track cycling FAQ

Been watching a lot of track cycling on the olympics over the last week. I’m used to road racing and I understand the equipment and tactics and players there. Track cycling is different. Really really different. The cyclists are on totally minimalist bikes, racing one or two or three at a time, on a banked wooden indoor track, and the races are only a couple hundred meters long. I’ve been peppering Eric with questions during the olympics coverage: “There are no brakes? No gears? There’s not even a freewheel?” “Why are they using toeclips? Clipless pedals just aren’t strong enough?” or just “I have no clue what’s going on here.”

Finally Eric sent me this URL: An overview of track racing, which explains pretty much everything you’d ever want to know about how track cycling works. Its a bit late now that track racing in the olympics is over, but its still interesting reading if you have any interest at all. Plus it contains this really juicy story:

Track racing is aggressive and crashes are common, but rarely serious. One of the worst in recent Australian racing was Craig Milton’s now legendary spill in Launceston in 1985. Milton went down when a tyre blew out on him, and as he landed his pedal dug up a splinter of the then-new track surface. A 33cm long, 1cm wide spike entered his torso just under the armpit, puncturing his lung and stopping 1cm from his heart. The spike had to be broken off the track surface so Milton could be removed and he spent 8 hours under the knife as surgeons pulled bits of wood out of the wound. Milton got back on the bike a week later to win the Australian 10 mile and team pursuit championships. His effort in the team pursuit tore open the stitches and he finished the event with his blue NSW track squad strip dyed red, and had to immediately return to hospital. The spike is on display in his bike shop in Cronulla.