Short oval shale tracks, four riders head-to-head. Explosive, elbow-to-elbow action. No brakes. That’s cycle speedway in a nutshell. It’s also accessible, affordable, family-oriented and taking place in clubs throughout the country.
The best cycle speedway riders are explosive sprinters with great bike-handling skills, nerve and tactical awareness. With two riders from opposing teams riding each heat, team working is also an essential attribute. Although races are short, meetings are run over successive heats, so good endurance and recovery is essential too.
Cycle speedway bikes are simple and robust. Steel and aluminium still rule in cycle-speedway. No suspension, upright handlebars, a low, single gear with a freewheel and 26 inch wheels with heavily treaded tyres. They are purpose-built for one-thing – getting through the slings and arrows of a cycle speedway meeting as fast as possible and in one piece.
Oval shaped shale tracks are the domain of cycle speedway. Born on the bombsites of post war Europe, cycle speedway tracks are among the simplest of cycle sport facilities. Tracks are 70-90 metres in length, with enough width for four riders to race shoulder-to-shoulder. Speedway is an almost solely club-run sport, with clubs building and maintaining their own venues.
Cycle speedway races consist of four riders, contesting four laps of the track from a standing start. The four riders usually consist of two pairs of riders from opposing teams. Points are awarded according to finishing positions. Matches last for 16 to 20 heats after which the totals are calculated and the winning team named. There are regional and national leagues, with points awarded for wins, losses or draws in a similar style to football, with national championships for clubs, individuals and all age categories.
Cycle speedway clubs are keen to grow the sport and have taster sessions for complete beginners through to more structured, event specific training for more experienced riders.
The cycle speedway season extends from spring through to autumn, with regional and national leagues running throughout the season. National championships for various team and individual categories take place throughout the season, including indoor racing in the winter. There is racing for all age groups and a range of abilities.
The short, sharp, explosive elbow-to-elbow action of cycle speedway makes it a great spectator sport. So too does it’s friendly family atmosphere and it’s compact, spectator-friendly venue. Most clubs don’t charge admission fees for spectators and you’ll definitely want to have a go yourself by the end of the match.
Support the sport by volunteering your time and skills at your local cycle speedway event. British Cycling has a range of volunteer education courses to support your development.