Friday, March 26, 2010

Velodrome!

I have just returned to the US, but my last week in Austria was so eventful, that there will be a few days of post-processing. My final day in Vienna was especially action-packed. In addition to a full work schedule, many last-minute errands and a farewell dinner, I had a mini-cycling adventure with Jacqueline's owner, Wolfgang.

As the title of this post suggests, we went to the Velodrome! In case this is a new concept to some, a velodrome is an arena for fast-paced track cycling - i.e. cycling on a (fixed gear) trackbike, either for practice or to race. I know that some of you may be wondering what place this possibly has in my world of vintage loop-frame bicyces that weigh 50lbs. Well, I have always admitted my trackbike fantasies, however hopeless and laughable they may be. And trackbikes need not mean carbon fiber monstrosities! - The original pathracers were beautiful.

Wolfgang is living proof that love of the track and love of vintage bikes need not be at odds with one another: He collects 100-year-old bicycles, rides around town on a Dutch bike, and goes to the velodrome. In fact, he transports his trackbike to the velodrome on this unbelievable cargo bike, which he also uses for one of his projects, Heavy Pedals. The trackbike is a 1988 Chesini (Italian), of which Wolfgang has two(!) in his collection.

Before I describe our trip to the velodrome, I will backtrack and say that Wolfgang did me an enormous favour that day. I had been looking for a Large Format camera for some time, and finally found a good deal - on my last day in Vienna. I then realised that not only did I have less than an hour to make arrangements to pick up the camera before the store closed, but I had no plan of how I would actually get the camera home. To explain, a large format camera is so large, that it requires you to load an individual sheet of film into it for every shot. Okay, in the digital age that might mean nothing to my readers, so I will just say that it's huge, would not fit on Jacqueline, and could not be easily carried on public transport during rush hour.

Wolfgang to the rescue with his cargo bike! As you can see, the box with the camera is quite large... but the cargo bike's enormous platform swallows it right up. I am pretty sure there is enough room there to transport a modestly sized mobile home! Of course a few passer-bys stopped to watch as we loaded the camera onto the bike, and the camera shop owner took photos.


We rode across town to drop the camera off at my flat (thanks so much again, Wolfgang!), and then on to the velodrome. Wolfgang cycles "vehicularly" and aggressively, so following him was quite a change from the kind of cycling I've been doing in Vienna. On the way to the velodrome, we raced a bit on the main alley through the Prater park, which was great fun. Jacqueline can go pretty fast, and so can Wolfgang's cargo bike. I arrived to the velodrome exhausted, though for Wolfgang this was apparently just a mild warm-up.

So... the Vienna Velodrome! Behold the awesome beauty of the Ferry Dusika Hallenstadion, Wien - the only velodrome in Austria. This is a view from the top rows of the spectators' seats. The green area in the middle is for track-and-field training, and has a rest area for cyclists on the middle-left (if you click to enlarge the picture, you can see the chairs and the bike racks). In front you can see the two staircase entrances from which the athletes and coaches emerge. The red inner track is for runners. And the outer wooden track is for cyclists.

This is difficult to capture in photos, but the cycling track is sloped sideways at a 45 degree angle. This is probably common knowledge to cyclists, but I had no idea, so seeing it was quite a shock. It was explained to me that the slope allows cyclists go at a faster speed.

Another novelty was this Derny motorized bicycle for motor-paced track cycling events. So exciting to see all of these things.

Wolfgang prepares for the track. I am extremely envious, but delighted to be in the green area taking pictures. I even brought a film camera with 1600 ISO film.

Here you can kind of see how steep the slope of the track is - see that cyclist in the background?

Wolfgang adding air to his tires.

And he is off!

There he goes around the track.

Oh how I wish I could do this too! But first things first: I can't even ride a fixed gear... or a diamond frame for that matter!

The track was not very crowded, because it was a warm evening. There a local team practicing, and a few stray individuals.

I took a couple of shots of the team members (with permission) after they got off the track, and was surprised to see how young some of them were.

And how female! This beautiful girl didn't even seem especially tired. Maybe there is hope for me after all? Though I would need to seriously get in shape first!

For now it was good just to see the Velodrome and to understand what track cycling involves. Would they permit an early 1900's pathracer on the track, I wonder?

23 comments:

  1. Wow... I know the tracks were sloped but I had no idea it was so extreme!

    Welcome back, and sorry it's cold and dreary... you missed the warm weather last weekend.

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  2. Yes, it was snowing in Somerville today - what a welcome! I am now delirious with dreams of the track, but I don't think it is realistic for someone with my skill level - so hopefully the "track fever" will pass.

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  3. Keep that fever burning! I think there might be a local velodrome in the works. At least I got a survey on this last spring, with the usual questions and I was very excited there was a track possibility. Might someone know more about this?

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  4. Anon - I recently noticed that the New England Velodrome website says they will "no longer be holding events." Does that mean the velodrome is closing entirely, or just no public events?

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  5. ". . .have always admitted my trackbike fantasies . . ."

    Ah! I'd forgotten about that one.

    "Would they permit an early 1900's pathracer on the track . . ."

    Possibly not, nor do I think you'd really want to take one out there, but one of Mike's modern replicas . . .

    "Does that mean the velodrome is closing entirely . . ."

    That means they're not sure. It's going around in North American velodromes right now. Money is tight and velodromes are regarded as an under utilized luxury.

    @astroluc:

    "I know the tracks were sloped but I had no idea it was so extreme!"

    There are even steeper tracks. There used to be a little bugger in NJ with the outer fence made out of plywood sheets. Some riders learned to how ride the "vertical bank."

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  6. For those who want to know something about...
    Track bikes, velodrome ..banked tracks, infield ... etc.

    http://www.encinovelodrome.org/ev_faq.htm

    Enjoy! ;)
    Lem

    Lem

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  7. 'Welcome Home', Velouria. ;)

    And errrr a bit more of something nice for your readers/visitors here:

    http://bishopscycles.blogspot.com/2010/02/path-racers-mixed-bag.html
    Lem(ony)

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  8. Fantastic post, Filigree! I was a full-time bicycle racer back in the 80's and the track was my specialty. I am glad you included the photo of the lovely young woman as the track is as rewarding (and challenging) for both sexes!

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  9. It was great to see those shots. Winnipeg used to have a velodrome but it was demolished in the late '90's in the name of progress (retail stores generate more taxes). I'm sure many people were upset.
    On another note, what size are the film sheets for the large format camera?

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  10. Sox - 4x5" sheet film for this camera. Though there are cameras that take up to 8x10". But even with 4x5", the negative itself is as big as a printed photo.

    Kevin - Thanks. What bike did you race in the 80s?

    Lemony - I love the Bishops Pathracers website! We need something like them in Boston. And thanks for the link to Encino Velodrome.

    kfg - Maybe I am missing something here, but why are velodromes underutilised with the soaring popularity of trackbikes?

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  11. I love large format photography. Favorite part: the black cloths!! Did you get a 4x5, 8x10, or some other size?

    Also, the angle on that track terrifies me a little bit...

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  12. Nice. I am going to bring my track bike too!

    Hopefully Boston's polar Spring will quickly end and real cycling season re-start. I can't wait to take my road bike off the wall. It needs some parts re-shellaced... some other parts twined... tyres inflated, etc, etc...

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  13. MDI - Yes, looks like spring has decided to wait until my Sam Hillborne is ready. But the snow yesterday was too much.

    margonaute - 4x5". We are still in the process of setting it up and getting all the accessories. The angle of the track terrifies me too, but the innermost portion is (almost) flat, so that is where I'd start. But I am told that you don't notice or feel the angle while cycling.

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  14. great post. makes me want to get on the track! i've only ridden a fixie a few times, but it's FUN. not for the city though (for me anyway).
    but if there's a track near by, then there's a real reason for a track bike....

    i wonder if one can "fall off" the track?

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  15. I have never ridden a fixie... Which makes my interest in the velodrome all the more bizarre!

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  16. Welcome home, Velouria. Robert Frost said there are two seasons in New England: winter, and the season between the Fourth of July and Labor Day.

    I raced, though not on the track, "back in the day." I still had the opportunity to ride on the Kissena and Trexlertown Velodromes.

    The pitch of the track indeed allows for faster speeds, as it allows riders to ride in a more aerodynamic position. It also is, believe it or not, a safety feature (even if it wasn't intended as such), as riders are actually less likely to topple each other when drafting or passing each other at high speeds when they're on the enbankment than they would be if they were riding level with each other.

    The irony is that as fixed-gear bikes have become more popular, velodromes are actually less-used and are therefore vulnerable to the wrecking ball. Most fixed-gear riders (myself included,these days) don't ride on the track, and few would-be racers choose it as a specialty because it requires a particular kind of discipline (not to say that other kinds of racing don't!) and doesn't offer the potential payoff of being a road or all-terrain racer.

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  17. BTW, nice double entendre! :)

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  18. Justine - I am trying to imagine how the slope would make it less likely for cyclists to topple each other, but my imagination fails. Isn't it slippery - pretty much guaranteeing that a fallen cyclist would slide right under the wheels of someone at a lower level?...

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  19. the grip of the tire allows to stay at this pitch, even the good trackbikers can stand at the most steep spots, see
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQ1j8sXtMqI&feature
    normally you can start to us this 45 degrees pitch with a speed of minimum 25, 30 km/h and this speed its quiet easy to get on the track

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  20. Wow Hoefi, that is an exciting video! I think the Italian makes it even more suspenseful. At one point I thought for sure they were going to collide. This looks like it takes great skill and to me is more exciting to watch than road racing.

    Uneducated question: why are they wearing round helmets rather than the "aerodynamic", pointy ones?

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  21. at the time trial they use the aerodynamic helmets cause at this its not allowed to go close behind another biker, they alone, means the racer doesnt has to look what happens behind him.
    the track sprinter has to be really patient observing the other biker on the track means he has to move the head.
    if you do that whith a time trial helmet, even during low speed, you would loose aerodynamic.
    and you are not so quick in turning the head, thats why they have pointy ones.

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  22. velouria, thats the first attempt of the two, they are really slow on this track pitch
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oI3qWekkYtI&feature=related

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  23. Track bike wouldnt die, cause in various places like Berlin,Dortmund Apeldoorn NL, GB and and and there are huge trackbikeparties, like six day races organized:
    http://www.sechstagerennen-berlin.de/
    http://www.velodrome.org.uk/index.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six-day_racing
    http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sechstagerennen

    BUT unfortunately the clubs in Vienna and like I red in your blog in the US they lazy......thats really bad.
    Vienna had in the 80s a 6 days race and was sold out, today the bikesportorganisation ist full of fat civil servants :-(

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