What is Grass Track?
Grass track is ideally suited to entry level youth racing. Events are organised on a flat field, the track itself is marked out accurately, enabling times to be compared over a series of events, or more simply by laying out a rough oval of markers with a start/finish line.
Races are short enabling young riders to experience a number of different races at a single event. Childern are divided into age categories, so children will race with others of very similar ages. The categories are set out by British Cycling and are determined by the rider’s age on 1st January. So, if a child is 11 on 1st January, they will be eligible for under 12 races (see below) for the rest of that year, whether they turn 12 on 5th January or 5th December that year.
The categories are as follows…
• Youth A (known as Under 16) for those aged 14 or 15 on 1st Jan
• Youth B (Under 14) for those aged 12 or 13 on 1st Jan
• Youth C (Under 12) for those aged 10 or 11 on 1st Jan
• Youth D (Under 10) for those aged 8 or 9 on 1st Jan
• Youth E (Under 8) for those aged up to 7 on 1st Jan
Points can be awarded to riders for each individual race and then added up to form an Omnium (overall) score. If appropriate, team events such as a Team Pursuit can be included. Every grass track race day should include at least one endurance and one sprint event.
There are a large number of events possible in Grass Track racing and a number of examples are listed below.
All riders start together and race for a set number of laps. The first rider across the line is the winner.
Individual One Lap Time Trial
Each rider is timed to complete one lap of the track.
This is a bunch race which sees the last rider to cross the finish line on each lap being eliminated from the race, when there are only 3 riders remaining the race becomes a flat out sprint over the last lap to declare the winner.
This is a bunch race that involves riders sprinting for points on nominated laps. Usually the first 4 riders get points, 5 for first, 3 for second, 2 for third and 1 for fourth.
Team Pursuit involves 2 teams of 4 riders starting on opposite sides of the track and chasing the apposing team for a specified number of laps. The lead rider in each team changes from the front to the back of the line every lap or half lap. The team that achieves the fastest time or catches their opponents is awarded the win.
A sprint event which, at a high level of competition involves up to 9 riders being paced behind a motorcycle known as a Derny, for 1km at about 50kph. The Derny then pulls off and the riders have a free for all sprint for the last 500m. This event is adapted to run on a grass track at a slower speed, over a shorter distance and using a coach or experienced rider as the ‘Derny Rider’.
What you’ll need to get started
Basically you need nothing to get started except an enthusiastic child. The club organizes a regular grass track meet most Monday nights starting in May and running through to mid-August. The club has a number of grass track bikes you can borrow allowing your child to give it a go without any investment. When borrowing a bike it’s worth noting that the club track bikes have a fixed wheel and no brakes. Riders control their speed by pedalling. This all sounds rather difficult but young riders pick this up much quicker than adults and you will soon marvel at your child’s new skills.
All riders have to have a cycle helmet but the club has one or two of these to lend. But we’d recommend this as your first purchase.
What you’ll need if it get serious
At some stage you may wish to purchase a dedicated bike, the good news here is that grass track bikes are generally the same as the bikes used for hard tracks, so it may be that a bike bought for grass track can also be used on hard tracks (either indoor or outdoor). However, grass track bikes have a larger clearance between the tyres and forks, allowing for at least 25mm tyres. Hard track and grass track tyres can be a minefield to navigate but many parents in the club have gone through the pain of getting the right tyres to fit bikes and they’ll be more than happy to advise you on what to get.
You also need to be aware of gearing regulations for youth riders. The table below will help you decide which is the right gearing for your child’s track bike, showing what sizes are right for the front chain ring and the rear sprocket.
Want to know more about gear restrictions? Click here…
What else does my child need?
Most riders start out with flat pedals and progress to either toe clips or, more commonly, pedals with clips that connect to clips on the bottom of the shoes. Many riders start with Shimano’s SPD pedal system – again something that can be used for road and cyclocross riding as well. It’s worth noting that if your child is planning to ride indoor track as well, SPD pedals are not allowed. You will at some stage have to progress to Road specific. Many parents choose Look Keo pedals as the hire bikes at hard track velodromes come only with these pedals and it makes it easier swapping shoes between bikes.
As with other cycling disciplines, probably first on the list of clothing “extras” would be a pair of padded shorts. These sometimes come with straps to go over the shoulders – these are known as bib shorts and can ensure no gap appearing between the top and shorts. The addition of a pad will make for a more comfortable time in the saddle.
There are also cycling specific jerseys, which are made of materials designed to wick away perspiration and keep riders at a comfortable temperature. Padded gloves can also make for a comfier ride and provide a bit of protection for the hands in case of a fall.
The Monday night summer grass track sessions are held a Boadicea Way Sport Centre. These sessions are run to help young riders, preparing them for racing. Even if they are not intending to race seriously, the sessions will help build fitness and develop bike handling skills, and many children get a huge amount of enjoyment from just coming along for the Monday evening sessions. The sessions are based around the grass track race format and help your child to progress. In the last few years we have run these session as a series of Go Races, so there are plenty of opportunities to try thier skills in friendly race conditions, even if you don’t fancy entering a formal grass track events.
The grass track season takes place over the summer months and there are a number of events held within easy driving distance of Colchester. From June to September there are 8 or 9 fairly local events, all based on a variety of races making up an omnium. Colchester Rovers organises its own grass track event and others include races at Maldon, Bury St Edmunds and Ashwell. These events will be added to our Youth Event page, alternatively you can search British Cycling Events.
We would recommend joining the Colchester Rovers Youth facebook page. This is often the best and easiest place to get up-to-the-minute information on what’s going on.
You can also email email@example.com for more information on youth coaching.