Cycling on indoor wooden tracks has been popular as far back as 1870 when the first official competitions were held. These tracks ensured that cycling could be contested year-round without weather restrictions and closely resembled the modern velodromes used today. Velodromes used at the Olympic Games must have a track length of 250 metres with two straightaways linked by two steeply banked curves. Tracks must be designed to safely handle maximum speeds of 85 to 110 km/h.
Track bikes have no brakes and just one fixed gear, meaning the rider cannot stop pedaling. Riders stop by putting backward pressure on the pedals. To help reduce drag, riders wear tight skin suits and aerodynamic helmets. Track bikes also feature solid disc wheels and, for timed events, special handlebars to aid the aerodynamics.
Track cycling was included at the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. It has been featured at every Olympic Games since then, with the exception of Stockholm 1912 when the only velodrome in the city was torn down to make way for the new Olympic Stadium. Montreal 1976 marked the first Games at which track cycling was held indoors. Women’s track cycling made its Olympic debut at Seoul 1988 with the introduction of the individual sprint. Track cycling has been a part of the Pan American Games program since the inaugural edition in 1951.