the weekend’s jaunt to Manchester velodrome, and especially the derny race, got me thinking about a more esoteric form of motor-pacing; the aptly named ‘motor-pace race’, it’s a real rarity in this day and age, and needs the longer sweep of the 400 metre outdoor tracks for it to work. it’s a matter of scale, as you can see below:
traditionally it forms a showstopping part of the good friday meeting at Herne Hill. The velodrome in South London was built in 1891, and is the oldest olympic venue still in regular use; the Good Friday meeting has been taking place since 1903 and is an amazing event. Over the years it has hosted pretty much every track cyclist of any repute. Fausto Coppi rode there, as did Tommy Simpson, Reg Harris, Hugh Porter, Bradley Wiggins, Tylar Farrar, Ross Edgar. In short, everyone. I last went in 2007, which was the last genuinely clear day, it’s been beset by inclement weather ever since and has moved to manchester this year.
The staggering sight of several 750cc Tiger motorbikes powering round the bends with riders perched on the oddest looking bikes imaginable, is something to behold. it’s anachronistic, and amazing. i took these pictures at the time:
the rider steers close to the extended roller, and holds the slipstream from the motorbike rider, who is stood upright to clear the wind resistance. as a result, they can attain speeds in excess of 40 mile per hour. if he loses the roller, and the slipstream, he won’t get back on.
the bikes are pretty obscure – they are called ‘stayers’, and have some very odd foibles.
if you look carefully, it’s got a chainring the size of a cartwheel, usually around a 66 tooth, with the rear sprocket probably around a 16t. this gives a gear inch of about 110″, which is absolutely huge. the forks are reversed and the front wheel is a 24″. the saddle pushes forward and the bars extend quite far, with a thin metal support running from the fork crown. as i mentioned, it’s esoteric. and amazing. the roar of the bikes as the race unfolds challenges the notion of what bicycling is all about, in the best possible way. it’s something every keen cyclist should see at least once in their lifetime.