As Sacramento’s bicycle scene continues to grow, be it among fixed-gear aficionados in Midtown or hardcore racing fans, a decades-old indoor cycling sport is gaining popularity – Gold Sprints.
“It started out 50, 60, 70 years ago,” said Dean “Dino” Alleger, a mechanic at Rex Cycles, 1811 E St. “It had two fixed bikes and a big clock with wires, but now it’s all digitized.”
Alleger said the basic premise of Gold Sprints is that racers use fixed-gear bicycles mounted without their front wheels while the rear wheels rest on rollers. When the race starts, racers “pedal like crazy” for 500 meters or one kilometer, and the computer keeps track of who wins.
“Gold Sprints are all indoors, and there’s very little danger – you’re not riding your bike in the streets,” Alleger said.
The racing event will be a permanent fixture at Spin Burger Bar, set to open in mid-November, and Alleger will also be running Gold Sprint races to raise money for the building of an outdoor bicycle racetrack in Sacramento.
“Gold Sprints are geared toward the masses,” Alleger said. “Anybody that’s into bikes and drinking beer will love it.”
While some take a serious approach to the races, Alleger said most riders use it as an opportunity for a good time and a fun way to settle a grudge match in front of a cheering crowd.
“I would say it’s definitely getting bigger,” said Brian Durling, manager of Mike’s Bikes, 1411 I St. “Up in Portland, it’s pretty large.”
Mike’s Bikes has held Gold Sprint tournaments in the past, and Durling said they have always been popular.
“There’s typically a beer-chugging competition before you start the race,” Durling said. “Every time we’ve held them at our stores, it’s gone over really well.”
The Peak Adventures bicycle shop at Sacramento State, 6000 J St., has also held Gold Sprint races in the past.
“It’s awesome for friends just to compete,” said Head Bicycle Mechanic Rad Beauton. “It’s a lot safer than mashing down the road really fast.”
Beauton said he enjoys the competitive nature of it the most, but still prefers actual outdoor riding.
“It’s not something I’d put down on my calendar to do, but if I was out and saw it, it would be fun,” he said.
Alleger said he hopes the draw of Gold Sprints will help raise funds to build a permanent outdoor velodrome racetrack.
“The main reason we started was to build a velodrome track here in Sacramento,” Alleger said. “The closest one is in San Jose. It would be big for the cycle community here.”
Alleger said velodrome racing was a really big sport at one time, but the popularity died off and has recently seen a resurgence in popularity at the grassroots level.
Velodrome tracks are steeply banked oval racetracks.
“There used to be a couple hundred of them, but now there’s only 24 in the country,” Alleger said. “But they’re popular. I was at a race in Washington, and the stands were packed.”
Alleger, a licensed cycling coach, said velodrome racing is another sporting opportunity to youths ages 10-18 as well as older enthusiasts.
He’s in the process of filing paperwork to start a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising the approximately $1 million he said he expects it will take to build a velodrome track here.
In addition to the approximately $10 fee he expects to charge racers to participate in Gold Sprint tournaments, he said he hopes to get donations and partner with the city of Sacramento to make the track a reality.
“It’ll happen,” Alleger said. “How fast? Who knows? But I’m not going to stop.”
To contact Alleger, click here.
Photos courtesy Mike’s Bikes, Sacramento.
Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.