Almost all of us know how to ride bicycles. We enjoy the early morning for our daily dose of fresh air.
There are also plenty of sports related to bicycle riding. However, Keirin is probably the most unheard of them all, simply because it is not your typical bike competition.
To share to the world what this sport is like, photographer Jasper Clarke took photos of one of the keirin events.
Keirin is an extreme sport where contestants on bicycles circle around a track with a fixed gear on and—wait for it—no breaks! As they get closer to the finish line, they all make a mad dash to be hailed the fastest.
Dating back to 1948, keirin was originally created as a betting sport. In fact, it is one of the few remaining sports where spectators are allowed to bet.
The first official race was hosted by the Kokura Velodrome, and since then, the sport has grown in popularity. Talks about it have spread throughout the world because people love the idea that the race is nothing short of an adrenaline-filled ride. Keirin eventually became an Olympic event in 2000, and it is the sport that has the most competitors in all of Japan.
The participants usually ride in a pace line while trailing a motorbike. With each lap, the motorbike steadily gains speed, and the track cyclists will have to keep up with a speed of 50 km/h. The motorbike then gets off the track just before the starting line and then the race begins! The cyclists can reach speeds of up to 70 KMH. Riders tumbling down and crashing is a pretty common scene. Some of these crashes are even terrifying.
Though still considered gambling, the sport is heavily monitored in Japan. In order for people to know how they should bet, the riders disclose their strategy before each race. Using phones and surfing the Web are a no-no for the participants to avoid mischievous acts that could influence the betting. Contestants are also housed in dormitories to further prevent cheating.
Professionals commit themselves to undergo a whole year of meticulous training at a keirin school, and the racers are also licensed. After viewing Shane Perkins‘s, an Australian professional track cyclist, video of going through training at an academy, Clarke became interested with the sports. He said that what impressed him the most is the adamant determination that the cyclists have just so they could achieve their goal.
According to the photographer, the riders have a “spartan life” in the academy, which he witnessed when he spent a day at the Japan Keirin School in Shuzenji, south of Tokyo.
The students undergo strenuous training, consisting of race simulations, lap training, running drills, and hill climbing. Clarke says, “I was massively impressed with the students’ dedication, hard work, and their resulting fitness, strength, and resilience.”
Clarke captured amazing shots of the struggles and hardships that the trainees go through inside the academy. He says that he would want to go visit Japan again, but this time, he would be focusing on the sport from a gambler’s point of view.
Although he isn’t a keirin competitor, Clarke still understands the fuel that drives these amazing athletes, since he is also an avid cyclist himself. He knows how far these racers would go and how much they would be willing to sacrifice just so they could excel in their chosen field.