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Track Racing Bikes

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Hugely popular in the 1920’s and 30’s, bicycle track racing is roaring back in popularity here in the United States. Velodromes, an oval track used for bicycle track racing, are being built as the sport gains in popularity.

A track racing bicycle is dedicated to only the essential components, with none of the complicated, and sometimes delicate, gearing and braking systems found on a most bicycles. Track bikes use a direct drive mechanism consisting of a single, small gear cog on the rear wheel that is fixed to the hub. It has no "freewheel" mechanism and is often referred to as a "fixed-gear" or "fixed-wheel" bike. One large gear, or "chain ring,” is attached to the pedals. This direct-drive configuration means that, like a child's tricycle, every time the rear wheel goes around, the pedals go around as well.

The rider increases or decreases the bike's speed with pedals. As the rider rotates the pedal, the bike moves forward. The harder the rider pedals, the faster the bike moves forward with a one-to-one ratio. To slow the moving bike, the rider slows the pedal revolutions or employs gravity by going “up-track.” Instead of brakes to stop the bike, the rider provides resistance through the pedals and/or places their hand (with glove) on the front tire to generate friction.

The track bike is durable and reliable in great part because of its simplicity. Many of the ‘fussy” mechanisms found on the touring and racing bikes, like shifters, derailleurs, and braking systems, are simply not there to break down.

Designed specially for use on steeply banked tracks, the frame of the track bike has much steeper angles and is more "upright" than it’s cousin, the road racing bike. Track bikes have a shorter wheelbase and less clearance between the tires and the frame. The bottom bracket is higher and has shorter crank arms. This allows for more pedal clearance on the steep, banked velodrome tracks.

Because there are no brakes on a track bike, they are dangerous to ride on the road. This and the lack of gearing also makes them difficult to ride up hills, so a track-racing bike is limited in its usefulness outside of a velodrome.

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