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Thursday, September 30, 2004

Velodrama 

Last night I went to the Burnaby Velodrome, the only, er, oldest indoor velodrome on the continent.

I had only ridden the velodrome once before, two years ago during an open-house event. But I have ridden just enough fixed-gear to have familiarity with the idea (never stop pedaling). So I paid my drop-in fee, rented a bike, and went for it.

The velodrome was way too much fun. The scariest part is getting back on the track for the first time. The banking in the corners is 47 degrees. You cannot walk up or stand on the track in the corners. If you ride too slow, some combination of your tire starting to slip down and your pedal striking the track will drop you like a stone, so minimum corner speed is 30 km/h. The first few laps involved an act of will in which I watched other riders go around the corners without falling down, and thus told myself I could do the same, no matter how wrong it felt.

The attraction of track riding is the purity. No gears, no brakes, no coasting, no real turns (the corners are so steep that it's quite typical to have to steer against the bank in the corner at less than race pace), no distractions except other riders and the creepy sensations if you try to ride on he plywood sections at the top of the track corners.

I'm still a little scary on the boards. My line wanders, I don't think I trust the bike enough yet, and I was deathly afraid of doing something dumb and knocking over someone else (I didn't, though). But the sensations are amazing. You whip through the corners and get sucked down into them by the G-forces; you look down to see riders below you in corners (which isn't an exaggeration: at mid-track in the corners, you are about 3m up, well over the heads of any humans in the infield); the bikes are quite silent except for a little track rumble, much of that from the various places where the track is taped up or the finish is chipped.

Dues are a steep $325/a this year, but if I can hit the track twice a week, it will be worthwhile.

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