Volume 76, Number 17 | September 13 - 19, 2006


Speed racer finds she’s at home at the velodrome

By Judith Stiles

When Erin Dyer moved to New York City seven years ago to play guitar in a band, she found that cycling to her day job on the Lower East Side from Brooklyn was a pleasant trip, that is, in contrast to her days of riding in the subzero weather of Willmar, Minn. Dyer had thought nothing of hopping on her bike to commute when the temperature was 10 below zero, so winter biking on the streets of New York seemed downright balmy in comparison.

As a young girl who never shied away from adventure, Dyer always loved to ride a bicycle, dating back to the days when her dad taught her how to ride her very first pink Schwinn at age 9. Back then, riding fast, occasionally with her eyes closed, gave her a particular thrill that stuck with her even when she had to weave in and out of city traffic years later. Five years ago, Dyer discovered she had natural speed on a bike when a bunch of friends challenged her to race back to Brooklyn after work. Some of them were seasoned cyclists, even hotshots in alley-cat racing, a type of biking where daredevil cyclists, mainly bike messengers, tear through open streets dodging traffic in a race without brakes. Dyer stunned everyone when she handily came in first, and thus began her days of competing in races on her current bike, which she secretly likes to think of as the White Stallion.

By 2005, Dyer entered the Wednesday Night Twilight Series at the Velodrome in Flushing, Queens, sponsored by the Kissena Club. This included almost 18 weeks of competitive racing on the renovated 400-meter, state-of-the-art track. The curved asphalt pavement is coated with a special acrylic seal and has regulation racing lines. In 1962, Robert Moses built the Kissena Velodrome on Booth Memorial Ave. at Parsons Blvd. to host the 1964 Olympic Trials. Today the Kissena Velodrome is New York City’s only bicycle track where national-level events are held every year.

In both 2005 and 2006, Dyer was awarded the club’s Female Rider of the Year and was given a plaque that states, “In Contribution to Kicking Everyone’s Ass.” This hangs on the wall of Bikeworks, a popular bike shop on Ridge St. on the Lower East Side, where Dyer has learned the finer details of being a mechanic. Here, she has fine-tuned the White Stallion, a Mercian bike, to fit her body perfectly.

“I tried aluminum handles once but I prefer steel because the aluminum was kind of twitchy and I like a bike to feel secure, kind of like a big old car,” says Dyer as she sorts through a box of miscellaneous nuts and bolts.

These days, Dyer has a hankering to leave New York and bike in exotic places now that the Wednesday Night Twilight Series season at the velodrome has ended. She is getting somewhat worn out from battling through traffic in the city, as she puts it, “Where cars and pedestrians seem very confrontational these days.” Dyer would like to return to El Salvador, where she rode up the side of a volcano last February, over 13 kilometers, following steep paths that were almost 13 percent grade. Exploratory biking rather than racing has its appeal says Dyer, as she draws comparisons between boxing and biking.

“When I am in a race sometimes it is hard to believe how much pain, really self-inflicted pain, I can endure. But when it is over, there is nothing I’d rather be doing,” she says with a big smile.

Now that Dyer has moved to Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, she still plans to ride her bike to work as the weather gets colder. This will be part of her routine to get in shape for possibly racing at the Trexlertown Velodrome in Pennsylvania, which is described by many as the track-cycling capital of the world. Trexlertown attracts very serious racers with expensive fancy bikes, outfits and often their own trainers. None of these trappings appeal to Dyer, who will show up with just a helmet and the White Stallion, if she decides to enter one of their competitions.

However, right now she is leaning toward cycling thrills just for fun, even doing laps at the Kissena Velodrome on the back of her trusty White Stallion, with her eyes wide open of course.

For more information on the Kissena Velodrome, visit www.Kissena.info or www.bikecult.com.

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