Setting off from Look Mum No Hands! on Old Street we’ll head east to the brand new 2012 Olympic velodrome in Stratford, riding through the recently opened and beautifully landscaped Olympic Park. We’ll stop for pictures in front of the affectionately dubbed “pringle”, where Sir Chris Hoy powered to victory in the concluding race of his career.
You’ll hear about the incredible engineering behind this award-winning building, and touch on the opportunities we’ll have to ride there ourselves in the near future. Until it re-opens for business in March next year, this is as close as you can get to the 2012 track.
Riding on, we’ll pause over-looking one of London’s ‘phantom velodromes’; one of a handful of cycling venues established at the turn of the last century that have long since disappeared. Marking out the shadow of a track beneath the grass where once thousands turned out to watch riders race, we’ll hear about the velodromes we’ve lost across London, and learn of the origin of the idea of “legacy”. I’ll recount the story of a far-sited industrialist who more than a century ago bequeathed a corner of East London for the perpetual use of sport and recreation. Plus, we’ll find out what links HMS Warrior, West Ham Football club and track cycling together…(!)
We’ll cycle on, over the Isle of Dogs and crossing the river Thames by boat, before taking quieter roads and cycle routes through south London to Herne Hill itself, London’s only remaining 1948 Olympic Games finals venue. Along the way you’ll hear about the case of the vanishing Olympic stadiums, racing at the “austerity games”, and the incredible story behind the rescue and restoration of the Herne Hill Velodrome.
Herne Hill Velodrome, via David Farrow on Flickr, used with thanks.
Just 3 years ago, this iconic cycling track (where Sir Bradley Wiggins cut his track cycling teeth, no less) was at serious threat of permanent closure. The surface of the track was full of holes, the sports pavilion had been condemned and padlocks secured the gates.
Dedicated cycling volunteers and members of the local community rallied together with British Cycling to ensure that this velodrome – the most historic of them all - didn’t disappear in to obscurity like so many others around the country.
Funds were raised, grants were issued, tenancies secured and the Herne Hill Velodrome opened for racing again. The track has been re-surfaced, flood-lights installed and a junior track for youngsters and less abled cyclists built. Plans are afoot to build a worthy successor to the irreparable historic pavilion and the future of the much-loved venue looks bright once more.
Hopkins Architects / Herne Hill Velodrome Trust, concept drawings for new Velodrome Pavilion.
On Sunday we’ll arrive at Herne Hill in time for the 2nd Annual Festival of Keirin – an action packed afternoon of the most dramatic of track cycling disciplines, where up to 8 competitors battle each other to the finish line. It’s fast, tactical and can get quite rough so expect thrills and spills aplenty, as well as some of the best track sprinting talent from around the country.
As well as the racing programme there will be Japanese catering (Keirin originated in Japan and is a hugely popular gambling sport there) from Kinoko Cycles, cycling stalls, a chance-based charity lottery, beer tent and of the course the opportunity to have a look around this iconic track, to enjoy the festival atmosphere and cheer on your favourite riders.
What is Keirin? Sir Chis Hoy shows us how it is done in the final race of his Olympic career.
Our DROME II DROME tour of the velodromes past and present of London is open to cyclists of all abilities and will ride at a comfortable moderate pace. The 18-mile route is mostly flat (with one large hill towards the finish) and predominantly on quieter roads, separated cycle routes, or through parklands.
Entry is £5 per person, with all proceeds going to the Friends of Herne Hill Velodrome’spavilion appeal. (Please pay cash on the day)
The ride departs from outside Look Mum No Hands! bicycle café at 11AM sharp on Sunday 25th August 2013, and the guided ride will last approximately 2.5hours. You’ll be conducted across London by me, Mark Ames @markbikeslondon, and I’ll be riding a green RIH steel Dutch bike.
Hope to see some of you there!
- Start: Look Mum No Hands, 49 Old Street, for an 11AM departure
- Finish: Herne Hill Velodrome Keirin Festival, 104 Burbage Road, Herne Hill, SE24 9HE
- Costs: £5 to take part in the tour, plus bring your Oster Card / Travel Card or cash for the ferry across the Thames (Adult £3.80, Oyster PAYG £3.42, TfL Travelcard holder £2.50 or buy your ticket in advance here)
- What to bring: Plenty of water, snacks, maybe a hat or sunblock, and money to spend at the festival. Shoes for walking in if you wear clips.
- Caveat emptor: There will be no Keirin Festival if it rains, therefore the DROME II DROME tour will also not take place if it is raining. Stay tuned to Twitter for meteorological updates. Riders participate at their own risk.