Monday, January 11, 2010

Korean Keirin

Last Saturday I spent the day with my girl at Gwangmyeong Speedom Velodrome just outside Seoul. It was a gnarly snowy day, so it was a good one for indoors. Accessible via Line 7 of Seoul's extensive subway system, exit 4 puts you out on the main street that the velodrome is on. 5 minutes on a bus or in a taxi will have you there, or it's about a 15-20 minute walk, no turns.

(Pic via flickr)

Korean Keirin is very similar to Japanese Keirin, which has its own rules slightly different than UCI's rules for Keirin. There are 7 racers on the track, and they are paced by a pacer for several laps, during which the racers jockey for position behind the pacer. Just before the final lap, the pacer drops below the cote d'azure and into the infield where he awaits the race finish. Just before the racers pass turn 3 going into their final lap, a gong sounds sounds, and is struck increasingly fast until the racers begin the final lap, or the "bell lap." This is where the real action begins.

The Speedom Velodrome is a 333.3m track with some pretty steep banks. One of the stats given for each racers is his 200m sprint time, which is usually around 11-12 seconds, so the bell lap is quite quick. During the bell lap each of the 7 riders attemps to be the first to cross the finish line, resulting in some very tactical sprinting and usually a dramatic last few meters after turn 4. For the finish, the lights illuminate the finish line like a concert venue stage. Lots of excitement during the bell lap with ajoshi's (Old Korean Men) urging the racers they bet on to the finish in various amusing NSFW ways.

All the while 80s sports video game music is playing, and tons of old men (It's 99% the boys club) are betting all day. It's a pretty fun atmosphere if you're into track racing, everyone there is excited about what's going on on the track. There's about 3 races an hour all day Saturday and Sunday starting at around noon and finishing around 7pm. 400 won, a bit less than 40 cents gets you into the 'drome to watch.

The racers are all riding beautiful steel handmade track bikes from one of three Korean frame builders - Corex (the Specialized of Korea), Interpro (my personal favorite - using Nagasawa lugs), or Cello. Otherwise, the builds are identical to NJS certified Japanese Keirin race rigs - NItto this and that, Dura Ace here and there, box section tubulars, and super narrow saddles, oh and of course they all use slotted cleats with clips and straps.


  1. Another cool thing I forgot to mention is that the entire operation is non-profit! Once the facilities and employees are paid, all proceeds go towards Foster care, public health services, and a number of other community charities/services. A really great way for cycling to give back to the community. I have a brochure (in English!) that breaks it down with some other interesting stuff, I'll try to get some scans up when I'm stateside again.