Go Fast … Turn Left
3 August 2022
Flat Track racing dates way back, with a long history in the US, although in New Zealand it’s pretty new. Going fast on cheap dirt bikes has never been as much fun... Chris Power explains how to have a go.
Flat Track racing is making quite the resurgence in NZ, both in the North and South Island, and it’s a great way to get that racing fix without the need for big budgets, big jumps and big balls. It’s an easy sport to get into as all you need is a dirt bike and a couple hundred dollars’ worth of mods. It’s actually cheaper than a club day MX once you get a licence.
WHAT IS FLAT TRACK?
In its simplest form... it’s speedway on dirt bikes. A flat oval track where the first to cross the finish line after ‘X’ amount of laps is the winner. Flat Track is also known as Dirt Track in some parts of the world, but made popular in America (like most things), American Flat Track racing is a huge sport that is booming in the USA.
FLAT TRACK IN NZ
The two kids who got the Flat Track scene off the ground in the North Island were Scott Wilkins and Blake Gillard, back in around 2018. Scott has since rustled together a small group of Flat Track riders and convinced the Rosebank Motorcycle Speedway community to let these rag-tag groups of dirt bikers loose on their purpose built Speedway track. This all culminated in the final race of the season and a winner takes all, prize-money event, that attracted the top 10 Flat Track riders in the North Island and some South Island racers. Over the past two seasons, the number of competitors in the North alone has near-on doubled, with the South Island guys also increasing their rider turnout.
FASTEST GROWING BIKE SPORT IN THE COUNTRY
What I enjoy most about Flat Track is the racing side. After spending nearly 15 years racing dirt bikes most weekends, that competitive feeling and adrenaline I got from banging bars at a cross country race, or dodging through trees on a special test was... umm... missing.
When I first heard about Flat Track, I initially thought it was going to be a little lame... just going around in circles. But, as I found out, the competition and close quarters racing more than made up for the fact that trees were not involved. It’s fair to say I was hooked pretty quickly.
ALL-IN WITH MY CRF450R
It didn’t take long for me to decided I was going all-in with my old ‘09 CRF450R... to transform it into a Flat Track spec race bike. This meant a 2.5-inch wide rear 19-inch rim, with a 2.15-inch x 19-inch front rim to properly house the 140/130 wide Shinko FT Med/Soft tyres. I had the suspension lowered and stiffened, chucked a set of Workshop graphics on it and a custom JW seat to finish off the look. It’s pretty cool what a fresh set of plastics and stickers can do to a 13-year old bike!
So... Flat Track is now my main form of racing and it’s not only pretty safe, easy on my ageing body [come back in 10 years and tell us how you feel... - Ed] and cheap. It’s also bloody good fun, with a really good bunch of guys out there - all turning left.
If you have a dirt bike, you can go Flat Track racing, and that is the real beauty of it. Just don’t turn right.
GETTING INTO FLAT TRACK
There are three major mods you have to do in order to get to the start tape, and we’re going to go through each one for you.
1. Rear Tyre
This is probably the biggest mod in terms of cost. Flat Track rules permit three different types of rear tyre; the official Flat Track type tyre, a Trials tyre, and a Speedway Solo tyre. Any of these pass scrutineering and all are readily available through your local dealer. 19-inch rims give you the option of the Flat Track specific tyre, or the Speedway Solo tyre. Those with 18’s will have to use the Trials tyre option as that is the only choice in that size. Pricing can range anywhere between $100-$150-ish.
To help increase participation, Flat Track rules allow you to run a stock 21-inch front wheel and any tyre you choose. The pros install a 19-inch front rim with a Flat Track spec tyre.
2. Tether Kill Switch
This would be the most technical aspect, though it’s still not hard with some mechanical knowledge. If you’re worried, get a mate over or take it to your local bike dealer. A tether kill switch has a cord attached to your wrist that kills the engine when you pop the switch off. This is so if you crash, the bike cuts out and doesn’t try to kill other people. It will cost you anywhere between $10 to $50 depending on how fancy you want to go.
3. Front Brake
The last piece of the Flat Track puzzle is the easiest – there’s no front brake. Just take the brake caliper and master cylinder off... and thats it. Easy. Guess what? You’re ready to race. All you need now is a Speedway Day Licence (which you pay for online and download the app) and you might be on the podium in no time.
Follow the NZ Flat Track Facebook page for details on events and practice days for both the North and South Islands. There is a large North Island contingent of riders who run at Rosebank Road and a decent Christchurch contingent of riders who run at Moore Park and a few other tracks
SUMMING IT UP - HOW TO GET SLIDEWAYS
- Flat Track/Speedway/Trials tyre: $100-$150
- Tether Switch: around $10-$50 (or $7 from wish.com).
- Front Brake Removal: Free.
- Speedway Day Licence: $80 inc track fees (Or $200 for a season licence/membership + $10 per event for track fees).
This makes it a little pricey as a one off event, but if you hook in for the full season, it’s far, far cheaper than any other other moto disciplines we have here in NZ. Umm... maybe except for Trials. The other option is to get to a practice day and have a go on the cheap.
Article kindly brought to you by Kiwirider
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