What Is a Velodrome? Velodrome Racing and Track Bikes

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All over the world there are velodromes. Places where cyclists can go to race on an oval track against other cyclists.

For some reason there are only 22 velodromes in the entire U.S.A. Compare that to the 28 velodromes in Spain, 52 in Japan, 31 in Italy, 37 in Germany and 43 in France. The U.S. is a larger country than any of them and yet sorely lacking in velodromes.

Cyclists can go to race on an oval track against other cyclists – image by heraldscottland.com

There are several different kinds of cycling races done in velodromes, all of them very fast. Speed is not everything when racing in a velodrome though. Strategy is even more important. You can be the fastest cyclist on the track but if you don’t know how to get to the front of the pack you are going to lose.

Some velodromes are concrete and some are made of wood. Some are outdoor and some are indoor. They also come in slightly varying sizes but they are all the same shape and they are all designed for speed.

Wood velodrome – image by archdaily.com

Kids can start racing at a velodrome as young as 8 years old. They learn to handle a track bike and how to ride on the track. By the time they are adults they are expert at racing at very high speeds and are able to cut through the pack with ease.

Track Bikes are Different

Track bikes are different from road bikes, a lot different. First of all they have something called fixed gears. Fixed gears mean that if you pedal forward your bike goes forward and if you pedal backward your bike goes backward.

Track bike vs road bike – image by bikeexchange.com

If you try to pedal backward while going forward you run the risk of falling over. Your legs move constantly on a track bike. They can’t stop or you will stop.

The other thing that’s different about a track bike is that they have not brakes. You can’t stop the track bike on the track unless you slow the bike down first. You can slow down or stop by pedaling slower. The tires are very thin and the bikes are very light.

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