in the form of a rivet gun to fasten the aluminium pieces together. The result thus far resembles nothing so much as a giant yellow sandal. However, Rob has already noted several improvements to be made before our next outing (to Eastway), so this probably won't last.

The Big Yellow Sandal

The drive over to Manchester was comparatively easy, once we'd worked out how to fit my GTO in the van next to the faired GLR without damaging the Solarfilm panels (sideways balanced on one front wheel, as it turned out). The directions to the Velodrome were a little deceptive, making the approach road from the motorway seem much shorter than it actually is, but Rob is an excellent navigator and we reached our destination without unplanned diversions, always a good thing. Parking was a little competitive, especially for a medium-sized van like ours, but we eventually located a suitable space and began to comtemplate the awesome prospect of unloading.

It occurred to me, as Rob manhandled the giant yellow sandal down the stairs from the entrance to the velodrome proper, that in a place where you know that people are going to be bringing cycles of various types in and out on a regular basis, it might be sensible to have a ramp rather than stairs between levels. Clearly I lack the breadth of vision to be an architect.

Although we were early-ish for the practice session there was already a large contingent of BHPC people present. Once we'd got our machines and other accoutrements into the central area of the velodrome and got signed up for the racing we wandered about, talking to various people and others wandered over to ask about the sandal.

Rob had warned me how difficult it is to ride a trike on a velodrome (Sideways! Whee!!) and he wasn't wrong, particularly for someone like me who, to put it kindly, is built for comfort rather than speed. I was chased off the track after one practice circuit for impeding other riders, but I wasn't going to be discouraged from taking part in the racing itself.

Fortunately, when the schedule for the races was drawn up, Rob and I were in separate groups, so we were able to time for each other. I was in the second race and Rob in the third with the other fully faired machines (all two-wheelers apart from his). I stupidly forgot my helmet when I went out for my race, but a kindly bystander loaned me his and I was off properly at last. Rob shouted out my lap times to me as I passed him and I was unsurprised to find that at 46 seconds per circuit I was taking roughly twice as long as the people in the first race to get round the track. However, I determined to give it my best shot nonetheless and set myself a target - to complete a circuit in under 40 seconds. After a couple of circuits I was gratified to hear Rob shout "39!" but despite my best efforts the times went back up over forty again. Finally we got to the final three laps and I decided to throw all my effort in - and was rewarded with a penultimate lap of 37 seconds. Hardly a worldbeater, but a personal achievement I was pleased with.

Velodrome time is expensive, so the time between races was kept to a minimum and not long after finishing my race I was clutching a stopwatch and watching the fully faired machines whizz round the track at speeds I could only dream of achieving. Rob was doing laps of around 22 seconds to begin with but gradually slowed to around 24 seconds over the half hour of the race. I shouted his lap times to him as he had done for me, but it soon became clear that the noise made by his fairing meant that he couldn't hear me. He was clearly slower than the other faired machines and stayed low on the banking to prevent impeding their progress. Nonetheless his speed in the faired GLR was a clear improvement over the previous year's unfaired speed and he has already noted several modifications to be made to the fairing which should improve matters for the next race.

After the race we got the yellow sandal safely up the stairs back to the van and set off for home. Rob gained fourteenth place in the Open class, which is quite respectable considering the competition. I was second in the Multitrack class, which would have been more impressive had there been more than two trikes competing...

Many thanks to the organisers and other competitors.

Rear View of the Big Yellow Sandal