On a rainy February night I sat in the makeshift beer garden at the Burnaby Velodrome where only a few meters away, a pack of cyclists thunder past for a chance to take the win. I gave up on following them around the track from where I sat as the faster they went, the dizzier I became. Like staring at the horizon to prevent sea sickness, I focussed on one section of the track and watched them whip into and out of my field of vision. The races came fast and furious in succession, some lasting only a few laps, others for a gruelling sixty to eighty. I studied the program trying to make sense of the different events. Some were easy, but others had me struggling to figure out who was first and who was last. Thankfully, the commentary helped fill the gaps in my track cycling knowledge, which at this point was pretty vast. That I didn’t know all of the ins and outs of the races did nothing to hinder my enjoyment. For a cycling fan, or really any sports fan, there are few events where you can get so close to the action.
The Burnaby Velodrome, one of only five indoor velodromes in North America, offers up top quality track cycling and great viewing opportunities. In addition to their weekly Friday night racing, they host a handful of special Feature Friday Night Series where they partner with local craft breweries to provide spectators with fine beverages, great music and, of course, fast paced racing. With a food truck outside providing tasty eats, it’s a great night out for the whole family. On Friday night I paid a mere $20 and received admission for myself and my kids, a fine 33 Acres beer, an order of fries and deep fried spicy pickles from the Wings food truck, and still had a few dollars left over. It’s hard to beat that value!
Until summer, I had very little experience with the velodrome and had never laid a finger on a track bike. That changed when I signed up for the learn to ride program and over five sessions made my way from nervously riding around the côte (the blue band that runs at the base of the track) to riding in a slightly elongated, but mostly functioning rotating paceline. It was an exhilarating feeling whipping into those steep banked corners, trying to keep my gaze fixed ahead of me, and not on the ominous concrete below. I finished the learn to ride session with an enthusiasm to continue riding, and the exciting prospect of buying a new bike, but then cyclocross season started and I never made it back out. I still hope to get back on the track, but the small sample that I did have gave me a huge appreciation of how talented these riders are and how impressive the racing is, even if I don’t fully understand the nuances of each different type of race.