Motorcycle speedway, usually simply referred to as “speedway”, is a motorcycle sport involving four and sometimes up to six riders competing over four anti-clockwise laps of an oval circuit. The motorcycles are specialized machines which use only one gear and have no brakes. Racing takes place on a flat oval track usually consisting of dirt, loosely packed shale, or crushed rock. Competitors use this surface to slide their machines sideways, powersliding or broadsiding into the bends. On the straight sections of the track the motorcycles reach speeds of up to 70 miles per hour.
What motorcycles are those?
Speedway bikes have no brakes, just one gear, a clutch, and 500cc engines which run on pure 100% methanol fuel and can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph faster than a Formula 1 car! They are designed to turn left in a power slide at high speeds. Gearing is done through the ratio displacement between the front two sprockets and the rear wheel sprocket. Depending on rider choice and track conditions, the bike will be set up with a ratio for the rear and front sprockets. These are connected to the bike for quick release as they often get changed as the meeting progresses. Speedway tracks are all individual in their set-up, as is every rider. The key is to maintain the optimum gearing to ride the track with maximum drive.
What are the rules?
Riders compete over four anti-clockwise laps of an oval circuit, with individual races (referred to as “heats”) usually lasting no more than 60 seconds. In the United States speedway meetings are run as individual events. If a rider wins a heat he will earn 3 points, if he comes second he will earn 2 points, 3rd and he will earn 1 point, and if he comes last he won’t get anything. The rider with the most overall points at the end wins the entire meeting.
What is it like to ride a speedway motorcycle?
Speedway is a very dynamic and exciting sport that requires extreme skill and training to be a successful rider. Even though individual heats are relatively short and usually last under 1 minute, they require both physical stamina and a great deal of mental restraint. It is not only about being able to control the bike as it slides around the track, it is also about calculating what other riders will do while you make split-second decisions about your next move.
If you are interested in learning more or want to try riding a speedway motorcycle come to your local track and talk to the promoter or crews in the pits. They will be happy to tell you more about it and may even have a bike sitting around for you to try. If you have kids that may be interested in the sport there are youth training programs available as well.
Where can I see this type of racing?
The following is a list of motorcycle speedway venues in eastern United States:
Binghamton NY and the Finger Lakes region