When it comes to cycling sports, mainstream topics such as road bicycle racing and BMX which will have its debut in Olympics 2020 would most likely come to mind first. In this final article of the cycling series, we would like to introduce another cycling sports that originated from Japan – Keirin. 

What is Keirin?

In Japan, Keirin is a public sport along with others such as powerboat racing, horse racing, and auto race. Bicycles will race on the track and guests will bet on the cyclists. Part of the revenue is used for the benefits of public such as the promotion of sports and social welfare. Keirin as a public sport is written in kanji, while Keirin as a competitive track cycling sport is written in katakana to differentiate the different nature of the sport. The Keirin that we will talk about further in this article is the public sport Keirin.

Surprising Fact 1: Keirin Originated from Japan!

As we mentioned in the beginning of this article, Keirin is a professional sport that originated from Japan. It officially became an Olympics event in the Sydney Olympics 2000. In Beijing Olympics 2008, Nagai Kiyofumi won the bronze medal, becoming the first Japanese to win an Olympic medal in Keirin.

In Keirin (public sports), cyclists form teams known as “line” (they still compete individually at the end); while in Keirin (competitive) it is a completely individual match. Cyclists will try to get in a favorable position while blocking opponents’ from taking good positions. The competition is not purely decided by speed, but also by applying various tactics to get ahead of your opponents.

Surprising Fact 2: No Brakes! Racers Become One with Their Bicycle to Reach Max Speed!

Bicycles used in Keirin are called “racers”, as they are custom made to suit each cyclist. Racers typically weigh 7-8kg. With the sole purpose of going faster, racers are not equipped with brakes as it is not a component necessary to increase speed. Therefore, cyclists must control the speed with their own pedaling power. Besides, the tires are so thin that they only have 22mm width! Tires are designed in such a way to minimize friction with the ground.

Surprising Fact 3: Speed is Not the Only Winning Factor!

Keirin is a cycling sports that relies heavily on strategy to win. Some of the strategies include “domination” (tsuppari), which is forcefully moving forward when the opposing line (team) tries to take over your position from behind, and “overpowering” (kamashi), which is to sprint forward and overtake from the rear while other opponents are not accelerating. Keirin is a dramatic sport where each cyclist’s thoughts intertwine to outsmart and outrun each other!

This is What’s Amazing About Keirin Cyclists!

Male Keirin cyclists are divided into 6 ranks, with the highest being SS (S-class S-rank), followed by S1, S2, A1, A2, A3. The ranks are judged twice a year based on cyclists’ performance. If a cyclist performs badly continuously, the cyclist is disqualified from professional Keirin matches, therefore the world of Keirin is a harsh one. The cyclists’ strength lies in their thigh muscles. The size of the thigh muscle is the symbol of their strength as well as their pride.


There are over 40 Keirin velodromes in the whole country, where matches are held almost every day. Keirin velodromes in outskirt areas of Tokyo including Seibuen, Keiokaku, Chiba, Kawasaki are recommended as they are relatively easy to access. Keirin ballots can be purchased by people above 20 (students are not allowed). Most places are admission free, while some require you to register as a member, so check before going!

Keirin ballot can be purchased online or at the venue from the velodrome or outside facilities, where the latter requires the buyer to mark the betting details on a card. After selecting the type of betting and racer number to bet on, you can purchase the ballot from the reception or ticket machine. If you happen to win a bet, you can get your reward from the velodrome or outside facilities.

Online ballot buyers will have to first register the bank account for purchase and reward payment. After registering and paying for the ticket, the betting method is chosen.

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