Borough(s): Queens, Distance: .3 miles (400 meters), Elevation: 0, Terrain: 400 meter banked bicycle track made of asphalt, Ride Rating: @.
The Kissena Velodrome is one of two bike tracks in the Northeastern United States. It was built in 1962 for the 1964 Olympic Trials, and re-built in 2003 when the city was making a bid for the 2012 Olympic Games. It’s a 400-meter banked oval, paved with asphalt, and protected by fencing. New York had a great track racing history; a kind of race was even named for Madison Square Garden, “The Madison.” And Madison Square Garden, or at least two of the early incarnations of MSG, were host to professional track racing, most famously six-day races. By the time this track was built, all the old velodromes were gone. But New York still has a track and the Kissena Velodrome Bike Ride is a great, simple, straightforward ride. No car traffic, no hills. No lights.
The unknown gem
Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of the Kissena Velodrome. Many people who live near Kissena Park, for which the velodrome is named, haven’t either. But now that you’ve heard of it, try it out.
The track is open and free to the public. You can ride on it with any bike any time the park is open, the track surface is dry and there isn’t racing going on, which is most of the time. The track was designed long, with gentle banks so that just about anyone with a minimum of bike-handling skills can ride it at just about any speed. If you’re riding slow, stay high, if fast, you can ride low. 400 meters goes by pretty quickly, but if you want an uninterrupted ride or a place where you can measure your effort without distraction, the track can be fun.
Fixies? No. Fixed-gear bicycles.
Track racing is done with “track bikes,” fixed-gear bicycles that seem to have no brakes. Since the single cog is fixed to the rear wheel (hence the name), when you pedal the bike moves, when you slow down your pedaling, the bike slows. And if you want to slow down fast, you put your gloved hand on a tire to scrub off more speed.
Go fast, turn left. The motto of track racers doesn’t give credit to the exciting and tactically complex world that is mass-start track racing. Races are traditionally held Wednesday evenings from late April to Labor Day. People like racing track because the races are short and intense, the workout great, and despite all the technological advances in the last 20 years, you can still be competitive on an inexpensive bike built with technology that is over 50 years old. And the bike can double as your hipster commuter rig when you want to bust out the flannel.
Snacks and meals
Downtown Flushing is known for its great Chinese food. It’s also an immigrant haven, with lots of ethnic fare; no shortage of Indian, Italian, and Korean food as well. Lots of great food. We love picking up a take out meal from shops near the train station after riding from the track and before boarding the 7 train. (LIRR is nearby as well)
More than just bike riding
Take in some track racing. Admission is free, the races are great to watch, and the velodrome is in a pretty setting. Borrow a bike and try racing for yourself. Check out the dedicated Kissena Velodrome site for details and the Kissena Velodrome Facebook page for quick updates. There’s even an after school program for kids who want to try track.
Details (Kissena Velodrome Bike Ride)
Distance: .3 miles (400 meters)
Terrain: 400 meter banked bicycle track made of asphalt.
Ride Rating: @
Notes: Open for racing and riding. A fixed-gear bike is needed for racing, but any bike can ride it.
Q01, Q02, and Q03 are also nearby.
Includes: A PDF with intelligence and a GPX file to upload to your bike computer or mobile device.