What is Track Racing?

Track cycling is a type of cycling that is usually held on a specially built banked track called a velodrome. The smaller the track, the steeper the banking. A 250 m (820 ft) track banks around 45°, while a 333.33 m (1,093.6 ft) track banks around 32°. Some older velodromes were built the have even less banking.  

A track bicycle that is fixed gear, single speed, and has NO brakes. To slow a fixed gear bike down one must simply pedal slower and slower.

A track cycling race is similar to a high school Track & Feild meet in that there are multiple events throughout the day consisting of both sprint and edurance events. Riders with good all round ability in the junior ranks will decide to focus on one area or another before moving up to the senior ranks.

Track cycling has been around since at least 1870 and is the most populat type of cycling in the Olympic Games. With the exception of the 1912 Olympics, track cycling has been featured in every modern Olympic Games. Women’s track cycling was first included in the Olympics in 1988. Could you be an olympic hopeful??

Track cycling is particularly popular in Europe, notably Belgium, France, Germany and the United Kingdom where it is often used as off-season training by road racers. The sport also has significant followings in Japan and Australia.  In the United States, track racing reached a peak of popularity in the 1930s when six-day races were held in Madison Square Garden in New York. The word “Madison” is still used as the name for a type of track race. Today in the USA there are relatively few active velodromes. Because of this, track cycling is very mush a regional sport. Check this site to see if there is a Velodrome near you.


Practices are year round depending on weather. Most tracks have races begin in April and run through September. Your “race age” on the track is the age you turn in the current year.


Comfortable clothes, tennis shoes, and a need for speed!  At most any Velodrome, they will have helmets and track bikes for you to use, so there’s no excuse not to go try it out!!! Once you have decided you love it you will want to get your own helmet and bike!

Junior Gearing

Junior gearing can be a surprise to young athletes trying the sport of cycling for the first time. The young athlete attending his first USA Cycling-sanctioned event may be shocked to find his bicycle considered illegal. Parents may also wonder why this is so, especially when they have paid a lot of money for a bicycle they were told was race-ready. The main purpose of junior gear restrictions is to help the young rider develop a good pedal cadence and to avoid injury. Junior gear restrictions also level the playing field for developing juniors who may be at a disadvantage against rivals who possess physical advantages such as height and power.

If you are JUST getting started please don’t stress about gearing regulations, just come out to your local track and they will help be sure you are geared correctly before you race your first race! However, if you just want to know the details now, you can keep reading…..

The test to see if a race bike is legal or not is called the “rollout method” or simply “junior rollout”, which is the distance a bike travels backward in a straight line through one full pedal revolution when the bicycle is in its largest gear.

To calculate how far a bike will travel relative to its gears, USA Cycling determines gear ratios with respect to race age and discipline and applies in all events in that discipline. There is no restriction for cyclo-cross or mountain bike races. For track the limits are:

  • Ages 17-18: Unrestricted
  • Ages 15-16: 6.93 meters (22’9″)(50×15) **
  • Ages 13-14: 6.45 meters (21’2″)(50×16)
  • Ages 10-12: 6.05 meters (19’8”)(52×17)

* Note that the gear ratios listed are merely suggestions. The distance rolled out is the governing standard.

** For 15 & 16-year-old juniors who are competing in keirin or Madison championship events, the 17-18 (unrestricted) gear limit applies.

Race officials will usually provide a courtesy gear check prior to the start of a junior race, but it is the gear check immediately after the junior race that determines whether a junior’s bicycle is legal or not.

The official checks a junior’s bicycle’s gears not by counting the number of teeth on the largest chain ring and smallest cassette cog, but by rolling the bicycle backward in a straight line. If the bicycle travels more than the limit when rolled backward one full pedal revolution, the bicycle is illegal and the rider is disqualified for not complying with the junior gear restriction.

Ultimately, it is the athlete’s responsibility to make sure his bicycle is compliant with junior gear restrictions. The purpose of the courtesy check is to offer the junior the opportunity to change their gears prior to competing in his event.

It is also important to note that not all cycling tires have the same diameter, which can give a bicycle a rollout distance different than the distance provided by the gear recommendation.

Junior riders need to roll out their bicycles on their own prior to attending a USA Cycling-sanctioned event to determine whether they will be compliant with the rules.