There are many ways in cycling how to ride a bike. Track cycling is one category. But within this category there are also many different disciplines. The diversity of these disciplines combined with some entertainment comes together in The Sixdays. An event that, as you can imagine, takes place over six days or nights actually. Teams of two riders compete against each other in the different disciplines by scoring the most points and/or rounds over all those days.
The scene knows a long history with first races around late 19th century. Editions popped up in the UK, US and soon also in Germany, Belgium, France and The Netherlands.
‘t Kuipke in Ghent
One of the races that began in 1922 is still here and celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2022. We’re referring to one of the most iconic races in Ghent Belgium on the Velodrome under the name “’t Kuipke”. With only 166 meters this track is one of the shortest and therefore most spectacular.
Another example of a popular Sixday event is the one in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. First organized in 1936 it also hasn’t been organized in many years. From 2005 it is a yearly returning event. Each year the track is built again at event location ‘Ahoy’ where in other weekends big artist perform.
Six days of racing does not sound all that impressive. However the timing is quite different as the riders race between 8pm and 1am. In total 12 couples - 26 riders – team up per event and ride all disciplines together with an occasional individual race. For example the derny race is always done as individual of a team. On each night the races combined make a total of 145 kilometers so over six days they ride about 870 kilometers. With 26 riders on the track and top speeds reaching easily 70km per hour this ain’t a simple job. A crowded pack on a small track and single speed bikes without brakes are ingredients that ask for super skilled riders. It’s therefore also that not all road riders are by definition good riders on the track.
Although challenging for the riders it’s super attractive for the crowd to watch. You do need to pay attention though to follow who’s in the lead or making a move. Especially when couples steel a lap!
Racing different disciplines each night requires also different kinds of materials. Wheels and gears play a big role in this. Each discipline asks for a preferred gear and wheels combination. For a TT and derny races the riders ride with a DISC wheel in the rear combined with a high front wheel. Normally sprints are ridden with a FIVE-T front wheel but due to the shorter tracks with Sixday races this is not the best combo.
In peloton races like the Madison for example all riders go for a set of high wheels. They offer stiffness and speed while still be able to fully control the bike.
As the races during a night are back to back riders have multiple bikes ready with the right gear and wheel setup. The couples work with a mechanic who prepares the bikes, gears and wheels. Sometimes tires need to be glued during the week.
As we’re going a bit back down memory lane here we have a nice video from the 2012 Ghent race that catches the vibe of a Sixday event.
The 2022 Sixdays of Ghent also marks the last race of one of the legends from the last decades. Local hero Iljo Keisse ends his career with the Sixdays of Ghent. It’s the 18th edition where he starts and so far he won seven times already.
We share good memories with Sixday races in general but also with the support of Iljo. From the sponsoring of Team Quickstep in 2010 and some years after we were proud partner during his Sixday adventures and successes.
Not only with Iljo but in general we have a good track record in Sixday races. Many riders got their confidence to go fast on our wheels.