Monday, October 1, 2012

The Rice Bike Track is Open!

Four posts ago, I wrote an overview of cycling in Houston.  In that post, I commented on Houston cycling attractions which were temporarily unavailable due to construction.  While riding last week, I went by the Rice Bike Track to check on progress, and to my delight found that the construction was complete and the track was once again open.  Thanks to Google, here is a satellite view of the track: 

The track can be seen in the middle of a parking lot to the left of the Rice University football stadium.  Most of the time the track is blocked off from traffic:

It is my impression that during football games, when parking is at a premium, the track is closed to bikes and opened up to parking, making this a very efficient multitasking of this space.

The track is not heavily used.  My guess is that about half the time I ride on it I am the only rider and there rarely is more than one other rider:

I have measured the track using my bicycle odometer and found it to be about 0.3 miles around, and as you would expect from it being part of a parking lot it is dead flat.  That said, I have never had any trouble with the corners:

As I confessed in my Houston Cycling post, Houston is one of the few US cities to have an actual velodrome, but after almost 25 years, I have never visited it.  What explains my enthusiasm for the primitive Rice Track over the Alkek Velodrome?  In the first place, the Alkek Velodrome is a specialized facility which may only be used with a track bike. So, unlike the Rice Track which I can use for interval training with the bike that I plan to use for brevets, I would have to rent or buy a special bike for the Velodrome.  In the second place, the Velodrome is dedicated to racing, something in which I have no interest at present.  Finally, however, is location.  The Velodrome is over 20 miles from where I live and realistically is only accessible by car.  The Rice Track (the red dot towards the center of the map) is located right next to the Texas Medical Center, within a couple of miles of where I live:

In summary, the Rice Track, which apparently is open to the public (I have never asked, but never been questioned) represents and extremely safe, extremely consistent place to ride, perfect for interval training and testing one's fitness. I'm sure I am not alone in being delighted that it has reopened.

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