In the cycling world, there are several categories of racing styles. One of the lesser known styles is track racing, a team or individual event in which competitors ride fixed-gear – or non-coasting -- bicycles with no brakes on an oval track called a velodrome. A velodrome is typically made of wood and has ramped corners to accommodate a racer’s high speed in sharp turns; they may be built as outdoor or indoor tracks.
The velodrome was especially popular in the beginning of the twentieth century as track racing had caught on at the time as a spectator sport. In recent years, track racing and consequently the velodrome have become more obscure, the most popular events being held at the Olympics. There are fewer than thirty velodromes in the United States but they are more numerous throughout Europe and other parts of the world.
A velodrome is typically constructed out of wooden strips. For outdoor tracks, construction materials may vary to counteract exposure to the elements. Concrete and synthetic velodromes have become more common in recent years, but expensive woods that can account for moisture variation in the air are also used. For indoor tracks, pine or other cheaper woods may be used to construct the velodrome since the track will not be exposed to the elements. Much like a car racing track, the velodrome features an infield in the center of the track, which is considered out of bounds during the race.
The velodrome features banked corners to work with the inertia forces acting upon cyclists as they turn around the track. This allows the cyclists to keep their bicycles perpendicular to the track at high speeds through the turn and carry that force through the straight-aways. This also reduces the likelihood of the bicycle’s tires losing enough contact with the track to keep the bicycle vertical. The corners may be banked upwards of 27 degrees or more to account for a cyclist’s speed in turns.
It is not uncommon to see a velodrome being used for other purposes besides cycling. Human-powered vehicle (HPV) testing and racing is common, as are in-line speed skating events. The velodrome’s size will vary depending on the space in which it is built, and usually the banked turns become steeper as the track gets shorter. A typical velodrome can vary in size between 250 and 500 meters, and the banked corners can range anywhere from 25 degrees to 45 degrees.