I Want a Track Bike

07.4.2005 | 5:19 am

Last Friday I took my 9-yr-old to the Marymoor Velodrome for the Friday Night Races. We hadn’t been since last season, and the weather was perfect for an evening out. Plus, the velodrome is only a few miles from where we live. Nice!
This was only the second time I’ve been to track races. Until you’ve been, you can understand why it’s not a massively popular sport — what’s fun to watch about guys riding bikes around in a circle? Well, I don’t know if the Marymoor Velodrome is typical, but the races we watched were anything but dull. In particular, there were a couple of formats my son and I thought were incredible.


This may have been the strangest kind of racing I’ve ever seen. Five or so riders start going around the track, drafting behind a motorcycle, for crying out loud (Interesting tech tidbit: the motorcycle is equipped with a roller behind its back wheel, so the person right behind the motorcycle can bump it without immediately turfing). Over the course of five laps, the motorcycle gradually ramped up speed — to 35mph according to the announcer. Then, with 1.5 laps to go, he peels off the track, and the cyclists — now going at a full-on sprint speed — duke it out to cross the finish line first.


I’m sure there are some serious tactics you could learn to do this kind of race well — for one thing, you wouldn’t want to be the guy who’s right behind the motorcycle when it drops off the track, because you’re suddenly leading the group at a pace you can’t sustain and you’re fully exposed to the air. For my son and me, though, it was just a riot to watch these guys spinning such a surreal cadence. They can’t shift gears or coast, remember.



While I had at least heard of Keirin, I had never heard of Madison, but this is what my son and I wound up talking about all the rest of the night — and into the next day. Yeah, we watched stage 1 of the TdF together, but Madison was what we were still talking about.

  • There were eight teams, each consisting of two cyclists — so 16 cyclists out on the track, all at once. Jam-packed.
  • At any point, one member of the team was "in," the other was "out."
  • The "in" racer goes around the the track at a full-on sprint pace, while the "out" racer stays up high on the outside of the track.
  • Just as the "in" racer is about to come by the "out" racer, the "out" racer drops down into the inside of the track, crossing in front of the "in" racer, and extends his right hand.
  • The "in" racer catches the "out" racer’s hand as he shoots by, then slings the "out" racer forward, hard.
  • Now the "out" racer is the "in" racer and the "in" racer is the "out" racer, and maneuvers his way to the outside of the track.
  • Repeat for 32 laps.

 With eight teams out there, someone is swapping constantly. Total mayhem, but — and I was truly amazed by this — nobody crashed. I am absolutely certain that if I tried this kind of exchange, I would tangle handlebars with my teammate every single time.


By the time this race was over, I wanted to run out and ask these Cat 1 & 2 racers for their autographs. They had put on the most exhilirating race I have ever seen.


We’re going back this Friday.


I Want to Play, Too

While we were watching the Madison, my son said something like, "Wouldn’t it be cool if you were doing this race?" Well, there are a couple of reasons why I would never do a Madison:

  • I’m guessing that you’ve got to be Cat 1 or 2 to do that kind of race, and I am not likely to ever reach that kind of level.
  • I’m too timid. Ask anyone I mountain bike with. I just don’t have the guts for that kind of race.

That said, I was thinking that it would be very cool to get out and try track racing. The Marymoor Velodrome has a nice program where you take a 1-day class to learn rules and etiquette for track racing. Then you’re allowed to do Monday night races, which is where all the novices get together and try to get used to it. Then you can graduate to Wednesday night racing. I haven’t read up on it, but there’s some threshold you’ve got to cross before you’re allowed to do Friday night races, so Wednesday nights are probably all I’d ever hope for. But still.


And besides, I noticed in the Keirin a guy with a gut every big as mine won the first heat. Weight doesn’t matter as much on the track, you see.


Thanks for the Awkward Moment, Tyler

After the races, as we walked back to the car, my son and I were talking about the Tour de France. He asked, "You’ll be rooting for Tyler (Hamilton), right dad?" It was a rhetorical question, because I always root for Tyler.


You need to understand: I’m a fan of Tyler to the point of irrationality. He’s my hero. He never quits; I never quit. I’ve finished an endurance race with a separated shoulder, chanting "Tyler wouldn’t quit." I’ve finished another endurance race after the seat broke off my bike — riding uphill for 20 miles in a standing position – chanting "Tyler wouldn’t quit." Seriously.


As you’ve probably guessed, I haven’t told my kids about the Hamilton doping debacle. I have my reasons. Mainly, I’m still holding out hope that this will all turn out to be a big mistake. 


So instead, I told my son, "He won’t be racing this year."


"Why not?" he asked, taken aback.


"He just isn’t. Hey, want some ice cream?" 


Today’s Weight: Unknown. I’m not weighing myself during the vacation. I’ll deal with the nasty shock — and probability that it will cost me $50 in this week’s Fat Cyclist Sweepstakes — when vacation’s over.




  1. Comment by Unknown | 07.5.2005 | 2:00 am

    Track riding is a unique experience. They didn’t have Keirin racing back in my day, but I did Madisons lots of times. It seemed like I always had a partner who outweighed me, so I got great momentum from the throws. It was a lot of fun.

  2. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 07.5.2005 | 5:29 am

    You’ve done Madisons? Is it as scary as it looks? Did you ever cross handlebars at the throws?Respect to you for doing that kind of racing. It looks hairy.

  3. Comment by Unknown | 07.5.2005 | 3:23 pm

    I never crashed doing it. It *was* hairy, though. But being 18 and fearless at the time, I thought it was quite a lot of fun. We didn’t do the ‘hand throw’, though. Most riders in those days wore special Madison shorts that were reinforced across the back and had a little pocket on the inside of the left side. They would put a dowel or a rolled up sock in that pocket to make a bump in the shorts. When you were going to throw your partner into the race, you would grab that bump and just yank them by the shorts into the race. The hand throw works better, but it’s harder to do. And the Madison technique is still useful sometimes on rides if someone is getting tired and lagging. I just tell them to hold on to the bars and I grab their seat and throw them down the road. I did that once for 10 miles to get a friend of mine to the finish of a 90-mile ride.

  4. Comment by Unknown | 07.5.2005 | 10:52 pm

    your tyler hero worship is silly. reminds me of last year when velonews and every other fawning psuedo-cycling journalist went ape shit trying to turn hamilton’s dead dog into jesus, or an actual child, or something. stop it. i have a theory about hamilton’s positive doping test results: the uci engineered the whole thing to rid the world of the feel-good dead dog lovin, broken collarbone race winnin, great american hero of believe it or not i’m walkin on air singin, totally nauseating antics of the man from marblehead. go anywhere, but just go.all right, maybe that was a little harsh. but i really really really hated those dog stories. somebody back me up on this.

  5. Comment by duane | 07.7.2005 | 5:34 pm

    Sorry dug, can’t back you up, i’ve got Tivo and i’m not afraid to use it to get past crap i don’t want to watch.As for track racing, take the class and come out in the evenings with me! It’s a blast and a great workout!On Mondays they have beginner ‘racing’ – but it’s not so much about who finishes first, it’s more about them seeing how you do in a pack riding situation, do you follow the rules etc. After 3 monday nights (or more if you’re not doing so well), you get moved up to Wednesday nights and that’s real ‘Racing’. On Thursday nights, they do a training session – but rumor has it that tonight is the last one so, not sure on that, i’ll update you tomorrow. I’m going out there tonight. they also have the Kiddy Kilo for kids – my 3 year old was crushed that he couldn’t ride a few weeks ago so, I’ll have him out later this season.

  6. Comment by Ian | 07.11.2005 | 2:07 am

    hey, I just finished a session at the Velodrome. I would highly reccomend the track lessons; it was GREAT.Sadly, I live in south Tacoma, so it was a very long trip up there. at least for my parents. I am 15, and I was not the youngest person there, surprisingly. You should do it! you can rent bikes too. (I could never afford another bike…I have a garage full of em..)

  7. Pingback by Fat Cyclist » Blog Archive » Come Ride AND EAT with Me Tomorrow at the 100 Miles of Nowhere | 06.3.2011 | 11:28 am

    [...] Or check it out: we even got some press coverage, when Tom Wick and his team motorpaced 100 miles in the Marymoor Velodrome (I get nostalgic whenever I think of the Marymoor velodrome). [...]


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.