December 03, 2012
Cycle Speedway Japan. The most fun on wheels ever.
Last Sunday the 2nd Cycle Speedway Japan was held in Tokyo's Yoyogi Koen and I can honestly say it the most fun you can have on two wheels!
Over 200 riders took part in the event which began at 9am, and finished with a trophy presentation at 3:30pm as the light began to fail on a winters day where the temperature barely reached 10 degrees. Of the 200 riders, roughly 120 were children around 4 and 5 years old, who participated in exciting two lap races on a smaller circuit than the adults. The weapon of choice for these youngsters was the Strider bicycle, those pedalless machines which are popular with future cyclists the world over.
Youngsters raced a seemingly endless series of high energy heats with slower riders gradually being eliminated and culminated with an exciting final race the likes of which I've never witnessed before. There were thrills and spills in the children's events, a few tears, and lots of excitement as the crowd and the hilariously entertaining commentators cheered the young racers on as if they were tour pros.
Junior riders weren't all limited to the smaller track. Those with the skills to ride a bicycle with pedals, namely balance, were able to race two laps on the adult track. The youngest racer again being just 4 years old.
A series of races for slightly older riders took place before midday, but their numbers paled significantly against the sheer volume of 4 year old Strider racers at the event.
With the endless races still going on the at junior track, under 22 and adult races began to get underway in the early afternoon.
Cycle Speedway Japan organisers were determined to make an event with the lowest possible barrier for entry and therefore there were few restrictions on the types of bicycles allowed to participate. This resulted in some nail biting races in which it was not uncommon to see full suspension mountain bicycles go up against up against brakeless fixies.
Teen and adult events were broken down by wheel size, allowing BMX riders to battle it out amongst themselves, before the big wheel brethren took to the track and the serious action got underway.
An adult cycle speedway race lasts just 4 intensely fast, and action filled laps in which the lead can change numerous times. All the action on the compact course happened so close you could literally reach out and touch riders as they flew on by, but if you had any common sense you'd stand back from the barriers as riders did occasionally get their line wrong and go crashing through the fence. Unlike the dirt tracks of cycle speedway in Britain, Tokyo's competitors raced on unforgiving concrete, but despite the numerous (dare I say it, entertaining, crashes) there were few injuries beyond a bruise and a scrape.
A crash in the last lap of the adult final prompted the commentator to call for a restart, although I believe that is not strictly by the book as a red flag had not been raised by the race marshal. After a crash in the rematch the commentator and spectators noisily called for yet another rematch. Out of sympathy for the tiring riders the result of the third rematch stood despite yet another spectacular accident.
It was this disregard for the finer details of the rules, and emphasis on having a great time over winning at all costs that really made Cycle Speedway Japan an insanely entertaining spectacle. Obviously as competitor numbers grow in the future the rules will be tightened, but for now its simply a bunch of bicycle lovers getting together for a good time. And a good time it was.
Organiserss are already planning a 3rd Cycle Speedway Japan to be held in the Spring of 2013 and I've offered to assemble an international team made up of representatives of Japan's foreign community. So watch the videos, and if you enjoy them as much as I did the actual event, and you're keen to compete in the 3rd Cycle Speedway Japan, Spring, 2013 please let me know.
Cycle Speedway has to be the most insane fun you can have on two wheels.
A note from Byron:
I had my iPad with me to record for the Pedal Asia Podcast, but ended up shooting more video than audio. Lacking a camera I also used the iPad to shoot these shots at the event.
We recorded parts of the Pedal Asia Podcast Episode 9 live at Cycle Speedway Japan, please do give it a listen!
Father of two, husband of one, lover of family, bicycles and running.
Urban Cycling Consultant, Tokyo By Bike.
Byron Kidd is the founder of the Tokyo By Bike website, writer, experienced urban cyclist, and expert on cycling in the staggering metropolis of Tokyo.
Working with NPO's and cycling activists to improve cycling infrastructure in Japan, Byron also operates internationally via a vast network of renowned urban mobility experts to promote Japanese cycling culture, and demonstrate how everyday cycling can work in megacities around the world. No city is too big for the bicycle.
Day Job, Software Developer.
Writing code and stuff, for games and things.