Britain's competitive motorcycle speedway clubs make regular motorcycle racing look tame. The bikes have a single gear and a 500CC engine. They can accelerate from 0 to 60 in 3 seconds, and since the bikes have no brakes, riders have to skid (using steel overshoes on their boots) to get around corners on the track.
Motorcycle racing fans visiting the country from March to October can see live racing on weeknights. Riders are divided into teams, and two teams typically compete against each other each meet. With the Elite League Riders Championship coming up on October 20 and league playoffs leading up to it, fall is a great time to watch. Motorcycle mania in Britain goes well beyond the Elite Leagues: Fans also flock to Premiere, National and Junior league events.
Here's more about the teams and tracks for Elite League motorcycle speedway races. Many of these tracks also offer motorcycle riding lessons.
Belle Vue Speedway: Belle Vue Aces
The Belle Vue Aces race at the Belle Vue Speedway on Kirkmanshulme Lane in Manchester. Adults pay £16.50 per ticket; families with children enjoy a reduced family rate of £40. The fixtures list (a race schedule) notes home races currently scheduled; race time is 7:30 p.m. on Monday nights. One racer to watch this year is Patrick Hougaard.
Perry Barr Stadium: Birmingham Brummies
Across the street from Birmingham City University is Perry Barr Stadium on Aldridge Road. The course is the home track for the Birmingham Brummies. Show up for the weekly Thursday race night at 7:30 p.m., park at the One Stop Shopping Centre, pay £16 per ticket, and keep a close eye on Daniel King, who joined the elite league in 2007 and is the Brummies' top scorer.
Arena Essex Raceway: Lakeside Hammers
Loyal Lakeside Hammers fans may remember these motorcycle racers as the Arena-Essex Hammers. Racing at the Arena Essex Raceway near the Lakeside Shopping Centre on Arterial Road, elite league fans might want to mark this venue for various racing events on alternate nights. The Hammers race Friday nights at 8 p.m.; admission costs £17 for adults and £37 for families.
Norfolk Arena: King's Lynn Stars
The King's Lynn Stars moved to the elite league in 2011 after a disastrous 2010 season. Their loyal fans nevertheless flock faithfully to the Norfolk Arena on Saddlebow Road (between Maple Road and Poplar Avenue) in Norfolk's King's Lynn. World Cup winner Niels-Kristian Iversen, one of the team's top scorers, has excelled in his last season, and fans do not mind spending the £16 for a chance to watch his team in action.
Poole Stadium: Poole Pirates
Located on Wimborne Road in Dorset's Poole, Poole Stadium is famous for its greyhound racing on Tuesday and Friday nights. The currently top-ranked Poole Pirates (who were also the 2011 Elite League champions) race there on Wednesday nights starting at 7:30 p.m. Admission is £16 for adults and £36 for families.
Monmore Green's Ladbroke Stadium: Wolverhampton Wolves
Freddie Lindgren is the track record holder of the Wolverhampton Wolves and a major draw for fans. This elite league team races at Wolverhampton's Monmore Green/Ladbroke Stadium on Sutherland Avenue in West Midlands. Admission is £17 per adult. Monday night at 7:30 p.m. is the official race time.
Before you head to the track…
British weather is notoriously unpredictable and rainouts are more common than most first-time visitors think. Checking in with the club on or shortly before race day, especially if the weather has been wet, is a must. Motorcycle speedway action is a great spectator sport for all ages. There is just something about watching one-gear motorcycle riders race 500 cc single-cylinder engines — without brakes.
by Sylvia Cochran
Top: In motorcycle speedway racing, riders on 500cc bikes like this one have to use their feet to skid around corners in the track. (Photo by Ross Land/Getty Images)