We’re Getting A Velodrome

The velodrome will look much like this one in Chicago, built in the 1990s

While scrolling through the worldwide web today, I came across some news that DC was getting its own velodrome this year.  Imagine that, our very own wooden track to ride in circles on!  This will be a temporary facility that will give way in a few years to a larger – possibly enclosed – track.

Once upon a time when America had very few paved roads, velodromes were indispensible for anyone wishing to cycle more than a few miles.  I have written on the tremendous influence of velodromes on cycling in the first three decades of the 20th Century, especially in America.  After boxing, professional cycling was our most popular sport and it all occurred in velodromes.

So from a historical perspective, I think having a velodrome in town would be cool.  However, I can’t help but notice that we have considerably more paved roads than 100 years ago.  I suppose it would be nice not to share it with crazed motorists.  My fear is that sharing a velodrome with crazed cyclists may be equally dangerous.  I guess it might be fun to see some low-level semi-pros race each other, but the seating capacity for this place is expected to be about 60.  It won’t be a very raucous crowd, I don’t think.

I read about other cities with velodromes and some of the people who stop by for some pedaling.  It all seems quite casual, as if  people say, “I think I’ll zip over to the velodrome for a spin today.”  I’m still not quite clear how this works.  The DC Velodrome website has information about youth leagues, a pro series, and some details about coaches being available for adults.  References to appointments are made.  I don’t want a coach and I don’t want an appointment.  I just want to show up and ride my bike on banked curves until I get bored.  Then I want to go home.  I suppose that isn’t very realistic.

I can only imagine what this will cost.  Probably too much.  That and the fact that it is about 30 miles from home will preclude my regular use.  I’ll probably stop by one time just to sample it.  It should be an amusing story, at the least!

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16 thoughts on “We’re Getting A Velodrome

  1. If I had a velodrome within 30 miles I think I’d be a regular with a track bike.
    I imagine that it will be open to the public most of the time, other than scheduled events? Velodromes have lines and ettique and riders of many different speeds can coexist so it shouldn’t be a problem to go there for some car free miles, though I think it may be boring to just go there and ride easy paced laps.

    • We’ll see, although you are thinking of 30 Illinois miles, which is not the same as 30 DC miles. 30 miles into the heart of DC requires planning akin to a safari.

  2. They are building one about an hour from here, which I think will be ready next year. I’m looking forward to it, but like you, my expectations are tempered. It may end up being more of a novelty and not suited for lengthy exercise. Might be a better fit where there are not many car-free roads (like DC). I’ll be interested to read your take.

  3. So you will be investing in a fixed wheel, no brakes, tubular tyred bike between now and track completion time then unless they will have a bike system?

      • Holy Cow, all that is necessary?!? I know that’s what the racers use because that works best for them, but I certainly hope it isn’t required. Then again, it probably is required and it explains the website’s discussion on the selection of bicycles they will have available. My enthusiasm just took another dip.

  4. I can’t imagine them letting anybody ride on their polished, shiny, expensive new boards with anything thats been anywhere near a road if thats what you had in mind ?
    It would certainly be the case here I know.

  5. The banking is 54 degrees and will take a class to learn to ride safely. Unless you’ve ridden the track in boulder or LA you will need such direction to be safe. Bigger less steep tracks do not enforce good etiquette. Just riding around should at least be without crashing.

  6. As for the rest, track bikes should be used. Something with smooth tired – no mtb as you’d have to go too fast to stay on the banks with knobby tires. Track bikes have simple fixed gear direct drive like a unicycle. Supreme pedaling precision while riding. After some time going to the track to just do laps without cars will lose novelty. That’s where group dynamic and competition makes the place worth going to again and again.

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