There's an Olympic-style Velodrome in Slavic Village. Did you know that? It's a state of the art bike-racing palace and, as it enters its second full year of operations, president Brett Davis and board member Pete Gutierrez are both thrilled at the interest the track has generated in the community and the region. Both Davis and Gutierrez are avid cyclists, and after leading two hours on the track with the Velodrome's Youth League (10-to-12 year-olds), they catch up with Scene in an adjacent trailer where the bikes are stored. Brett Davis: You can get one of these for like $700. (He's referencing a Specialized fixed-gear track bike.)Sam Allard: And that's cheap?
Davis: Yeah. When you're talking racing bikes, that runs into the thousands. But we've had a lot of organizations donate supplies and equipment and money.
So you're staying afloat?
Davis: It's all volunteer staffing. For kids it's always free. For adults, the first time is free with one-on-one coaching, and then after that you have to buy a season pass or a day pass. If you don't have a bike, it's free the first time, but then we'll charge you. We've gotta pay our bills: utilities and insurance and maintenance and all that stuff.
Gutierrez: I try to get him to pay me, but he can't figure out how to pay volunteers.
Davis: Pete's on the board.
And do you guys come from cycling backgrounds?
Davis: My dad and I toured a lot. We did some touring cycling when I was a kid, and then I didn't do much cycling in college. But then I got back in about 2000.
Gutierrez: I owned a bike shop out in North Olmsted for 20 years.
Tell me about the track. What are all those lines out there?
Gutierrez: The black line is the measurement line. That's 166.67 meters. Six laps to a kilometer. The red line is called the sprinter's line. If you're between the black line and the red line, riders can't pass you on the left. They can't go below you. They have to sprint above. Basically, you have the inside line as safety. The blue line is a stayer's line. Usually they'll have a motorcycle they call a stayer, and he'll go around at a certain speed.
You're talking for competitive races?
Gutierrez: There's a race called the Madison. It comes from Madison Square Garden, that's where it started. And they would build a track right there in the arena and it would sell out. The race is two riders that switch off. It's like a tag-team type race and you ride three-to-four laps and then your teammate gets thrown in and while you're resting, you ride above the blue line. And they can have up to six teams. It's really exciting to watch them exchange.
Do you do that here?
Davis: We had a state championship race here last week. We had over 100 riders over two days — people from Columbus, Cincinnati, Erie, PA. So it was a big race. It was wild, with food and music. We even had an RC helicopter taking video of them — four riders riding abreast in the corner — and we're gonna have a three-minute promo video out next week. It's gonna be sick.
How fast do they go out there?
Davis: Thirty-seven or 39 mph would be the fastest.
Gutierrez: And it's harder on this track because there's not a long straightaway to get really cranked up. When you go into the turn you're scrubbing off speed. The bike always wants to go uphill. It doesn't want to curve with it. So you have to push into the turn.
Davis: If you want to talk minimum speeds, down low we want people going 17 or 18. That's all you need physically to stay on the wall. If you're up high, the physics are the same. The wall's 50 degrees at the black and 50 degrees at the blue, but we want you going faster because it's not worth falling.
Gutierrez: You make a mistake, it's like falling out a second-story window. That's 26 feet.
Davis: And going at about 22 mph up there gives you a buffer in case you get a little wind or get flies in your mouth.
And the track is super high quality, yeah?
Gutierrez: This was designed by the people who designed and built the '94 Atlanta Olympics track. That one in Atlanta was a little bigger, but this is exactly the same construction.
But it's not done yet, right?
Gutierrez: Right. We opened June 27 last year, and there's still some rough edges and things that we could redo. But with only X amount of dollars...you know it's not like somebody plunked down $3 million and said, "Here, make a world-class facility." This is all donated money. Some are sponsors, corporations that put big money into it, but we've been kinda poor beggars. There's only 25 or 26 in the country and we're one of them. We'd like to continue to see more people out and the schools involved. It's safer than riding on the Metroparks bike lane.
So In the next year, what specific thing would you like to get accomplished?
Davis: I'd like to be six months into a fundraising campaign to do phase two, which will put a cover over it. Lights and a cover.
Gutierrez: Lights would be nice because you could ride later into the night and later into the fall and start earlier in the spring.
You like being here in Slavic Village?
Gutierrez: It's good because it's easy to get to. It's not like you have to drive through five neighborhoods. Pretty simple. All you gotta do is get off at Broadway on 90 or Pershing on 77 and you're set. We'd like to see the area cleaned up a little bit...but, you know, they repaved Broadway for us.
You guys don't sell bikes here do you?
Gutierrez: Don't wanna bite the hand that feeds you.