Last weekend, I had the opportunity to ride the Hellyer Park Velodrome in San Jose, California, with my cousin Ben Burbridge who lives in Berekley. They have “Saturday Mornings Beginner Training Sessions”, where you can rent a track bike for $5 and ride the track for $5. We commented that it was the most fun we’ve had for $10 in a long time. The best part was the instruction. We were taught the rules of the track; the purpose of “the rail”, “the stayers line” and “the sprinters lane”. Once you understand the rules, you have much more confidence on the track. The only goals were 1. don’t get hurt, and 2. don’t embarrass yourself. We did fine on #1, but #2 was debatable.
The track bikes that we rented took a lot to get used to. They were fixed gear, so you had to constantly pedal and could not coast. At the end of a race, they’d yell at us, “keep pedaling, keep pedaling!” They knew our instinct was to coast after the line and that would send us over the handlebars. Also, the bikes had no brakes, which truly added to the nervous factor.
The first part of the session was devoted to the rules and getting acquainted with the track and track bikes. After that, we went through some drills that included sprinting for a short distance against two other riders. Next, we did “Kirin Races”. A “pacer” leads out 6 to 7 racers. They can jockey for position, but can not pass the pacer. At lap 4 ½ the pacer exits the track, and the racers sprint for 1 ½ laps. It’s very exciting and nerve racking at the same time. We competed in several of these races until the end of the morning session.
In a brochure on the park it states “A velodrome was built in 1962 as a training site for cyclists wishing to compete in the 1962 Pan American Games. San Jose had once been considered the bicycling capital of the United States. In the early 1900’s, bicycling was the most popular recreation activity in the valley and enthusiasm has lasted for decades. The existing … velodrome is the fifth in a succession built in San Jose”. Click here to get more information about the Hellyer Park Velodrome.
If you are ever out in the San Jose area, I’d recommend checking out the velodrome. You need to be at the park at 8:30 am and bring your helmet, cycling shoes, pedals, pedal wrench, warm clothing, water, allen wrenches and sunscreen. I’m looking forward to riding the track again in the future.