The universe of motorcycling sports includes many competitions as varied as they are impressive, the most publicized of which are the moto GP races, motocross and supercross .
Blackpines wants to shine the spotlight on undercover but equally extraordinary and amazing motorcycle racing. Original categories that require extensive preparation , fueling our common passion for the Café Racer .
On dirt, grass, ice or tarmac, motorcycle riders from all over the world have been competing for more than a hundred years on the handlebars of incredible machines, until the recent creation of the Sultans of Sprint where beautiful vintage motorcycles compete in speed. .
The opportunity to invite you to a short trip to the playgrounds of these surprising machines. Discover 7 spectacular motorcycle disciplines , starting with the resurrection of Flat Track.
The Flat Track: Indians motorcycles vs. Harley-Davidson
© Indian motorcycle
The Café Racer movement is undoubtedly at the origin of the rebirth of an event which had its heyday in the 70s, the Flat Track or Dirt Track . Appearing in the 1920s, these motorcycle races (bicycle races at first!) took place on dirt tracks, oval in shape.
Ten years later, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) created a competition reserved for production motorcycles. Harley-Davidson and Indian will compete there until the disappearance, in 1953, of the brand with the famous Indian chief. It will be necessary to wait until 2013 to see the comeback of Indian Motorcycle with its new Chief Classic , Chief Vintage and Chieftain motorcycles.
Between the 1960s and 1980s, several British brands took an interest in flat track. After the arrival of the Triumphs , Matchless and other BSAs will soon enter the Japanese dance. The Flat Track takes off and unveils over the championships the names of pilots who will become icons of the GP: Kenny Roberts , Freddie Spencer or Wayne Rainey , to name but a few.
Disappeared since the end of the 80s, Flat Track was reborn in the 2000s, taking advantage of the emergence of the movement of vintage motorcycles . Starting from a series motorcycle (free displacement), the transformations cannot be carried out either on the engine or on the frame. Unlike the twin discipline of Speedway , the rear of the bike, the fork and the shock absorbers are not disassembled. Only the front brake is removed.
The races take place on grassy, cinder or dirt tracks ranging from 200 m (10 motorbikes max) to 1,600 m (15 motorbikes max). These competitive series motorcycles with slight adjustments represent the Café Racer spirit well. To read, if you haven't already done so, the Story of one of our customers telling how he participated in the Wheels & Waves El Rollo in 2019.
There are a large number of motorcycling sports which, for once, impose impressive modifications for spectacular events. Let's continue our overview of the non-standard motorcycle disciplines with one that is undoubtedly among the best known: the Speedway .
© Drew Ruiz
The Speedway: a ring for sliding specialists
You have to go back to the very beginning of the 20th century, in the United States, to witness the first Speedway events. Later, in the 1920s, races on cinder tracks landed in Great Britain and gradually spread to Europe. In 1936, the first Speedway World Championship took place in the legendary Wembley Stadium .
Since then, the FFM (Fédération Française de Motocyclisme) has set up different categories according to age, the experience of the pilots and the power of the machines. Like the Café Racer universe, profound modifications are made to the motorcycles to make them suitable for this type of competition.
Indeed, the principle is to drive full throttle, turning only to the left, on a cinder ring. To do this, the motorcycles are devoid of brakes , shock absorbers and are stripped down to the maximum. They are equipped with a lightened tubular frame and a balance fork to absorb the torsion generated. Thus, the stability of the machine is ensured when crossing, while gliding, the curves of the track.
The speedway in detail :
- track : cinder;
- length : 160 m to 480 m;
- width straight lines : 10 m (250 cm3 and more), 8 m (less than 250 cm3);
- bend width : 14 m (250 cm3 and more), 10 m (less than 250 cm3);
- number of pilots or crews : 6 per round;
- engine capacity : 500 cm3 max, 1,000 cm3 for sidecars.
Taming a 500cc single-cylinder developing more than 80 horsepower, the handle in the corner, without brakes or shock absorbers requires having a big, very big heart. Performing Speedway laps requires perfect control of the glide and precision in the drift to turn without losing speed.
To achieve this, riders must become one with their bike and perform a multitude of precision tune-ups between each event. Adjusting the position of the rear wheel, adjusting the jets, the carburetion, the ignition or the clutch are imperative and require good mechanical knowledge.
© Royal Enfield
The Ice Speedway: exceptional motorcycle discipline par excellence
After the Speedway arrived in Britain in the 1920s, motorcycle racing on ice became very popular in Scandinavian countries and Russia. Very quickly, this type of event is adapted to be able to take place on frequently frozen tracks in these northern countries.
To allow motorcycles to adhere to this frozen surface, which is not conducive to two-wheelers, to say the least, the tires are lined with metal spikes 28 mm long: from 120 to 150 spikes on the front wheel and up to 200 on the rear wheel. A particularly effective system for ensuring grip on the ice and, incidentally, lacerating the bodies of unlucky competitors who have had the unfortunate idea of rubbing themselves against it!
Higher and heavier than the motorcycles used in Speedway , these Jawa single cylinders (for the majority of the engines used) of 500 cm3 (the displacement is free) have a two-speed gearbox. For the rest, same principle as in classic Speedway, four gladiators fight each other on an icy ring for four laps .
Before embarking on the track, one would almost expect to hear them proclaim the famous “Ave Caesar, morituri salutant you” . Because, if in Ice Speedway the pilots are equipped with reinforced suits and important protections are fixed to the wheels, spending your time lying a few centimeters from hundreds of fangs requires a big, but then a very big dose of courage .
- track : ice;
- length : 400 m to 1,300 m;
- width : 8m.
The Long Track and the Grass Track: long versions of the Speedway
Long-Track races take place on cinder, grass (Grass-Track) or dirt tracks longer than those practiced in Speedway. Motorcycles are also larger and heavier. However, like those used in Ice Speedway events, they have two speeds.
In September 2018, in Morizès in Gironde , the French team was crowned world champion for the first time and would do it again a year later in Vechta, Germany.
- track : cinder, grass, clay;
- length : 300 m to 1,300 m;
- straight line width : 12 m;
- bend width : 15 m;
- number of drivers : 8 per round, 6 sidecars;
- engine capacity : 500 cm3 maximum, 1,000 cm3 for sidecars.
The Dragster motorcycle: master a 600 horsepower monster
A dragster race consists of covering a distance of 201.16 m or 402.33 m as quickly as possible, depending on the track. Originally from the United States, dragsters landed on French soil, and more specifically on the 24 Hours of Le Mans circuit, in the early 1980s. The spectacular appeal of this discipline then attracted more than 50,000 fans.
In 1984, a French championship was set up with two queen categories, the Pro Stock (their original appearance hides real dragsters) and the Top Fuel (renamed Competition Bike) integrating the Pro Mod , the Funny Bike and the Tof Fuel , the most prestigious formula.
Performing 200 meters in less than 5 seconds does not allow the approximate. Everything must be carefully checked before starting the spectacular burn sequence (bringing the 50 cm wide rear tire up to temperature, by rotating it at high speed). All that remains is to release the horses on the signal delivered by the “Christmas tree ” (electronic device triggering a luminous countdown).
Reaching 100 km/h in less than 20 m clearly puts a strain on the cycle part and explains the installation of wheelie bars preventing the motorcycle from overturning.
As this discipline is very popular in France, the FFM has created a “Promotion” category allowing the use of standard motorcycles, compliant with the Highway Code. All you have to do is pay for an FFM license and an entry fee for the chosen competition.
Then you will need to equip yourself with a leather suit (one or two pieces), remove the indicators and the license plate, protect the headlight and stick your race numbers. All you have to do is challenge the clock on your machine.
The impossible climb: touching the clouds… or almost!
The impossible climb (Hill-Climbing), a name that sums up well the problem of this exceptional motorcycle discipline . The objective is simple: climb a natural hill with a maddening percentage of elevation gain, going as high as possible, even with the best time.
Born at the beginning of the 20th century in the USA, these events appeared in Europe in the 1980s, particularly in France, and quickly became a great success with the public eager for thrills. To manage to climb these vertiginous slopes, the competitors are free to modify their machines excessively.
Two major transformations are practiced: a minimum obligatory wheelbase of 170 cm (gap between the axles of the wheels) by lengthening the swinging arm and the fixing on the rear tire of buckets in metal or rubber , or bolts depending on the nature of the terrain.
A mudguard wrapping the tire is required for safety reasons. The frame may be the original one, but it is more often made entirely. For the rear tire, two schools compete: wide, car or dragster type, or narrow with buckets. Lengthening the swingarm involves adjusting the rear shock.
The pilots also install wide cross handlebars which will make it possible to plant the motorcycle at the time of the fall and to prevent it from moving backwards too much. Indeed, the distance traveled is calculated at the level of the front wheel, machine immobilized. As for the box, it will have one or two speeds. Hill-Climbing is above all an adventure for enthusiasts.
A lot of preparation work is necessary and the hours spent in the workshop are countless, a real pleasure for lovers of mechanics.
- track : earth, stones, holes, “walls”;
- length : 100 to 200 m;
- width : 4 to 8 m;
- engine capacity : at least 600 cm3.
Sultans of Sprint: challenges of beautiful bikes against a backdrop of rock and friendship
© The Lucky Cat Garage
End of this overview of non-standard motorcycle disciplines with the European challenge Sultans of Sprint imagined in 2015 by Sébastien Lorentz , founder of the Lucky Cat Garage and the amazing BMW R100RS SprintBeemer . A preparation idea around a simple dragster tire and partly financed by the sale of his Lucky Cat t-shirt in perfecto.
When we talk about acceleration races, standing start, we naturally think of Dragsters . Sébastien undertook the project of a competition reserved for vintage motorcycles from the cafe racer universe built to measure by talented preparers and the best workshops. The objective is to perform in speed and acceleration with more or less old motorcycles.
The first year saw fifteen merry men compete on the handlebars of Triumph , BMW , Ducati , Moto Guzzi and Harley . Then, in 2016, four manufacturers entered the race: Yamaha , Royal Enfield , Harley , BMW and Indian (with the famous Scout Appaloosa piloted by Randy Mamola himself).
But this competition turns out to be very different from the Speedway and Flat Track events. It is the result of a common passion for vintage motorcycles , the pleasure of getting together, having fun, dressing up, partying together and sharing, in the simplest way possible. If the rankings refer to the results of the races, they also take into account the creativity and the "madness" of the preparers who are grouped within two classes:
- Freak Class : 4-stroke engines cooled by air or oil, up to 1,800 cc, nitrogen oxide injection, lowered chassis, turbo, supercharger, in fact the only limits are those of the imagination of the manufacturers;
- Factory Class : 4-stroke air- or water-cooled engines. Imposed weight/power ratio of 0.65 (a 100 kg motorcycle cannot exceed 160 horsepower).
A mixture of racy motorcycles, known or unknown pilots, manufacturers and prestigious preparers, the Sultans of Sprint grow every year and participated, in 2019, in the Café Racer Festival in Montlhéry .
These different motorcycle disciplines have in common a work of preparations and important modifications, close to the daily life of enthusiasts of vintage bikes. Whether you call on a professional or transform your own motorcycle, it's the same passion that drives us.
The Speedway , Flat Track , impossible climb races and of course the Sultans of Spirit are an opportunity to discover captivating universes, to meet people and why not to embark, in turn, on the preparation of the motorcycle of his dreams. If you want to learn more about the world of the café racer, be sure to read our article “ Café racer: 5 reasons to take the plunge ”.
We are here to advise you and allow you to equip yourself with the best equipment, so do not hesitate to contact us and discover the café racer parts , café racer accessories and tools available to you in our online store.