« Al Franken's book - no discount at Costco? | Home | In-N-Out Burger: I don't get it. »

September 8, 2003

Track races

One of the Summer Olympic events I've always enjoyed is bicycle track races. Track bikes are unfamiliar beasts - they have only one gear, no brakes, and they don't freewheel: unlike your average bike, you can't stop pedaling if the bike is moving. They don't have brakes: you slow down by pedaling slower. Unfortunately, Olympic coverage of track races is usually relegated to the after-midnight show.

Track races take place on - you guessed it - a track - typically an oval race trace 200-250m long, with steeply sloped sides all the way around. A typical trace race is a sprint: two riders, three laps. But they don't just start out full tilt. It's no uncommon for the two riders to go very slowly through first two laps, almost coming to a stand still, and then for one rider to make a break to out race the other rider. Lots of strategy.

This weekend an old friend invited me to go with him to the Encino Velodrome on Saturday.

The Encino Velodrome isn't much to look at; it's a concrete track set among a bunch of youth baseball fields. This weekend was the "Far West Cycling Championships." As the track announcer said several times, the Far West was a big deal in the 60's and 70's; this weekend it was attended by perhaps 200 people.

It was great fun. The racers ranged in age from perhaps 12 or 13 to 50. The big event was the Far West sprint championship; the winner was a 20-something Malaysian rider named Josiah Ng. Even more inspiring was the third place rider who was a gentleman in his 50s.

Great fun. Atlanta apparently has a velodrome, so I'll have to get the family out to see some races.


Some velodromes even have bikes the public can borrow/rent to use on the track. If you think watching track races is fun, try riding on one :)