Sports | local | NW Life

The First Time Around: Velodrome Cycling For Beginners

OPB | Aug. 26, 2013 1:45 p.m.

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Ever dreamed of riding your bicycle on the steeply pitched banks of an Olympic-style velodrome? Ten dollars and a helmet can make it a reality.

Track development classes for novice riders are offered most Wednesday evenings at the Alpenrose Velodrome on SW Shattuck Road in Portland from late April through August, weather permitting. A track bike — one without gears or brakes — is provided.

“It’s for anybody who wants to try to ride the track at Alpenrose,” says Meg Mautner, a middle-school teacher who leads a team of volunteers who teach the class under the auspices of the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association.

Mautner says the class attracts all comers — families, bike messengers, groups of office colleagues, casual cyclists and some “who want to cross it off their bucket list.”

A velodrome is an oval cycling track with steeply banked corners. Alpenrose Dairy built the velodrome on its 52-acre property in 1967 to host that year’s National Amateur Bicycle League Championship. Today it plays host to local, regional and national events as one of only 28 velodromes in the country, according to USA Cycling’s website. Alpenrose is among the narrowest, which means a small turning radius and a steep bank — 43 degrees — in each corner. The slopes of most velodromes, by comparison, are between 25 and 33 degrees.

Participants in the Wednesday-evening track development class are taught how to pedal a fixed gear, stay safely on the track and go fast. The latter two go hand-in-hand, Mautner says, since the faster you go, the easier it is to navigate the steeply banked curves.

“The hardest thing is for people to remember they have to keep speed,” says Mautner. “Because if you go too slow in the banking, you will slide off. And usually the adrenaline is enough and you’re like — gasp! — pedal pedal pedal through the turns, because we stress that so much.”

Like many first-timer riders last Wednesday, Matthew Babcock rode tentatively at first, but eventually gained confidence. “Once you figure it out and kind of get the rhythm going, it’s really addictive,” said Babcock, a stay-at-home dad from Beaverton. “I had a lot of fun out there.”

The $10 fee includes rental of a fixed-gear bike, any other needed gear and instruction from experienced volunteers. Bring a helmet if you have one (there are some available at the track). This Wednesday, August 28, is the final class of the season.

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