San Jose’s cycling pedigree has been conditioned and refined for well over a century. The South Bay enjoys a special type of pragmatism, which translates into our cycling history; so, while we may not be fielding a top contender in any of this year’s Tours, Giros or Classics, a large number of fine athletes will be using equipment and financing born and raised right here.

For decades, companies like Phil Wood and Specialized have crafted some of the finest cycling gear imaginable. If we enlarge our scope to include the coast, we can see Craig Calfee (the man who invented carbon bicycles and now has perfected bamboo bikes) and Santa Cruz Bicycles (brainchild of skateboarding legend Rob Roskopp). San Jose may not have the number of cyclists that Portland or New York has, but the ones we do have are extremely dedicated to the sport, and to the craft.

The de facto proving ground for all things cycling in these parts is the Hellyer Velodrome in Coyote-Hellyer Park. It’s the only velodrome in Northern California. The group of enthusiasts that maintain the banked, oval speedway treat it with a grain of absolute reverence, and a pound of fun. Beginners can enjoy Saturday-morning training sessions, which begin at 8:30am. Once you’ve completed three of these workshops, you can race “The Track.’

“The Track’ is the affectionate moniker for the Hellyer Velodrome. It’s been that way since it was built in 1963. Today, a variety of carbon, aluminum and steel bicycles zip around the concrete banks; the technology has changed a bit, but the competition is the same. It’s probably the only race venue where you can see a lawyer, a software developer, a bike mechanic and a bartender line up to race. It isn’t just a piece of concrete nestled in a random park on the south side of San Jose.

Racers assemble every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday to test their skills against the best in the valley. Even though it’s all in the name of fun and sportsmanship, the level of competition is unlike any other sport. Asked what her favorite event is, the velodrome’s marketing person, Elizabeth Hernandez-Jones, says, “I’d chose the Keirin. The battle for the motor-pace wheel and the sprint for the finish is thrilling to see-it’s Gladiator on bikes.’

The point is to get around the track as fast as possible, while using the banked corners to your advantage. There is no room for unnecessary components like multiple gears, integrated shifters, a freewheel or brakes. The bikes are stripped to their essence; there is nothing left to remove, unless you want to race a unicycle. They are meant to go, not stop; they are built for the track.

Beyond the regular race schedule, the velodrome offers specialty clinics, like the women’s clinic on April 21 and 28, and its Saturday-morning beginners’ session. For those who haven’t experienced riding a fixed-gear bicycle, this is a great place to learn. If you decide to visit and ride, make sure to fill out a release form beforehand.