In appreciation of the Olympics unsung hero - the Keirin Derny Bike

The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo are underway, which is as good a reason as any to mark our appreciation for the Derny bike used in the Keirin cycling race

Derny Bike Keirin

As I write this the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will finally be getting underway with all the pomp, spectacle and fanfare the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ never fails to lavish upon us every four years (well, five in this case…).

I don’t know about you but I LOVE the Olympics. A mesmerising demonstration of human ability, team spirit and patriotic support, for two weeks every four (or so) years we binge on a variety of sports we rarely see on television, get pumped for our medallists and unionise as the Great British nation more closely than at any other time.

Now, if you’re wondering whether you’ve stumbled across the wrong website, rest assured this is still Visordown, yes we are still all about motorcycles and as much as we would love to see something like MotoGP or WorldSBK as an Olympic sport we don’t need to explain why it could never happen. Which is just as well since Great Britain doesn’t have a single representative in MotoGP right now.

But there is one sport where motorcycling by the very definition does actually play a significant role - and we’re not talking about the camera crew hanging off the back of a bike during the Marathon.

This is our appreciation of the Derny bike, a machine that ends up being Googled and joked about on social media when it pops up every four years as an instrumental tool in the Keirin, a category of cycling.

The Keirin is a curious class of cycling. It literally translates as ‘racing cycle’ in Japanese - appropriately - and is a six lap, six-person build up to a fascinating burst of sprint right at the finish that is as much about power as it is timing. Make the push too early and you’ll be swallowed up, time it just right and you’re on your way to gold.

However, the first three laps are effectively a warm-up spent behind the Derny bike, a motorised two-wheeler that ramps up the speed from 30km/h to 50km/h before peeling off.

Modern renditions of the event have seen the Derny bike become something of a powered-pedal bike, where the upright seating position and po-faced rider reminds us of those who take up all the space and refuse to move in the cycle lane as those who can go faster get irritated behind.

While you may think this is a tenuous association for a Visordown article, we wanted to point out that powered-pedals weren’t always the way for the Derny bike. Instead, motorcycles were used for a time, which we’d assume didn’t always go down so well if they’re pumping out some fumes as cyclists bunch up behind them.

One of the best known Derny bikes - known as a Stayer - was a Triumph TR65 Thunderbird where the rider actually stands up, which was actually preferred in the 1980s because it punched a bigger hole in the air and allowed cyclists to use less power.

There have been different variations on the form over the years and while we’re unlikely to see Honda, Yamaha or Kawasaki appear in a similar capacity in 2021, there was indeed a time when motorcycles were crucial to cycling.

So as the Olympics Opening Ceremony continues on we’ll leave you with this final fact; Canadian cyclist Sam Whittingham hit 82.82mph in a cycling sprint race… which we reckon makes him as fast as an A2 licence motorcycle. That’s approximately 47LP (leg power). Oof!

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