COTA’s bike nights another step toward cyclist-centric track use

Austin

Tuesday night marks the fourth chance this year for cyclists in Austin to take to the track at Circuit of the Americas.

This is the second year COTA has hosted these “bike nights,” trading gas pedals for another type of pedal. It comes as the track aims to expand its offerings for those who prefer two wheels to four and leg-power to horsepower.

“The Turn 1 hill is great training for our quads,” Dan Muto said in the middle of a few laps at the track last week. He was there with Chuck Cash and Gary Obsorn. All three of them ride with Team Radioactive, a cycling group that raises money for various charities.

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“With the growing number of cyclists that are out there today,” Muto said, “to have a venue where we can ride safely, without a car, is fantastic.”

A lot of people agree with him. This year the track sold two-and-a-half times as many bike night season passes as it sold last year, which included both a spring and fall season, COTA’s director of private and special events Roberto Silva said.

“We bring almost a thousand people every week out here to have fun,” he said. 

Last week the numbers were far smaller, as increasing rain forced the closure of the track later in the evening, but the season runs longer than last spring — until July 3 this year, with the possibility of another fall season to come.

Later this month, COTA will host the finish line for the BP MS 150, an annual bike ride from Houston to Austin to raise money for multiple sclerosis research. The event’s website says 13,000 cyclists will ride this year, and for the first time will end their trek at the racetrack. COTA hopes it won’t be the last time.

Competitive cyclist Colin Strickland is one of the people the track wants to attract. This year COTA is planning one big bike race, as opposed to three smaller ones they held last year, aiming to turn a single contest into a bigger event. Strickland is on board with making the track as available as possible to cyclists — he’s used it for both casual rides and races.

“I would almost call it an anomaly racing community,” he said of Austin. “We have a lot of people who are passionate about pushing their limits on a bike.”

COTA aims to capitalize on that, turning the track’s turns into a place to pedal.

“Austin’s the Mecca for bikes,” Chuck Cash said. “I mean, COTA did the perfect thing to open this up to cyclists.”

The bike nights are every Tuesday, starting at 6 p.m. and going until dark. The cost is $15 to pre-register until the night before or $20 at the track.

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