An Introduction to Cycle Speedway
Cycle Speedway is one of Britain's most exciting sports. The national governing body, the BCF Cycle Speedway Commission, caters for clubs spread across the length and breadth of Britain sited in large towns and cities as well as rural village settings. These venues come alive during the racing season which covers the months through from April to October.
The sport developed in the late Forties under the influence of motorised speedway which was at the height of its popularity. The ensuing years have seen the image of Cycle Speedway change almost out of recognition although similarities with the motorised version still exist in so much that races take place in an anti-clockwise direction from a standing start on an oval track. Four riders race four laps in a sprint to reach the chequered flag which rarely takes longer than 50 seconds. But if the basic formula is similar, the speedway connection loses its grip on a sport which places the emphasis on the fitness skill of its riders and amateur competition governed by a comprehensive set of racing rules.
Many of today's tracks, which vary in length from 65 to 90 metres, are situated in public parks, sports complexes and recreation centres. The provision of these facilities has rapidly accelerated in recent years thanks to a combination of grant aid and self help. Local authorities and Sports Councils alike have realised that the capital investment involved in track construction is low in relation to the benefits derived from both participant and spectators alike.
Spectators are important to the sport. Administrators and clubs place great emphasis on catering for the general public with facilities such as refreshments, comprehensive programmes and seating usually available at race meetings. The public address system puts the finishing touches to the promotion by providing a fully informed commentary of the proceedings. The promotional effort, together with free admission often pays dividends as crowds have increasingly been attracted to big events in recent years.
With the spiralling cost of equipment and travelling, its not difficult to appreciate the monies involved in competing at the highest level. As in all forms of cycle racing, clubs and individuals are constantly involved in fund raising in order to meet the essential expenditure. In Cycle Speedway, as with many other sports, some of the traditional methods have given way to more modern concepts such as team and event sponsorship, circuit and programme advertising and lotteries. Many clubs are now sponsored by companies who are contracted to provide race clothing, travel allowances and other fringe benefits.
Team Racing is the life blood of the sport and major leagues operate in regions of England, Wales and Scotland. Matches take place at weekends and in addition to regular team fixtures a number of club events such as four team tournaments, best pairs and individual competitions add variety to the racing calendar. Minor leagues at county and town level operate predominantly on a mid-week basis and often act as training grounds for the major clubs.
Bike handling, technical ability and physical fitness play an important part in the make up of a top rider. This can only be gained by experience and it is therefore not surprising that many of the top class competitors invited on the "open" circuit are in their late twenties or early thirties. However there is plenty of racing to be had for the younger riders. Most clubs promote under 13s, under 16s and junior competitions for the under 19s. Senior members are always keen to assist with advice and often donate equipment to the younger riders.
The BCF Cycle Speedway Commission promotes the British Championships each year, of which the senior individual championship is the blue ribbon event attracting a large number of entries from all corners of the country. Preliminary rounds commence in the early months of the season and culminate in a finals weekend which takes place during the late summer bank holiday period. The top sixty four riders do battle in the qualifying rounds on both the Saturday and the Sunday with each rider having a total of ten races. The top sixteen scoring riders on aggregate, progress to the Grand Final on the Monday afternoon and the winner on the day emerges as the British Cycle Speedway Champion.
Under 13, under 16, under 19 and veteran championships also take place. The National Team Championships are divided into under 16, under 19 and senior categories and offer clubs the opportunity to participate in a truly nationwide competition. The Senior Championship is run on similar lines to the FA Challenge Cup - on a knockout tie basis culminating in a grand final which is promoted each September.
From local mid-week competitions through to International Championships, Cycle Speedway has much to offer the potential rider, official or spectator. If you would like to know more about the sport in your area please contact: