The Track Cycling Velodrome

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Track cycling is a cycling sport played generally in the summer. It requires a lot of practice, specialized bicycles and can be conducted best on specifically made tracks called ‘Velodromes’.

Track cycling is a cycling sport played generally in the summer. It requires a lot of practice, specialized bicycles and can be conducted best on specifically made tracks called ‘Velodromes’. The modern structures of velodromes have oval tracks that are steeply banked. These tracks have two 180 degree circular bends. These bends are then connected using two straights.

Super elevation or turn banking helps the riders in riding perpendicular to the surface, at a specific speed. The banking is generally ten to fifteen degrees lesser than the predictions in physics as the speed on which the riders are riding are not constant or at full speed always. The speed of the rider depends on the kind of event, team strategy and space too. The straight track gradually increases in curve into the circular turn. The easement spiral or transitions are names for this decreasing radius. It helps the bikes in pursuing the track while maintaining a specific radial position. It helps the riders to mind tactics instead of steering.

Velodromes can be ridden with special bicycles. These do not employ brakes. But have a non free wheeling cog or a singularly fixed rear gear. It is a measure towards speed maximisation, weight reduction, avoiding sudden braking, and others. one of the most famous and accomplished modern velodrome designers are the Schuermann architects from Germany. They have over 125 tracks to their credit all over the world. Mostly, they use wood trusswork for outdoor velodromes with a wood strip surface of Afzelia, which is a very rare wood from the rain forests.

However, indoor velodromes can be made of a cheaper material like pine wood. Many designers have experimented with new materials, like the synthetic and steel framed surfaces seen in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The measurement of the track is taken from a line twenty centimetres higher than the bottom. The velodromes made for Olympics have a standard of only 250 to 400 meters. Also the length should allow the whole of or half the number of laps to give a distance of one kilometre. Most major events use a 250 m length though they can be anywhere between 133m to 500 too.

The Calshot spit velodrome in Hampshire, UK, is a mere 142 m the reason being that it was made so that it could fit inside the hangar of an aircraft. The world’s shortest velodrome is in London, Ontario, Canada called the Forest City Velodrome it is only 138m as it was made to fit a hockey arena. Both the Calshot and Forest City feature steep banking. In the old days, tracks were built around race tracks or vast grounds that allowed shallow banking, the longer the track, the shallower the banking and vice versa. At 250m a track should bank around 45 degrees and a 333m track should have about 32 degree banking.

The surfacing of these tracks can be done using a variety of materials like synthetics, timber, concrete, macadam, cinder etc. Timber and synthetics are used for new Olympic type shorter track while concrete, macadam and cinder are used for tracks that have a longer length are older and not that expensive.

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