The American motorcycle industry is experiencing a revival, with sales rising by 11% in 2018 and 19% in 2019. One of the main reasons for this is the sport of speedway biking. Also known as flat track racing, short track racing, and night racing, these events are a mix of the traditional and the new, attracting adrenaline junkies and casual bikers who want to get a taste of what motorcycling was like in the Golden Era of motorsports.
If you’re unfamiliar, the golden era of motorcycling was from the 1950s to the 1970s, when racing was at its peak. During that time, the industry grew from a few million annual units to over 100 million, with racing capturing the attention of the public and competitors alike. Companies such as Harley-Davidson, Indian, and Honda all had thriving racing departments, with successful racing programs that contributed to the resurgence of motorcycling in the modern era.
While it may be difficult to put into words what made the golden era so special, the fact remains that there’s something about racing that makes it special. It’s not just about driving fast, although that is certainly an important part of it. It’s also about the experience of being there, on the edge of your seat, as the tires screech against the tarmac, the pit crew scramble, and the entire track comes alive with the sound of engines revving and tires squealing.
If you’re passionate about motorcycling and want to experience what it’s like to ride during the golden era, consider doing so in the UK, where several well-organised groups held regular speedway meetings. Unfortunately, the majority of these were cancelled due to lack of entries, leading to the sport being considered unfunded and unsustainable. However, with bike sales soaring and more people wanting to get involved, it’s clear that this is a sport that deserves to be supported and grown. If you’d like to get involved yourself, here are a few tips on how to do so safely and effectively.
Find A Track
If you want to do speedway biking, the first thing you need to do is find a track that hosts races. You can search online or contact local motor clubs to see if they have any information. If you live in a large city, there will almost certainly be a local club that can help you find a track nearby that you can join. Once you’ve joined a club, you can look up the races that are coming up and see if there’s one that fits into your schedule.
If you live in a smaller town or village, consider looking on social media for groups that hold meets there. Many motorsport clubs host meetups and events on social media, so if you join a couple of Facebook groups for your local area, you’ll be able to keep track of what’s going on. Remember to consider the time zone difference when planning your racing schedule, as daylight savings means that events might start later than you’re used to.
Make sure to research the different rules and protocols that apply at each track. Some tracks are open to any motorcycle, while others are only open to certain classes of bike. It’s important to know the limitations of the track, so you don’t waste time and effort trying to qualify for a class that you can’t compete in. Instead, look for a track that’s right for you.
Aside from finding a track that hosts races, the other crucial thing is to make sure that you’re riding safely. The last thing you want to do is take a shortcut to find out how fast you can go and then hurt yourself. This is why it’s important to take the time to learn how to ride safely and correctly, before you start taking shortcuts just to increase your speed. Riding safely also means keeping within the speed limits, obeying all the traffic laws, wearing the proper attire, and using the proper equipment.
There are a few things you can do to reduce the chances of hurting yourself or others on the road. For starters, wear a helmet that fits securely and comfortably on your head, and make sure to always look ahead when driving. Another important rule is to signal your turns, both when you’re coming up to a stop sign and when you’re turning onto a road. These small changes will make a big difference and ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable experience. You can also carry a first aid kit with you, just in case you do happen to hurt yourself or someone else on the road. It’s also important to learn how to take a quick pit stop, without risking getting a ticket for going too fast in a pit area.
Remember that if you’re out on a family vacation, you might want to stick to the quiet roads and stick to the speed limit to make sure everyone has a good time too. This might mean missing out on some speed, but it’ll also ensure that everyone stays safe. If you can’t decide whether to go fast or be safe, go fast, but enjoy your ride and the time off work yourself. Driving too fast isn’t worth it if you end up in a serious accident because you ignored common sense and went above the speed limit or used a different route to get to where you were going.
Get The Right Bike
As mentioned above, riding a bike is more than about going fast. It’s also about knowing how to handle it safely. If you want a speedway bike that’s both safe and able to go fast, consider buying one that has a relaxed riding position and stays stable at high speeds. Ideally, you want to find a bike that’s equipped for both street use and track use, so you don’t have to buy two separate vehicles.
Harley-Davidson produces several models of motorbikes that are ideal for speedway use, with their Softail Slim and Twin Cam models being two examples. These bikes are designed for both on-road and off-road use, with the former getting the company’s famous relaxed-riding position and the latter providing more ground clearance.
Similarly, Indian produces several models of motorcycles that are perfect for speedway riding, with the Chief being a standard vehicle that’s both versatile and relatively inexpensive. The company’s sport bikes are also built with a slimmer profile, to facilitate higher speeds. Finally, Honda’s newest CRF450 concept motorcycle is designed for both track use and everyday driving, proving that the motorcycle industry has learned from past mistakes and produced a bike that’s ideal for both use cases.
Wear The Right Attire
Apart from your bike, the other vital piece of gear you need is of course your clothing. The last thing you want to do is show up at a track in a fancy suit, only to find out that the class you want to enter doesn’t allow for such attire. This is why it’s important to check the rules and regulations pertaining to the specific track before the day of the race. Some tracks require you to wear specific clothing, while others don’t have any specific requirements. It’s also important to check the weather conditions in case you’re going to be riding in the rain or cold. Certain clothing is better than others when it comes to keeping you warm or cool, depending on the weather conditions. For instance, long sleeves and long pants help keep you cool and prevent sun damage, while heavy coats and warm hats keep you warm during chilly conditions. Keep in mind that your hands are the most important part of keeping cool, so make sure you’re wearing comfortable and secure gloves and avoid wearing loose-fitting or transparent gloves, which might cause you to overheat.
The above tips should help get you started on the right foot. From there, the only way to go is up! Good luck out there.