Your First Ride at the Velodrome
October 7, 2016
You’ve got a brand new fixed gear bike, and you’re ready to give riding at the velodrome a try. It looks exciting, but maybe also intimidating and confusing - where do you start? Check out our guide to getting started riding the track.
What is a velodrome?
A velodrome (from the French “velo” (bicycle) is a track for racing bicycles, typically built with steep, banked curves. As of this writing, there are about 20 velodromes in the USA, and many more worldwide.
To ride the velodrome, you’ll need a fixed gear bicycle - with a single gear that does not freewheel (no coasting). This means when the bike is in motion, your pedals are too. You won’t be allowed to ride the velodrome with brakes - instead, you’ll use your legs to slow the bike, and use the banking to help control your speed as well.
Most velodromes also require that you bike have a solid rear axle (no quick releases). If you don’t have an appropriate bike, most velodromes offer loaner or rental bikes.
Riding the velodrome is different from riding on the street or trail. You don’t have brakes, the speeds can be high, and bike handling is important. Your local velodrome club or association can provide you with an introduction, usually held on a non-race day when the track is open for lower speeds and beginner riders.
Where are the velodromes?
Velodromes can range from huge, indoor, world-class facilities, like the ADT Event Center in Southern California to smaller, local (often outdoors in a city or county park) tracks.
Your local velodrome probably has an association or club that maintains the track, schedules events, and controls access. They probably offer training, too, and may require you to complete a basic safety class before you get access, especially if you haven’t raced on the track before. Here are some of the popular track and associations that can help beginners get started:
- Hellyer Park Velodrome (San Jose, CA)
- Encino Velodrome (Los Angeles, CA)
- San Diego Velodrome (San Diego, CA)
There are many more velodromes worldwide. To find one near you, try this Wikipedia article on velodromes.
See you at the track!