Knowledge Level: Beginner
British Cycling’s cycle speedway referees’ officer Mike Hack tells you why and how to give the discipline a go.
Why should I try cycle speedway?
It is a safe gateway to competitive cycling, especially for youngsters. The tracks are fully enclosed, traffic free and, as it is a small circuit, they are always in view. At a typical club night, you will have juniors as young as four racing. It is also the least expensive form of cycle sport to get into as the bikes and kit are about as basic as you can get.
What skills and attributes will it give me?
You will develop great bike handling skills cornering on the dirt, riding in a bunch and coping with contact. You will build a strong sprint, the ability to sustain and effort for 45 seconds and a powerful standing start. You will also learn tactics such as when to attack and when to hold back. With multiple races in a meet, you do need good endurance and powers of recovery too. All of these aspects will transfer directly to any other form of cycle sport.
Describe a cycle speedway bike and track
The bikes are about as simple as you can get. Short wheel base steel or alloy frames with straight forks and no brakes. The tracks are oval and surfaced with red shale or granite dust and a concrete starting area. A typical track is 75 metres long and 6 m wide with some flat and some banked.
How does the racing work?
A single race within a meet will have four riders on the track. They will ride in an anticlockwise direction over four laps, although under-10s race over three. There are both team matches and individual events. In the team matches with just two teams, you will have a pair of riders from each team on the track and it can become very tactical. With multiple teams or riders, various formats are used depending on the numbers to ensure fair racing and that, by the end of the meet, the strongest rider or team wins.
How can I give it a go?
Contact your local club, find out when the weekly club nights are and just pop along. Most will have bikes that are available for loan or hire and, at the start of the season and school holidays, many clubs run taster sessions specifically for novices.
What kit will I need?
You will need a standard cycling helmet without a peak and you have to be fully covered from the neck down. Any long sleeved top, such as a football or rugby jersey, is fine, along with jeans or tracksuit bottoms with tight hems that won’t interfere with the chain. Full finger gloves are compulsory and you will wear flat soled trainers on your feet.
How old do you need to be to race?
There is no minimum age with the British Youth and Junior League open to under-eights. However, at most clubs, you will find that the youngest riders are 5-6.
Anything else I should know?
It is an incredibly family friendly sport where, at a single meeting, the whole family will be able to spectate, cheer each other on and compete.
Want to know more?
Find out more on the British Cycling cycle speedway homepage.