The Challenging Path of Keirin Cyclists 2
I have five disciples, and some of them are currently enrolled in the training center. The eligible age for the exams has changed significantly, starting from 17 years old. In other words, you can take the exams from your second year of high school. The first examination now takes place at the Kokura Keirin Velodrome in Kyushu, and it is held indoors in a dome velodrome, which can be considered a fair environment. However, local riders still have an advantage. Why is that? It's because they can practice at the examination venue, and indoor velodromes are unique in Japan, with only Maebashi and Kokura having them. They have a distinct riding feel, and not being familiar with it can affect your times severely.
The second examination takes place at the Japan Keirin School in Shuzenji, Shizuoka Prefecture. There is no cycling test; instead, it consists of an SPI test, an interview, and a written composition. The application process starts in June every year, with the first examination in October, the second examination in November, and the announcement of successful candidates in January of the following year.
The level required is equivalent to that of active athletes
Many candidates struggle with the gear ratio used for timing during the examination, which is 49×15 (3.27). This is because current cycling competitions predominantly use higher gear ratios, and many athletes have not experienced timing with such a light gear ratio. Furthermore, with a carbon monocoque frame, disc wheels, and a 1-inch fork column, a chromoly frame will not produce competitive times. In my opinion, switching from carbon to NJS would result in a decline of 3 to 4 seconds in a 1-kilometer time trial, and I believe it would be even more challenging for a 200-meter sprint. Achieving a time of 10.9 seconds in a carbon setup is considered difficult. The average times of successful candidates over the past five years have been steadily increasing, with a 1-kilometer time trial at 69 seconds and a 200-meter sprint at 11.4 seconds. These times are exceptionally demanding, and even active professionals may find it questionable whether they can achieve them. By the way, I personally consider them impossible, haha.
While the SPI test, interview, and written composition are within the realm of common sense, many people still struggle with them.
The financial burden of taking the examination is also significant. When my son took the exam, the round-trip transportation cost from Gifu to Kokura was about 30,000 yen by Shinkansen. With the exam lasting two days, there was an additional accommodation cost of 10,000 yen. As for bicycles, new tires for the front and rear cost around 30,000 yen, and for my disciples, the costs for items such as chains, grips, pedals, and bands to secure the feet amounted to 20,000 yen. A new helmet cost 10,000 yen. Just a rough calculation of these expenses, along with the examination fee of 5,000 yen, amounts to nearly 100,000 yen. The hurdle is high. Moreover, if you want to take the exam but don't have a bicycle, you would need to purchase an NJS-spec bike. In recent years, the prices of NJS frames and parts have significantly increased. Even if you opt for the most affordable Panasonic frame, it would still cost around 500,000 yen. Recently, it has become normal for NJS frames to exceed 200,000 yen, and on average, they cost around 250,000 yen. It's quite expensive, isn't it? I didn't realize it would require this much money... Let's make sure to earn enough and show filial piety to our parents!!! Well, I was in the same boat, you know, haha.
In any case, it is challenging to pass the current Keirin School examination. Without proper understanding of the exam and rigorous training under knowledgeable instructors, passing will be difficult. The level will continue to rise in the future. While the emergence of young and strong athletes makes competition tougher for the veterans, it is beneficial for the Keirin world to have young athletes excelling. I also look forward to racing with my disciples soon.