Wednesday, June 24, 2015


What's wrong with this picture? The rider is riding the Rice Track clockwise, that's what! Compare it to this picture from an earlier post:

I have the strong impression that my cycling record keeping was less reliable at the beginning of my restart than it is now. When I look back at my records from 2009, for example, I feel like there were a lot of rides that never got recorded. The upshot is that, although the first record I have of a ride on the Rice Track is in August of 2011, I am pretty sure that my first ride was in 2008 or 2009. I have this vague memory of wondering what the right direction to ride was, or if it mattered. I think I decided on counter-clockwise because that is what I saw another rider doing, but whether that was my first ride or later, I cannot recall. In any case, for at least four years, and probably a lot longer, I have been riding regularly on the Rice Track, and I had never seen anyone ride it clockwise. Until a few days ago.

Back when I first started riding the Rice Track, it was very lightly used; I would usually ride it alone. Over time, usage seems to have increased. It is still not at all busy, but more often than not, I encounter other riders. Also, usage on weekends is heavier than weekdays. All of that said, when I went out to the track last Saturday, given that I was arriving at 6:30 am, I assumed I would be the only rider out there. As I approached the track, I saw that was not to be. I first saw the other riders from afar, and assumed that my perspective was off. Although it seemed that they were riding clockwise, I assumed I must be confusing the far side of the track rather with the near. But as I drew closer, the terrible truth forced itself upon me; there were three riders on the track going around the wrong way! I hesitated for a moment, but quickly realized that trying to ride "against the flow" was madness, I simply had to join the crowd.

Circling the track the wrong way was remarkably disorienting. It also made me feel guilty and unclean. Often, I will be the "last rider left standing" on the track as most other riders seem to have shorter workouts than I do, so I schemed to reverse directions once the other riders left, but fate decreed otherwise. My hopes rose as first one rider left, and then another. The third rider, however, seemed to be as diligent as I, and kept circling. As he past me (most riders on the Rice Track pass me), I asked him "Why are we going around the track the wrong way?" "Well, that's the way they were riding when I got here" he replied. "In five years, I have never seen this happen" I said. "I have, once before" said he. Since it seemed he was sticking around, I figured that the next time he passed me, I would suggest a direction reversal, but then a revealing event happened: another rider joined us, and we were stuck once again. Clearly, once a direction is set, it will be maintained so long as new riders join the group quickly enough to prevent the track from ever being empty. Once again, three riders circled the track in the wrong direction, any opportunity for a correction was lost. Shortly after, yet another joined. The most recent joinee seemed particularly disoriented by the wrong way cycling, but after weaving around in the center of the track for a while, she gave in and joined the clockwise procession. One left and then there were three, and soon it was time for me to leave as well. As I was exiting the track, one of the remaining two chose to leave at the same time, so I stopped him, took a few pictures, and then as the last rider on the track (pictured at the top of the post) came around, we yelled at her: "The track is all yours. You can turn around now." And she did. Order was restored at last.

It is well known that I am compulsive. Is there any reason for me to think that my counter-clockwise preference is any different from my insistence that all dairy be on one shelf in our refrigerator or that coffee cups need to be arranged by color? I did some research, and the results were suggestive but not definitive. The Rice Track is not a velodrome (it has no banking on the corners) but I felt that if velodromes mandated counter-clockwise cycling, then I could argue that the Rice Track should be the same. The Wikipedia article on velodromes does not mention a required direction, nor does the UCI rules on track cycling. However, Google searching turned up the websites of velodrome after velodrome, all of them stating that riding was restricted to a counter-clockwise direction. So there.

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