There are still many big road races coming up, but I can't help but get excited for track racing at my favorite down-home race venue, the Kissena Velodrome. Opening Weekend at the Kissena Velodrome is in just a few weeks, on April 25 and 26. The schedule has been posted, and that means it's time to get excited - organize your squad for the team sprint, plan your strategy for the points race, and while you're at it, you can let your boss know that you'll be leaving a little bit earlier than usual on Wednesday or Thursday so that you can race the Twilight Series.
Just getting started? Here's some helpful information: the velodrome is located in a public park, which means that you can use it whenever you want to, however you want to, unless a permitted activity (like a race) is taking place. Racing will happen through the end of the summer, on Wednesday and Thursday nights. If you plan to be regular, you should go to USACycling and buy an annual license. USAC is like a league, your racing license is a membership in that league. If you don't buy a license, you'll have to buy a $10 "one-day" license for each day you race.
Beginners start out as Category 5 racers. After a minimum of 4 track race days, one can upgrade to Category 4. Once a Cat 4 racer, racers earn upgrade points by placing well not in individual races, but in day-long omniums. Each day of racing is an omnium - 3 races for each category. Points are awarded to top finishers in each race, and the winner of the omnium is the person with the most points.
Bike Reg is where you can go to register on-line for races. For Kissena races, you must pre-register, as officials cannot collect money in a public park.
To race at the Velodrome, your bike must be competition-legal. This means that it must have a fixed gear, drop bars with the ends plugged, and no brakes. Clipless pedals are a big improvement to clips and straps. Despite more and more fancy bikes and carbon wheels in races, the basics will be sufficient - you can race on your steel fixed-gear commuter. Just pull the brakes off, plug your drop bars, and put a race-ready gearing on it. Many people choose a 49 tooth chainring and a 15 tooth cog (49x15).
Some links below should be helpful for people just getting in to things. If you get to a Velodrome and are confused about the rules of a certain race that's being run, just ask around - by and large, people are friendly and willing to help explain things to beginners. Additionally, definitely read up on velodrome etiquette (in "Kissena Track Rules," below) - it's important to ride predictably and safely, and understanding the lines on the track and the ways that other riders will react will help ensure this. Many people at Kissena are very friendly, though occasionally some people might deliver stern words if they feel that another rider has made dangerous moves. If you find yourself receiving these, take them in stride - it's all part of learning how to compete at high speeds and close quarters.
See you at the track.
Wikipedia - Track Cycling.
Kissena Track Rules.
Kissena Saturday Coaching (pdf file).
Useful information from the Marymoor Velodrome, particularly: Safety Etiquette and Cycling Terms and Slang.
Lines on a Track.
USACycling - Track.
USAC Upgrade Guidelines.
1996 Track Cycling Olympic Trials on Youtube - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.