How to Keirin Race
The keirin (kay-rin) is a popular sport in the ‘Land of the Rising Sun.’ It’s an intensely demanding sport, requiring intense training and education that only the Japanese can provide. But Keirin racing is as much about gambling, if not more, than the actual bike racing. Japan hosts anywhere from 50 to 100 racing tracks, and the industry nets over a trillion yen every year.
- Let anywhere from six to nine riders ride slowly to the start, and fix their bikes in position in the starting machine. The riders also bow once before mounting their bikes. For identification (and betting) purposes, every racer is assigned a number and a color.
- Place a “pacer,”–a paid Keirin bicyclist–in front of the pack. This bicyclist–not a racer–sets the pace for much of the contest. In international games, the pacer may consist of a small, moped-like bike called a derny.
- Sound a gun, to begin the race–racers are encouraged to scream “Soraike!,” which means “Let’s Go!” in Japanese. Riders start slowly, and jockey for an advantageous position behind the back wheel of the pace-maker bike, which starts off at about 25 kilometers per hour.
- Steadily increase the pacer’s speed for several laps. Races are 2000 meters–8 laps on a 250m track, 6 laps on a 333m track, or 5 laps on a 400m track–and the track is steeply banked at each end. The pacer usually pulls off into the center of the arena when two laps remain, although this can vary.
- Ring a gong in the final one or two laps. This sound announces the beginning of the sprint: In sprinting to the finish, Keirin racers can reach speeds of up to 70 kilometers per hour.
How to Keirin Race
Tips & Warnings
Professional Keirin competitors must attend the Japan Bicycle Racing School: only 10-percent of applicants are accepted. For the next ten months, students undergo a training regime that lasts for fifteen hours per day. Students learn everything–not just rules and tactics–but bicycle mechanics and physiotherapy. They must then pass final exams.
In Japan, all bicycles and equipment are built within strict guidelines set by the NJS, the Japanese Bicycling Association. Only approved products (bearing a NJS stamp) may be used.