5 Reasons Track Cycling is Great for the Whole Family

How cycling on the velodrome helped this new mom become stronger than ever on the bike.


Riley Missel |

How cycling on the velodrome helped this new mom become stronger than ever on the bike. – By Riley Missel

For new parents, it can be difficult to devote substantial time to hobbies and passions when children are young. But longtime cyclist Nicole Borem-Shickel, 41, of Indianapolis, says she’s found a way to get back to being fit and fast on the bike just months after having her daughter, Nora, in January 2016: She turned to her local velodrome.Before starting a family, Nicole – who works full-time as a nurse anesthetist – raced BMX, mountain bikes, and off-road triathlons. But after having Nora, she was unable to maintain such an intense training schedule. Still, Borem-Shickel didn’t want to let go of her passion for cycling.“Not for a minute would I ever put myself in front of Nora,” she says. “But my happiness is the key to her happiness; and part of our happiness is our cycling world.”Her solution: She started racing at the Indy Cycloplex, her local velodrome. She and her husband, Nathan, rode the track almost every week through the summer of 2016 and 2017, and she races cyclocross in the fall.“A really great thing about cycling is you can just ride what life brings,” says Borem-Shickel. “You don’t have to be fast, you can just chill out and ride with your friends, or you can go and try to crush souls.”

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“Nathan and I strive every day to create a family that is happy. We are setting an example of play and adventure for Nora. We want her to enjoy the outdoors, to explore the world around her, to take risks, even if it scares us to death.”

Most velodromes have “try the track”-type programs where you can rent a bike and learn the confidence to ride banked walls from a coach. They also often have open track sessions, as well as weekly group training nights with guided intensity-based workouts.

Here’s are a few reasons parents should head to the track as a family-friendly way to ride.

Track Cycling Is Less Time-Demanding

Most races and training efforts on the track are short and intense, and can range from a 30-minute bunch race to a 40-second time trial. Because of that, workouts don’t need to be four-hour endeavors—a hard track session can be as short as an hour or two. “You have a lot of time requirements (with young kids), and when you’re training on the track you do shorter, explosive workouts, as opposed to needing to go out and spend hours on the bike,” says Borem-Shickel. She chose to train specifically for the 2km pursuit (about a three-minute effort).

You Can Get Off the Road—and Away From Distracted Drivers

“I’m the responsible party for my child, and I really need to be around for her,” says Borem-Schikel. Not only is there no car traffic on the track, but you don’t even have to worry about crashing form other riders if don’t want to—just choose a discipline where you race the clock, such as the pursuit, kilo, or 500m. “So while perhaps [time trialing] wasn’t my specialty, I personally chose not to do mass start races because I felt those might be a little too risky in terms of crashes,” Borem-Schikel says.

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Your Kids Can Hang Trackside

“With both of us working we would really miss Nora during the week, and want to have her with us during the evenings,” says Borem-Shickel. “So most of the time I would bring her with us. If Nathan and I were both training, he would do his motor-paced efforts while I rested and we would switch off watching her.” Training partners helped, too, and sometimes the couple would hire a babysitter to come to the track. The track even enabled Borem-Shickel to breastfeed Nora in the infield during breaks. “I could turn my chair away from the group and finding a quiet area.”

Family Can Help You See the Big Picture

Borem-Shickel says having Nora at the track prevents her from getting too wound up and “in her head” before and after race time. “As soon as you step off the racetrack, you don’t want to display negativity, even if you’re upset with yourself,” she says. “Your child doesn’t really care if you just lost the race. So you just have to flush that energy from yourself and be Mom.” It also helps you slow down and see the big picture. “Your training plan is at the mercy of your child and that’s okay,” she says. “You learn a lot of flexibility. So if something is going to go wrong on race night, and you know it always does, you’ll make it work however you can.”

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Kids Can Participate in the Action!

Once kids are older, most velodromes have programs for them to ride with instruction, sometimes even with bikes to borrow. It’s also common for tracks to hold a kids event on race nights where they can do a lap or two on the apron (flat part) of the track on their own bikes. “Sometimes I feel like I’m dragging Nora along, wondering if she’ll hate me for this,” Borem-Shickel says. “But I know she doesn’t now, because she wants to go on bike rides, which is fun.”

“I find that a lot of people in the cycling community like kids,” says Borem-Shickel. “We’re incredibly thankful to have such good friends at the track; they are very understanding. Nora always comes first in our workouts and it helps to have (track riders and staff) on board with that, too.”

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