Track Racing

Two things separate track racing from other types of bicycle racing:

  • The venue in which the races take place

  • The type of bicycle that one must ride.

The venue:

Track races occur in velodromes, which are banked oval tracks ranging from 166 meters to 400 meters in length. Shorter tracks require more aggressive banking in the corners, which can range from 45 degrees on very short tracks to 12 degrees on long tracks. Velodromes can be indoors or outdoors, and the racing surface can be wood or concrete.

The bike:

Racers ride track bicycles, which have a single, fixed gear, which lacks the ability to coast. When the rear wheel rotates, the pedals rotate in the same direction. By resisting the rotation of the pedals, a rider can slow down and stop. These bikes don’t have brakes, either, because the riders can slow down through resistance and because the track is closed and banked. While this might seem dangerous, these track bicycles are actually built this way for safety reasons. Without the ability to make sudden stops or change gears, all changes in speed are relatively gradual. This keeps races predictable and prevents crashes.

Track racing:

Track racing is one of the fastest and most intense cycling disciplines. While there are opportunities for individual timed efforts on the track, the vast majority of racing available to new riders is "mass start" racing, where riders compete against a field of other riders. There are dozens of different races (see glossary), ranging from the simple chariot race (where racers try to be first across the line after one lap) to the complex points race (where riders try to accumulate points by being first across the finish line in a number of predetermined laps during the race). Strategy and tactics play are key to determine who is successful at track racing.

How to participate:

The Ed Rudolph Velodrome in Northbrook, Ill., is the closest velodrome. This facility is a longer, 382-meter outdoor, concrete velodrome. Practice sessions led by licensed coaches occur on Monday and Tuesday nights, and entry-level (Category 5) racing happens on Friday nights. New racers must complete ten track experiences to upgrade to Category 4 races, which happen on Thursday nights. The Monday and Tuesday practice sessions and Friday night races qualify as experiences, but five of the ten experiences must be races.

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