Since I was a boy I have been fascinated by wheels and once in a while I wonder why. No one knows the answer to these things but speculation continues. Perhaps wheels gave my mind purpose, purpose figuring out what exactly one could do if one had wheels. Once you have wheels you first use them to make a circuit to return to the place you started thereby forming another circle. Take notice.
You can see where I am going with this, wheels turning while circulating on a a round track. It’s like the highest form of cycling/life, it’s priesthood in the church of the rotating mass.
In the early 70′s I was one of the first generation of kids riding 20″ wheels. We emulated motocross bikes, trying new stunts on almost every ride. I crashed a bit and damaged (and repaired) my bike a lot, but I saw so many new things and challenged myself to pedal as fast or as far as I could. Actually, I was more about “as fast” but my buddy loved to ride to the beach or “Burbank” (for some unknown reason) on anywhere that took 12 hours or more and would result in burning grease running down my spokes while the sun fell below the Santa Monica mountains.
I wasn’t much for climbing out of the valley I grew up in. I lived in the hilly suburbs just north of Los Angles in the San Fernando valley.
“The Valley” is what the area is called (and likely what you know it as if you are a Zappa fan of any merit) and located about the middle of the southern end of “the valley” is an area called Encino. I didn’t know much about Encino except that my mom worked there on the third floor of an office building and at a local park, just around the corner was a velodrome. Perhaps I had seen it in a newspaper or on TV but I knew it was there somehow.
Built in 1962 for $25,000 the Encino Velodrome is a small 250 meter track made of concrete with seating for 5,000 fans. Most tracks in the states are larger. The International tracks where records are set and medals are won are generally 250 meters however which make it special.
The Encino track should have been rebuilt in the 70′s for the Olympics but nearby Dominguez Hills got a new track instead because people in Encino complained about the increase in traffic, smog and perhaps crime on a temporary basis during the games or something like that.
I would ride several hours from my home on my 20″ Stingray to visit the Velodrome in the early 70′s and climb the stands to the top row to watch the events. I felt such a strong sense of belonging at that track that the top row of the stands, the one way at the top was the only one lacking the gravitational pull (not in the normal direction) that would cause me to tumble to the apron and on to a track bike waiting for me at the starting line.
That my friends, is a strong urge.
As irresistible as it was, opportunity somehow evaded me for the past thirty years but I now have another chance to ride a couple of the tracks here in the east and I am not going to miss out. No way.
My first stop (or go, as it were) will be at the historic Velodrome at Kissena park, NY . I didn’t know much about Kissena park a few days ago but a quick search revealed a really solid base of support and a history of personal investment by the local clubs.
I figured even though I can wall-ride as well as any old geezer(except Wade and some other guys) but I still figure some basic education was in order. I found that the folks at Pink Rhino racing have extended an invitation to anyone that wants to learn on the 4th of August. Riding a fixed gear bike is a little unusual if you are used to a coaster bike but the real education is getting around without crashing or taking someone else out while riding a banked surface. There are several lines painted around the track that mark specific zones for motorpaced riding, shortest line and another called “the sprinters line”. It just sounds awesome to me. ‘sorry if I got something on ya there hehe.
It’s good to have a bike of your own but many tracks including Kissena have a small fleet of loaner bikes available if you call ahead. On beginner days there is plenty of people around to help you prepare, keep you upright so you can start without trouble and guide you through the rules and etiquette of track riding.
Naturally, I have been having a lot of day-dreams regarding track bikes and metal fabrication and I have begun to show up early to work and stay a little late to make a new steel track bike for myself. I did one for a friend in Maine a few months ago and have had other ideas. I still need to find some parts to get this thing rolling or circulating as it were.
I made several awesome bikes and ridden many miles since the last time we spoke. Here are several but too few photos. Thanks for looking.