Kerin Racing – Another World

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I’ve spent a little time in Japan and have been to the Kerin races a few times. It is almost not bike racing. My Wheaties/Schwinn team mate, Michel Vaarten, from Belgium, was World Champion, back in the 80’s. He’d go over to Japan in early spring in super form and come back a couple months later completely unfit. They sequester the riders to keep them away from the betting public.

Anyway, here is a short video about Kerin racing. I especially like it, early, when one of the riders puts a pack of cigarettes down as he is suiting up. And of course, the ending music of Old Oak Tree.

Keirin: Speed Racers on

2 thoughts on “Kerin Racing – Another World

  1. Calvin Jones

    Love the guy with the surgical mask checking the wheels and tires. Very considerate track staff. I also like the billiard-ball look, with a simple jersey without ads all over. But those shoes…to die for. Gold. Silver. Wish I could see it there, it does not seem like it would import well in the USA.

  2. Aki

    There are the two Keirins – the betting one in Japan and the “competitive” one that are at Worlds and such. The betting one is definitely set up to be interesting – I read somewhere that riders would draw “attack” zones, meaning one guy would draw a card (or whatever) that would say 800m. That means he goes at 800m. I can’t confirm it so it may not be true but if true it randomizes tactics to the point where it’s hard to predict who will do what. Given the choice I probably wouldn’t go at 800m to go so anyone that “knows” me would be shocked to see me go at that time. As they emphasize a few times, it’s about betting, not about a rider winning.

    On the other hand the “competitive” keirin is fascinating. It’s the only event I really, truly enjoyed in my extremely limited track racing. Track races are already pretty short, madison/points excepted, and fields are small, so you’re racing the meat part of the race – you’re always going to be in the top 20 at 1km to go because there are 15 guys and the race is 2k long. With a moto pulling everyone along you now introduce a leadout for everyone, a leadout that will blow up at a known time after going a known speed. Now you’re really in the meat of the race because it’s you and whatever other sprinters going for the line behind a synthetic leadout. Absolutely exciting for me.

    Finally, as someone with a Japanese background (my parents emigrated to the US from Japan after WW2), I understand part of the mentality of the culture there, the bows, the gloved hands, the respect paid to the equipment, the swagger of the riders, even the idea of the orderly drills. There are limitations to that culture but for me it’s always fascinating to see such things in action related to cycling.


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