By: Kaya Lydamore
Once upon a time… I was running with the cars on my Specialized Dolce, about to miss my turn, in a hurry I veered right - but as I cut through the gas station parking lot, I realized that I was moving too fast and slowing too little to make the turn so as I slammed on the breaks. As I laid my bike down, skidding into the curb coming up, ripping off a lot of skin and paint from my bike, I realized that road-bike was too fast for me. I was full of youthful vigor and too mindless for the abilities of my bike, I needed to switch from automatic to manual bicycling.
When I started to ride a fixed gear, five years ago in Florida, all I wanted was to be able to keep up with the boys that I knew, and to track stand. Racing in an alleycat was an event reserved for the really good bike messengers and the cool crowd, racing track wasn’t even on my radar. Eventually, I could keep up with the boys on my worst days, and got my time to race in Alleycats. To me, this was where the fun was at: a grungy, beer infused competition for word of mouth glory and maybe a couple bucks. #FIXIELIFE
I moved to Portland, grew up a little, but still raged on my fixie, still racing in Alleycats when I could. Through a friend Will who goes by "The Mayor", an established Portland bike messenger & thrower of Alleycats, I got connected with a recent Minneapolis transplant Rachel Zaidman, who was starting up an all women’s developmental track team- BATTLEKAT. Although Rachel made her way back to Minneapolis, the team came together as organically as I could imagine. All of us were super into bikes, but in our different ways.
At the time I thought the coming together of the team was slow, we were about 4 months out from track season, trying to secure sponsors- and everything felt pretty disorganized. In retrospect, we were hella productive in those first few months, and got some great sponsors despite not having much to show for BATTLEKAT at the time.
As soon as there was a dry day in Portland, I went out to the alpenrose Velodrome and threw my conversion with straight bars in the track. I was on the wrong bike, and had no real idea what I was doing. All I knew was that IT WAS SO MUCH FUN and the right kind of scary. I was hooked, and without any real guidance I started what I could put together as training: a pretty solid regiment of squats, deadlifts and core strengthening. Pre-season I had a lot of time to be excited, and couldn’t wait for a dry day to go ride in the Alpenrose Velodrome.
Around the start of the season there was a Women’s Developmental Track day, where I learned a lot about riding in a group, and the basics of track riding. In the beginning- going in and out of the turns was exhilarating, pace-lining other people was terrifying, and everyone else seemed so good. Unlike most of my bike experiences in Portland, everyone at the track was so open, forward and helpful. I felt like the existing crowd was open and supportive of new-comers, and they rooted us BATTLEKAT ladies on from the start.
I had read so much in to what and Omnium was, the types of races, different strategies. None of the Track jargon stuck in my mind until I experienced those events and races. Track turned out to be a lot more fun than I was expecting, and I think that says a lot. It feels like a team and individual sport wrapped into one. I really look forward to next season as we all have gotten a little experience under our belts, and we can practice working more as a team, riding together and pushing each other to be better. I feel really lucky because we have had so much support within the team.
Its wild to me that there aren’t more women willing and wanting to get out there and ride in the velodrome. I can understand that it seems scary from the outside, but I encourage anyone remotely interested to go out and try it. Im sure that most velodromes offer a track development class, and sometimes even rental bikes. Hugely rewarding, a ton of fun, and a personal accomplishment- that I will always be proud of.