The basics - hand sling, on the track:
After doing a few slings on the apron it is time to go out in the track and get use to the doing this at faster speeds. The goal here will be to get use to the speed. You should try to get use to doing slings at speed so that you know what it feels like to gain speed and lose speed very quickly. DO NOT try your first exchange as you enter a corner. You should do your first exchanges as soon after a corner as possible, note the picture at the top is great with Chauncey and Morgan finishing the exchange at the exit of the corner. This will allow rider one (who is going from 30 down to 15) to get off the track gracefully before the corner. The idea here is that rider one will be going at speed on the black line and rider two will be going about 15 on the blue line. To start you (rider two) will come down to the red line early and just wait with your left hand behind your back until you hear rider one yell "hand". At this time you should feel rider one's right hand grab yours and start passing underneath you very quickly. Make sure that your speeds are closer together at the start or you rider one will literally pull rider two off the track. As soon as rider one has passed the same thing as before will occur and rider two will start to gain speed then sling past rider one and now rider two drops to the black line while rider one drops to the apron. Now rider two becomes rider one and rider one becomes rider two and you do it again.
The basics - hand sling, the corners and timing:
Now that you are use to doing this on the track you need to work on using the corners and timing it just right. The best exchange is one that uses the bank and limits the amount of energy wasted as rider two gets up to speed as well as ensures that rider one is not on the track very long. The basic idea is that exchanges occur every two laps, although anywhere between one and a half and two and a half is normal. This means that as soon as rider one slings rider two, the first rider drops to the apron, looks behind while going slow, then at the first sign of open track goes back up to the top of the track at the middle of either straight. As soon as the rider on the rail sees the rider leave the opposite straight (e.g. enter the corner - about 10 seconds) the rider on the rail (now rider two) starts to go toward the next corner on the blue line. By the time you enter the corner you should be at 15 mph and your partner will yell "Red line" if you have not started down to the red line yet. Notice that you will gain some speed just by dropping down and will likely be close to 20 mph now. Rider one will then yell hand as you are in the middle of the turn below an Alpenrose sign and you will do the exchange as you exit the corner. This is where the lap and half move comes in. If you are feeling good and can go up track right away (look before you go) you will have only taken half a lap to do the exchange and go the opposite rail that your partner was on while waiting for you. If you can't get up track right away or have a long exchange then you will find yourself not going up track till after the next corner and make it a two lap exchange (the average). If you are tired, then you might keep on the apron a little longer and not even go all the way up track and stop to wait and end up with a two and half lap exchange. Note that it is bad karma to ever let your partner pass you without doing an exchange, so if you ever see your partner pass you without exchanging then be prepared to explain yourself.
The basics - keeping it safe:
As you get use to where you do the exchanges and how quickly your partner comes up to you and how hard they sling you in you are ready for some more safety training. As you might have already noticed it is very hard to time things exactly right and exchanges happen all over the place. If you haven't noticed this in training, you will when you add more riders and do an actual race. So you need to practice doing exchanges all over the track especially in the corners. The hardest place to do an exchange is as you enter a corner. This means that rider one will lose some speed but not all their speed (especially if there is a bad exchange) right as they enter the corner. This means two things, first you should practice coming off the track in the corner and second you need to be very aware of your speed and where others are on the track. The best way to do this is to start on the apron at about 10-15 mph and then when you get to the apron go just above the black line then back to the apron. Repeat this about five to ten times each corner for a few laps. Then do some odd exchanges as you enter the corner and get comfortable going on and off the track in the corners. This is one exercise that you will find very useful the first time you need to do this in a real race.
The Rules - some rules before you race:
There are a few basic rules that you need to follow when doing a Madison. Never go under an exchange. This means if you are riding behind a rider and you see their teammate ahead on the blueline getting ready for an exchange and do not see your partner, then start going up track. You will need to go above both riders and will likely find yourself riding up to the blue line or higher as you pass both riders. The trick here is to make sure that you don't lose so much speed that a good exchange by the opposing team allows them to get a gap on you as go too high when passing. This also means that you can never pass in-between two riders who are exchanging as this will likely cause you to be disqualified and is even worse than going under an exchange. Also since teams must pass above, an exchanging team must stay low (rider one on the black, rider two on the red). This is all for safety as everyone knows that rider one is going to the apron hence the rule for no passing under an exchange and teams behind are passing above, hence rider two must stay on the red line then quickly drop to the black after the exchange. Always pass above, the one exception is if you are leading a rider who is about to exchange. You can then safely go underneath their teammate as they will exchange behind you and that is just fine. Also be aware of other teams that are exchanging at the same corner you are. This means that if you are rider one you should hold your position as you enter the corner before as teams will line up based on entry to a corner. If you are rider two, then you need to line up in the order that the riders enter the previous corner in. This will ensure the teams are lined up as the exchanges occur in the next corner. However as most riders know, corners are where exchanges take place so be prepared to jostle your position, and really hope that no one passes in the straight leading up to the exchange corner. Also be aware of speeds, as this will vary dramatically during the race. An exchange at 15mph is much different than an exchange at 35mph so be ready and listen to your partner who will likely be yelling fast or slow to let you know if you are not going the right speed.
The Rules - the rules to score:
Now that you can safely ride a Madison it is time to learn how to win. A Madison is scored very much like a points race and has sprints every so often (normal is 5 minutes) and if you lap the field (pass over half the riders or the largest group) those laps are more important than points. So the same tactics that are used in a points race are used here but there is one obvious difference, you have a partner. Most tracks allow an exchange into the sprint, so unless you have one rider who is clearly better at sprinting, don't mess up your exchanges for the sprints unless you are really good. Only if you can figure out ahead when to do one and a half versus two lap exchanges to time the sprint should you attempt to get a certain rider in on a sprint lap as leaving someone in to long will normally cause a gap, then a lap, and as I said laps are much more important than points. So just keep exchanging and try for the sprints only if you know you won't lose a lap. A better strategy is often to time an exchange just after the points lap and attack the rider who tried to win the points. This will give you a gap and maybe enough to get a lap on the field.
Having a partner also gives you a weak link that other teams will try to exploit. You need to figure out who is stronger and who is faster. Likely other teams will try to time their exchanges so that they can attack someone they feel is weak, or who they know has a problem at the end of their two laps. Getting out of sync in your exchanges with the other teams, which always happens, can be a benefit or a negative. This will make it so that you have a rider who is near the end of their two laps with a fresh rider just getting thrown in. If your rider (or you) is also behind the exchange then you must go over wasting even more energy. If you are leading it out then a faster rider that you can't see might attack you. Either way you need to pay attention and always exchange as often and cleanly as possible. Almost every madison I have ever watched has been won on laps, and attacking at critical times or during a missed exchange are the easiest way to get your lap.
So if you are ready to have fun, get the best workout of you life and learn something everytime you go out on the track, then the madison is for you. It is not that scary once you get out there and do your first exchange, so just find someone who has done it before and go have fun.
- Jamie Mikami