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What is a Banked Track in Roller Derby and Speed Skating?


What is a Banked Track in Roller Derby and Speed Skating?
Powerslide We Love to Skate/flickr/CC BY 2.0

A banked track is the oval skating surface that was used for early roller derby events. This track format is still used in derby and speed skating today. Banked tracks are designed with banked or raised, sloped turns. The pitch or angle of a banked track's curves affects the centripetal force (the force that makes a body follow a curved path) created by the moving skaters on the track. As the pitch of the banked turns increases, the skater's speed potential increases, too.

On these banked tracks the skating speeds during inline racing or derby bouts can be much faster than those on a flat track surface. The banked turns allow the pack and the individual skaters to skate curves while maintaining or even increasing their speed – creating a sling-shot effect. Many banked tracks have a rail, wall or barrier at the top of the berm to keep derby skaters from flying off the track when they hit a curve at high speeds.

Banked Track Speed Skating

Banked tracks are part of many inline racing formats and venues. USA Roller Sports speed skaters train and compete on a 200 meter banked track format and participate in the Banked Track Nationals. There are also 400 meter patinodromes that may be paved with asphalt, concrete or other similar surfaces. Patinodrome curves may be banked, but these specialized skating tracks are rare in the United States. The large banked tracks that are used for inline speed skating are usually part of a permanent skating facility or training center.

Banked Track Roller Derby

Banked track roller derby is a fast-paced contact team sport that requires speed, strategy, and athleticism. The banked track version of the sport was best known during the 1960s and 1970s, when roller derby was sensationalized and shown regularly as TV programming.

A derby banked track costs about $15,000 to $20,000 to build. Once the track is completed, it needs a permanent storage/use site, which can cost between $5,000 and $15,000 per month for a suitable rental or leased space. Even if a warehouse can be used to set up the track up for practice and training, this type of location may not be suitable for an audience. If this is the case, the track will need to be disassembled, transported to the bout location, reassembled, and disassembled for the return to the home site. A crew to handle the shipping and assembly would be another expense.

Today, this version of roller derby is not seen as often, because it is difficult to find or afford banked tracks suitable for training and competitions.

The sport has grown and is still growing because of the the ease of setting up a flat track on any smooth, flat surface that is suitable for roller skating. A flat roller derby track can be set up in skating rinks, on basketball courts, in parking lots or in any large free span space with a smooth floor. This reduces the amount of capital needed to start up a roller derby league, and allows small groups of people to get a fledgling league off the ground at little cost.

Use the information below to learn more about the history of roller derby, the types of derby tracks used, the equipment needs for participants, the rules and strategy behind the sport and why derby skaters love it so much.

If you want to try a quick and easy digital overview of today's derby sports, try Germaine Koh's Intro to Flat-Track Roller Derby iTunes app to get an introduction to the fast-moving sport of flat-track roller derby, including a video demonstration, explanations of the most common referee hand signals and a FAQ archive right on your iPhone.

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