Showing posts with label track bike. Show all posts
Showing posts with label track bike. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Forest City Velodrome: A Night At The Races

London Ontario is blessed in that we've got one of only 4 indoor velodromes in all of North America. It isn't fancy, but it is very cool. The Rantwick family went out there last Saturday night to watch some racing. It was a very good time. There was some pretty darn good sprint racing:

There were kids and youth riders competing for their very first time, one (in yellow) as young as 9. As you'll hear, some instruction goes on during the race:

There were sprints, endurance, points and other races many of which I didn't know existed before now. The racers covered the whole spectrum from kids to young women to teenage boys to grey-haired veterans. The place had a great vibe, one of competition and support and encouragement all rolled together. The cost was $10 per adult and my kids got in free. We found it worth every penny. If you haven't attended a Race Night at the velodrome I encourage you to do so... I'm sure glad we did.

FCV is a not-for-profit organization that runs on grants, membership fees and race night earnings. If you live around London Ontario or are here for a visit, please check it out. I want this thing to flourish and be around for a long time, and it ain't cheap to heat an old hockey arena through the winter. I think non-cyclists might find it even more entertaining than those of us who ride all the time; who knows, maybe you'll catch the bug like I think I may have.

I was a little surprised at how scary the track looked with its 50 degree banks. FCV offers something called "Track 1", an introductory session where they train you up, rent you a bike, and give you a couple of hours of track time. Since I already know how to ride fixed gear, it would be a shame if I didn't try this out. When there is something as cool and rare as this right in my own city, how could I not?

I wonder if they would let me run a camera...

Yer Pal,


Monday, April 27, 2009

Fixed Gear Bicycles - I'm Too Square to be Hip

When riding on snow and ice, I prefer a mountain bike with gears and studded knobby tires. The rest of the time, however, my commuter bike is a fixed gear. When some people think of fixed gear bikes, they think of the track bikes favoured by lots of young trendy people in big cities. Bikes like this:

or this

The thing is that track bikes look dead cool, but they aren't particularly practical for carrying anything with you or staying dry, and many track frames are not drilled to accept brakes. Because you can stop a fixed gear bike with your legs, some people ride them brakeless, just as they are ridden on the track. I have no interest in blowing out my knees or learning the skip/skid stops commonly used by urban brakeless riders. Just so you understand what it is I'm not inclined (or skilled enough) to do, here are some examples:

Skip Stop

Skid Stop:

I can stop faster braking than I could skidding, and skidding eats up your tires. I use my legs to slow my bike down sometimes, of course, but my knees can't take much of those hard "backward" forces without complaining. So, I have a brake.

After some trial and error with pre-built bikes and some clumsy but educational experiments with building a fixed gear using an old road frame, I built up my current bike from scratch, gathering new or almost new parts from all over the place and taking my time. Everybody is different when it comes to what bike will suit them best. For getting around in the city quickly while still being able to carry stuff and ride in the rain (i.e. commute), this is my ideal bike.

It's many beautiful but un-hip features have been highlighted for the benefit of anyone who may mistakenly think that it is cool.

Rantwick's Bike

Fenders: Not cool, but right. Unused cable stops and guides: so much for the much touted "clean lines" of the fixie ideal; I saw no reasons other than BS ones to remove them. Over-researched panniers: well, they are panniers. Automatic un-cool points. Cheesy graphics: to be honest, if they hadn't been under the clearcoat, they would be long gone. Since they are under the clearcoat, I see no reason other than excessive vanity to remove them. Wheels: those are good, solid wheels. They lack sufficient colour and/or non-rimbrakeableness to be cool. If that big hyphenated made-up word confused you, you are normal, if a little un-hip. Rear rack: rack. enough said. Cantilever Brake: it's a brake on a fixie. To be fair, many fixed gear riders use a brake, just not the very hippest ones. By the way, it's not a break, it's a brake; that particular mistake, and its frequency in bike-related Internet stuff, bothers me quite a lot. Mud Flap: It's home-made, from a rubber stair tread for god's sake! Don't I at least have enough self-respect to buy a leather one for $40? Will the nerdiness never end? Well no, not yet...

What's the most un-cool? Knowing a word like kludge? Using it? Alliterating those K's? Using an old bicycle tube in two, no, wait... three distinct ways? The fact that it looks WAY nerdier with the camera (it was in use somewhere else at the time, I forget where) mounted on it? It doesn't really matter, does it? Special weirdo measures taken in order to mount a camera on your bike (thank God it's not my head/helmet) boil down to GEEK, full stop.

Stay Hip,


P.S. During my final read-over of this post, it occurred to me that this whole thing looks like a thinly-veiled excuse to to say, "hey, look at the bike I built! I am so very proud of myself!" Self-awareness blows. Add one more tick to the geek meter...