May 28, 2009

36:2:28: track bicycle racing


It's been creeping through my brains lately, it has controlled, regrown my ideas and thoughts on biking. Dont get me wrong, I love my 14 speed Raleigh to death. But the fascination, the idea of riding the simple, single speed bicycle. Its the way to race apparently. Plus, I think it'd be a great and good summer project. Since last year's project was getting the Raleigh running again. Turns out, the parts on my Raleigh may be worth more than the track bike i'm putting together!

I set out for some cool ideas and places to further the usage of track/fixed gear bicycles for that fixed gear purpose, rather than tricks. The polo grounds in Golden Gate Park is one of my absolutely, most favorite places in the entire park. Just the thought of people actually playing polo in America, let alone San Francisco still amuses me. But until 1963, I assume, the San Francisco Wheelmen (now the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition) used to host races. Track races, not touring and distance races. So apparently, that track, probably not the original track, but hopefully graded the same, was used for bike races from the 1880s until 1963 when the competition was last held. I really would like to see that come back.

Consider Hellyer Park Velodrome in San Jose. Strange place for a bike velodrome, but hey, apparently the city used to be pretty big on bicycles. The velodrome track there runs three hundred and thirty-three meters. That's about 1000 feet. The smalles velodrome in the world is in Canada at close to 158 meters. That's a distance of 465 feet. But wait, take into account the banking and the curvature of the track, that's a pretty steep bank there to make sure you dont fly into a wall. I cant imagine the curves at the polo ground being too big or too small. The entire track is approximately 1100 meters or 3300 feet. That's just about two thirds of a mile. Pretty intense. I'm pretty sure the ground there has been regraded several times, with ill regard to the curvature, but the turns are so big, and the long stretches are at least 1050 feet. So that's 2100 feet of straight, flat track and two turns that add up to 1200 feet in circumference. That will mean a 200 foot radius turn. You really dont need too much of a bank, but there is a chain link fence that surrounds the grass. That might be a bit of a cheese grater if you rub against it. Yuck.

Another perfect place to put a Velodrome. There is a cinder track and field on top of the Clark Kerr campus in Berkeley. The entire field is little used, and I know the track is just used by afternoon joggers and morning walkers. But I'd say it would be a pretty smart investment for UC Berkeley to build an outdoor velodrome there. People love using their track/fixie bikes in Berkeely and in the surrounding area, I dont see why the university cant capitalize on it. Make it similar to Hellyer Park. Charge five dollars per day per person, hold competitions, speed trials, regulate everything to make it legitimate. If they even felt like it, put a roof over it to prevent vandals from sneaking in at night to take advantage free rides. It could make up for failure to purchase the Berkeley Iceland. The cinder track surrounds the field, its about 400 meters.

Or even putting it in Iceland itself. That would produce a 200 meter track, not regulation, but hey, who's keeping track. I've however had hopes of seeing Iceland used for its original purpose. Ice Skating. Even an aircraft hangar at the Alameda Base, that'd be cool. I'm studying to be an architect, but I really love bicycles. I have this dream, a personal goal to be realized. I've often noted, the lack and difficulty to find a place to work on bicycles to have all the necessary tools on hand, and the expertise to help out. I want to design a place that would create a communal bike repair shop, rather than putting it completely in the hands of the experienced, getting the user involved rather than being a user. Going from User to utilizer.

One thing I think I ought to learn is the really cool way to get off a fixed gear:

"As the bicycle slows to near walking speed, disengage your left foot, then wait for the right pedal to get to the bottom of its circle. As the right pedal starts to rise, straighten your right leg and let the motion of the pedal lift you up. Let go of the handlebars, let the saddle move forward between your legs, and put your left foot on the ground. As the bike goes ahead, grab it by the saddle. It takes a bit of courage to try this, but it is actually very easy to do. It is also extremely impressive to watch. When executed properly, it is very smooth, and you can go from riding to walking in a single fluid motion, without ever coming to a stop"

I've gotten derision for my decision. I want to build to race, not to be foppish or hipstery. It's an experience I believe that should be taken to its fullest. Plus, I have friends and people who are always willing to help. Lucky me.

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