WHAT: VELODROMES and TRACK RACING
A velodrome is an arena for track bicycling. Modern velodromes feature steeply banked corners, consisting of two 180-degree circular bends connected by two straights with moderate banking.
Velodrome-track racing is an exciting and fast sport. Today, the growing popularity of track bicycling in the U.S. and around the world repeats a history that began in the late 1800′s and continued into the 1930′s. In the United States, track bicycling used to be very popular. Madison Square Garden in New York City was originally built in 1879 with a bicycle racing track, and racers were the sporting stars of the day. With upwards of 30 velodromes on the east coast, and dozens more around the country, velodrome bicycle racing was the ultimate sport of its time, as big as baseball and better attended. Over this period, San Francisco had velodromes at six locations. Track racing is now hugely popular in many countries such as France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Japan. In Japan, professional “Keirin” track bicycling is a betting sport that began in 1948, and has since become very popular there and in Korea. Aspiring professional Keirin riders compete for entrance into the Japan Keirin School. The 10 percent of applicants who are accepted then undergo a strict 15-hour per day training regimen, and only those who pass the graduation exams and are approved become eligible to compete in professional Keirin races.
Track racing is fast! Racing on the track is a great way to improve your power and sprinting. It is also an excellent spectator sport. Compared with road racing where crowds may only get one glimpse of racers going by, the velodrome captures all the action and is a great place to bring family or friends for sporting entertainment.
Track bicycling has been a part of the Summer Olympics since the first modern Games in Athens in 1896. Women’s participation in Olympic track bicycling began in 1988. Historically, tracks have been many lengths including 333, 400, and 500 meters. Now most modern tracks are constructed as 250-meter tracks where 4 laps = 1km, which is now the standard for Olympic and World Championship competition. The popularity of the 250-meter track stems from the fact that racing on it is more spectacular than on the larger 333-meter track, as it has steeper banking of 43 to 45 degrees, and the design offers better racing lines for cyclists. Spectators also feel they are closer to the action on the smaller size track. A 250-meter track covers an area of about 350 by 200 feet. Recently, there is a trend towards building even smaller 200 and 166-meter tracks. They are proving to be exciting and have been very well received by riders and spectators.
Traditionally, velodromes were built of wood, concrete, or paving material. Modern velodromes are now usually “state-of-the-art,” being precision-designed and manufactured with complex software programs, and built with equally advanced composite materials, which now include engineered-polyester/wood-laminate surfaces. This is the modern formula for a safe, economical, long lasting and “record-breaking” track.
The benefits of track riding and racing are many. Riding a single speed bike with no brakes or freewheel around a track is fast and exciting, and it also teaches some important and useful bike-handling skills. A track bike only has one gear, so in order to sprint, or to close the gap between you and the rider in front, you have to be able to spin quickly, which is a more efficient and effective way to ride your bike. Most of all, track racing is a lot of fun, and there are events to suit everyone’s tastes and strengths, including team events.