The Velo Sports Center
How Do I Get Started?
All riders who take to the boards must start of by attending a certification course. These classes assist with giving a rider all the skills necessary to navigate our "lumberyard" safely. Once a rider has become certified they may join any of our sessions listed on this site. We provide FELT track bikes to those who do not own a track bike. To sign up for a certification class visit our website!
To sign up for a class fill out the form below or please email - [email protected] or call 310.630.2073.
Who Can Ride The Velo?
Anyone age 16 or older who can ride a bike and is interested in riding the track is welcome to ride the boards of the VELO Sports Center. For youth ages 8-16 we have specialized programming taught by five-time Olympian Connie Paraskevin (www.conniecycling.com).
The Velo Sports Center takes safety as its primary concern. The velodrome is a very safe place to ride if all riders are attentive and aware of their surroundings while maintaining proper etiquette for riding a velodrome. Helmets are required and all bikes should be well maintained.
Introductory Series *
Time: Saturdays at 10:30am (check calendar for availiblity)
Includes: 4 sessions
Length of each session: 2.5hrs
Description: A four week course geared towards instilling safe riding skills, etiquette and regulations. Graduates of this class will gain certification to participate in open and structured programming at the Velo Sports Center. If you have little or no velodrome experience, this is the class for you! The use of FELT Track Bikes are included in this class if needed.
Accelerated Class *
Time: Saturdays at 10:30am (check calendar for availability)
Includes: 1 session
Description: A one session class directed towards riders with extensive velodrome skills from other tracks. Upon completion a rider should be completely comfortable with riding all areas of the Velo Sports Center velodrome.
* Intro and accelerated certifications are included with the purchase of an annual membership.
Private Introductory Series
Time: Riders Availability
Includes: 3 session
Description: A three week course geared towards instilling safe riding skills, etiquette and regulations. Graduates of this class will gain certification to participate in open and structured programming at the Velo Sports Center. If you have little or no velodrome experience, this is the class for you! The use of FELT Track Bikes are included in this class if needed.
The Sample Session program is a one-time try at riding the velodrome for those excited about the track and who simply have to try it once. Riders will get some safety and skill instruction then get on the track. It's recommended to wear athletic clothing. Completing a sample ride does not certify a rider to ride any other sessions at the velodrome. The sample session program is held on Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and costs $25 per rider. Please fill out the registration form above to reserve your position.
Written Class Material
The Dignity Health Sports Park Velodrome is a world class cycling track that has hosted numerous high level national and international events, including the UCI World Championships. Most of the year it is available for riders of all levels to use for training and racing and is a great resource for the Los Angeles area cycling community. Although there are various closed training sessions for clubs or elite riders, most training sessions are open to riders of all levels that have been through a basic certification process and demonstrated that they can ride safely. The track is a much smaller space than the road environment that most cyclists are used to, and riders of different levels sharing the track for training will encounter each other over and over and over as they turn laps around the track. By having a common understanding and basic etiquette for riding the track, all track users can make the most of their time on the track and have fun.
The accelerated class covers the basic rules and etiquette for riding the track and is concluded with riders getting up on the track for an observed ride.
Highlights Think about what you're doing before getting on the track Pay attention at all times-- be aware of what other riders are doing and plan your workout so you can stay out of each others' way. If you slide down the track your session is over for the day. Keep your speed high enough to avoid slipping off. Always call out ""stay" when passing if there is any uncertainty over what another rider might do. If you hear "stay" it means "hold your line and speed while I pass"- Never try to get out of the way of an overtaking rider. Warm up in one of three places on the track: the sprinters lane (hard efforts), on the blue line (tempo), or at the balustrade (tempo and setting up for jumps and sprints). The spaces in between are for passing. Always look over your shoulder before moving laterally (up or down track)- your head is your turn signal. Don't move over if it's not clear. When in doubt, ride a steady straight line in one of the three riding locations. Lateral moves should be smooth drifts- take 1/4 lap or more to smoothly move from one riding zone to the next. If a rider crashes in front of you, always go around on the high side-- if you go under you are almost guaranteed to become part of the crash.
- Keep in mind that unlike on the road, the track is only 250 m around and you will repeatedly encounter faster and slower riders as you pass each other or are passed. The safest thing to do in most situations is ride a smooth and steady line. If you pass someone, always call out "stick" or "stay". Those words are used because they're easy to get out even when you're out of gas and cross-eyed, and easy to hear and understand. When you're being passed and hear "stick" or "stay", hold your line and maintain your speed. Never try to get out of the way of an overtaking rider- the overtaking rider has a better view of what's going on and is often moving much faster than the rider being passed. By the time you hear them, the overtaking rider has usually already committed to how they're going to pass and if you move you may cause a collision.
- Always pay attention to what's going on on the track and have a plan before you get on. Take a few minutes to watch what other riders are doing and get some idea what their workout plans are. Have a plan for your workout before you get on the track, even if it's as simple as "ride 20 laps at the blue line" and think about how to safely get on the track and do your workout without interfering with anyone else's workout.
- Once on the track, always pay attention to where other riders are and what they're doing. Riders may be traveling at very different speeds and appear to overtake you out of nowhere if you aren't paying attention. Always look over your shoulder before changing lanes and then, if it's clear, make your lane change smoothly and gradually.
- If you slide down the track, your session is done for the day. This is not intended to be punitive, but to make sure everyone, including you, has a safe and fun riding experience. Because the track is a relatively small space, a sliding rider can be a serious hazard to the other riders. The sliding rider is typically only lightly injured, if at all, but a rider colliding with the sliding rider often tumbles and is hurt much worse. Sliding down the track can happen for a variety of reasons, including inattention, inexperience, equipment problems, and fatigue. If you slide down it's an indication that something is wrong and it's time to take a break and recover or repair your equipment and come back another day.
Because LA is much steeper (46 degrees) and smoother than many other velodromes in the US, we get a lot of questions about what equipment is suitable for riding or racing. The primary rule is simple: Riders are responsible for their own equipment selection and its maintenance. We can give advice on various possible choices, but equipment selection is as much a function of the type of riding or racing and style of riding that a particular rider chooses. Whatever equipment you choose, we recommend that you try it out on the track during a training or warmup session in light traffic before you try it out in a crowded session or a race situation. We've seen many pieces of special race equipment fail or not perform well in a race situation or crowded training session, and often found out later that it was being used there for the first time without having been through a quick warmup on the track.
- Before getting on the track, check all of your equipment to make sure everything is tight and well maintained. Do a quick check of the tires for wear or nicks, check the tire pressure, check nuts and bolts for tightness (especially wheel bolts, as they're adjusted frequently).
- Track bicycles are required for all regularly scheduled training and racing sessions. Track bike requirements are given in the USA Cycling rule books, but for the most part this means fixed gear bicycles without brakes on either of the wheels. This can include bikes in many different materials and geometries- bikes designed for sprints, pursuits, and all around mass start racing are all ridden regularly on the LA velodrome. The type of riding or racing you do will affect your choice as much as the geometry of the track does.
- The velodrome has a number of well maintained rental bikes available in various sizes, including some suitable for children. Most of the rentals are Felt TK2 bikes in sizes from 50 cm up to 60 cm in 2 cm increments, with multiple bikes available in each size. The rental bikes are available for most training sessions, but may not be used for racing.
- If you don't presently own a track bike but are looking for one, it can be worthwhile to rent or borrow a suitable bike for a while to determine your riding style and equipment preferences prior to comitting.
Crank length and bottom bracket height are a very common question for riders unaccustomed to steep tracks. The combination of bottom bracket height, crank length, pedal size, speed, and rider skill will determine how slow a rider can ride in the corners without hitting a pedal against the boards. We don't recommend finding out the hard way what the limits of this are. The rental bikes are track specific frames and mostly have cranks from 165 to 170 mm long, though we know of riders who have used both shorter and longer cranks.
Be aware that longer cranks may make it harder to go slower safely in the corners. If you are riding primarily fast in the sprinters lane and never venturing above the red line you might be comfortable on longer cranks than most riders. If you're planning to do a lot of match sprints you will probably prefer shorter cranks. Whatever you choose, be aware of how it might affect your riding and your ability to navigate safely around other riders on the track.
Possibly the most common question we get in email or see posted on the internet is "What tire should I use on LA" Regular riders at LA use a variety of tires successfully. While there is no particular preferred tire for use at the LA velodrome, we can point out characteristics that riders should look for:
- Clinchers or Tubulars?
- People ride both types for racing and training. The author of this has occasionally ridden one of each. There are very nice tires of both types that are designed for track use and perform well at LA. There are also many tires designed for road use that will perform well at LA.
- Treaded or Smooths?
- There is scattered literature available on the differences between treaded and smooth tires. Riders commonly use treadless (slick) and lightly treaded tires on LA. While we don't recommend cyclocross or mountain knobbies, there are many tires with light tread patterns that will work well.
Pressure is probably more a function of tire and rim combination than what track you are riding. Check the manufacturers recommendation on both. Many clincher rims are not intended for very high pressures(150+ psi), nor are many clinchers. The tires on most of the rental bikes are intended to be used around 110 psi (though we ask that you let a staff member pump them rather than do it yourself).
- Rubber compounds
Rubber compounds vary greatly among tires. The type that you choose will again be affected by your riding style. If you are riding time trials and looking for good high speed rolling resistance you might choose a harder compound, while if you expect to go slow in the corners you might choose a stickier compound. Colored tires have generally not been recommended (though there are always exceptions) because they typically are slipperier than black tires.
- Cross Sections
For most purposes, a tire with a rounder cross section will be preferred over one with any other cross section. This will minimize differences in feel and handling as you ride at different speeds over different parts of the banking.
- Slippery Tires
Occasionally a tire that looks like it should be ok seems slippery. Sometimes this is due to the mold-release compound that is on the surface of the tire to let it come cleanly out of the mold that was used to put the tread on. This can often be removed with an alcohol wipe or a soft plastic pot-scrubber (e.g. scotch-brite). If you have any uncertainty about how your tire will stick, we recommend that you try it out during a training or warmup session with relatively few people on the track and take your time in moving up track. You can test it on the banking just above the black line just as well as at the top of the track-- the banking is the same but you'll only slide a few inches from the black line.
The Track and Training Etiquette
The track is a 250 m oval built by the Schuermann family. It is 7 m wide and made of Siberian pine boards with a very smooth finish. This section will describe the different parts of the track and how they are used at LA. Other tracks typically have very similar rules, but with minor variations that visiting riders should note. The description will start at the middle of the track and move outward, followed by paceline etiquette.
The infield is largely occupied by volleyball/basketball courts- Riders may not cross the courts to get to the check-in area. Riders should go up the ramp and around the apron. The Riders' setup/ready area is at the south end of the infield near the outside door and loading dock. Riders should come in either via the south entrance directly to the infield, or via the main entrance to the building and across the track. Crossing of the track is allowed only at particular times that depend on what is happening on the track-- when in doubt, don't cross the track and ask a staff member when it's ok. Riders may set up in the area with the exercise equipment at the southeast side, but please comply with signs regarding bike and equipment setup.
- Ramp and Stairs
The ramp is the only way riders should use to get up to the apron from the infield. For safety, please walk your bike up and down the ramp-- the setup area is very small and can be crowded, so riding up and down the ramp can be very dangerous. The stairs and platforms on the two straights are primarily for officials and staff use. The platforms should be accessed via the track apron. The restrooms are accessible without crossing the track by going out the back door, turning right and going up the stairs to the doors under the "McDonalds" sign.
The apron is where virtually every ride on the track will start. It is wide and flat and extends from the safety rail at the inside to the inside edge of the blue band. The apron is used for getting on and off your bicycle and for riding slow warmups and cooldowns.
- You should generally mount and dismount from your bike at the safety rail- it gives you a solid handhold for balance and to push off from.
- When starting from the safety rail, look back first to make sure it's clear, then roll off smoothly.
- When stopping, slow gradually and when nearly stopped, look to make sure it's clear then approach the rail with your hand open and palm down and slide gently along the rail as you stop. The foam is very soft, so if you press too hard or grab it's easy to jerk yourself to a stop.
- Avoid stopping in the middle of the apron-- leave room for riders to continue rolling around then apron when you stop.
- Do your slow warmups and cooldowns on the apron--it's much safer than trying to ride slowly at or above the blue line.
- There are boxes hanging from the safety rail in the home and back straights where you can keep a water bottle so you can get a drink without going all the way to the infield.
- Blue Band
The blue band is not so much a riding surface as a transition zone from the apron to the track. You should not spend any significant time riding on the blue band-- ride either on the track or on the apron. Because the LA track is so steep in the corners, riders on the blue band can be a serious hazard to riders who are going fast in the sprinters lane. Fast moving riders in the sprinters lane are tilted over so that their heads and bodies are out over the blue band, so it's possible for them to collide with a rider on the blue band, even while their wheels are a meter apart.
- Use the blue band as a transition zone from the apron to the track or the track to the apron.
- You should make the transition in 1/3 to 1/2 lap (or less depending on your speed). If you find yourself riding multiple laps on the blue band you're in the wrong spot.
- When racing the blue band is a safety zone-- you may not overtake riders on the blue band (you may be relegated or disqualified), but if you are forced off the bottom of the track the blue band is safely rideable at speeds typical of most races. You should try to get back up to the racing surface as quickly as is safely possible.
- Sprinters Lane
The innermost part of the normal riding and racing surface of the track is the Sprinters Lane (also referred to as the "Pole Lane" by Americans surrounded by auto racing culture). It extends from the top edge of the blue band to the red line. The black line, which is included in the lane, is called the Measurement Line and is the line where the track is measured to be 250 m around. The Sprinters Lane is typically used for hard efforts during training, though there are occasional exceptions (see Roger's Sessions)
- Do hard efforts in the Sprinters Lane
- Time your efforts so that you have a clear lane and won't impede other riders efforts.
- Pass riders around the outside if you overtake them (and call out "stick" or "stay")
- During warmup, if you are in a paceline in the Sprinters Lane there may be other pacelines at the blue line-- stay below the blue line as you come off the paceline if other lines are nearby.
- Riders may sometimes do slow or standing starts in the Sprinters Lane- if you are doing standing starts, post a flag person in the corner before the start to wave people up track.
- If you see a flag person in the corner, move safely up track to avoid the standing start and stay high until it's clear.
- During a race,
- If you are in the Sprinters Lane when the sprint starts, you may not come above the red line until after the sprint.
- If you are above the red line when the sprint starts, you must stay above the red line until after the sprint is finished unless you have fully passed the rider in the lane and can enter without impeding the other rider at all.
- At the end of a sprint, hold your line! If you pull up track suddenly you may hook other riders.
- If you are dropped and being lapped, you should ride tempo in the sprinters lane until you are caught and rejoin the group or are called off the track by the officials. If you go to the top of the track and slow to wait for the pack you are likely to be pulled.
- Relief Line (Blue Line)
The next riding position on the track is the Relief Line, or blue line. It plays a limited role in most racing, but is typically used as a riding zone during training.
- Use the blue line for riding tempo.
- When riding at the blue line, ride on the line, not above or below it.
- If you pass other riders at the blue line, generally you should pass around the top.
- When passing, be aware that riders at the balustrade may also need to pass, and that they will be passing below the balustrade.
- Similarly, when in a paceline at the blue line, be aware of riders at the balustrade as you pull off and leave room for them to ride.
- Pay attention to what riders at the balustrade are doing- it's common for hard efforts to begin at the balustrade and end in the sprinters lane. When you enter the track, try to enter in a way that you won't be in the path of riders starting a hard effort at the balustrade.
The final riding position is the balustrade. Like the blue line, the balustrade has a limited formal role in racing, but is commonly used as a training zone. Generally more experienced riders will do part of their training effort at the balustrade. Be aware that the balustrade takes more effort and skill to ride safely than the lower parts of the track. Although the banking is the same, the radius in the turns is larger so the centripetal force as you go through the corner will be lower for the same speed-- you need to ride faster to avoid slipping.
- If you are riding at the balustrade, ride within about a meter of the upper wall.
- If you are passing at the balustrade, pass below the rider you are passing (and call out "stick" or "stay").
- Pay attention to the elevation change as you enter and exit corners- if you are leading a paceline you need to increase effort slightly going into the corner and decrease slightly as you exit to maintain a constant speed and avoid disrupting the line behind you.
- When pulling off of a paceline at the balustrade, pull off in the latter part of the straight, rather than in the corner. If you pull off in a corner you will gain on the line because you're dropping lower and riding a shorter distance, then need more effort to get back on the line.
- When doing jumps or other efforts that start at the balustrade and move down to the pole, pay attention to where other riders are on the track and time your effort to avoid interfering with their workout.
- Paceline Etiquette
- When you are riding in a paceline always look before pulling off the front.
- In the straightaways look over the right shoulder of the rider in front of you.
- In the turns look over the left shoulder of the rider in front of you
- If there are groups riding in pacelines higher up on the track, pull up to just below where they are riding as you move to the back
- Wait until the line is nearly past before dropping back down, and look before dropping back down.
- Always pull through when the lead rider pulls off, if only for a few seconds. "Double switching" (the second rider in line pulling up with the first) is dangerous and may get you a warning from the "voice from above".
- If you start to die in the middle of a paceline, don't pull up track. Simply hold your line and allow a gap to open- the riders behind will come around. After they have clearly passed you should look and move safely off the track.
- If you want to get out of a line while you still have energy, don't swing up. Either allow a gap to open and let the other riders come around, or check behind you then smoothly pull up alongside (usually above) the rider ahead of you, pulling the rider behind you up to the rider ahead of you.
Tips for Racing at LA
This is not a comprehensive list, but highlights some things that are done differently from track to track and gives some tips for less experienced racers.
- "Neutral lap" does not mean "slow lap". When you roll off for the neutral lap, keep your speed up. Nearly every race session we have a mass slide among one of the less experienced fields (and occasionally slides in more experienced fields) during the neutral lap. You have to stay together on the neutral lap, but you don't have to ride slow, and you can move around to get change your position.
- Don't "double switch" in pacelines. It takes only a tiny amount more energy to pull through for a second or two, and is significantly safer. Double switching may get you a warning for dangerous riding.
- If you run out of gas in the middle of the pack or a paceline, don't try to get out of the way. Hold your line and when the pack is past you, move safely off the track.
- At the end of a sprint, always hold your line. There are likely a number of riders coming through behind you and you don't want to swing into their path.
- Miss and Outs usually go down to the last rider (not to three or two with a neutral lap followed by a sprint).
- Wear your numbers on both sides for mass start races-- the officials are on the outside in the home straight and need to see your number when you're on the back stretch as well.
- The starting gate is usually used for time trials. If you have questions about it ask an official or staff member. They can often be used on open training days as well. Ask a staff member.
- Start lists and results get posted in the infield as they become available.
- If you get dropped and decide to give up a lap and try to get back in, stay in the sprinters lane and continue riding tempo. If you pull up to the top of the track to wait for the field you may be deemed out of competition and get pulled from the race.
- Riders are typically pulled if they lose 2 laps, but in large fields that get broken up, riders may get pulled after losing 1 lap to simplify tracking of laps for the officials.