Racing on ice is VERY different!

Forget your road or track bikes; this is a different sport entirely, requiring different bike designs and riding techniques.

Enter Graham Dury

Racing motorbikes was always in Graham Dury's blood.

His father was a passionate grass track racer and it was on grass that Graham first raced at age 14 (yes the official minimum age is 16 but who's counting?). He progressed to racing at the Belle Vue speedway in Manchester - sadly long gone - and his career blossomed to the extent that he represented England several times at the sport.

Then, in 1984, a new ice rink opened in Telford in Shropshire. Dury was wondering what the next stage in his career would be and the thought struck him - after racing on grass and cinders, why not try ice next?

This was a huge gamble for him. To make his venture a success he needed to attract top riders and they didn't come cheap. He did have some persuading to do at the ice rink as well - racing bikes are not exactly kind to ice surfaces!

What about the tyres?

The problem was one of tyre grip. A standard motor bike tyre would have a great disadvantage on a smooth ice surface; it would have been downright dangerous if the bike skated and the rider lost control. Putting studs on the tyres was the obvious solution but it is easier said than done to get the right type, length, numbers and distribution. Eventually though, after a lot of experimentation Dury got the balance right: but the people who had the job of maimtaining the ice were not really pleased!

What about the ice?

As expected there was some damage to the ice surface. Under normal circumstances minor damage can be repaired by simply pouring water onto it and leaving it to freeze. The problem was that this ice was only about an inch thick; which meant that there was a risk of damaging the base under it. The answer was to increase the depth to about four inches; but simply flooding the rink with water and expecting it to to turn to ice simply wasn't going to happen since it just turned to slush. The ice had to be built up gradually by putting a little water on, allowing it to freeze and then repeating it until the required depth was reached.

Time consuming? Absolutely. it was taking two weeks work in very cold conditions to get it right; but it worked. Speedway on ice was born.

Was it successful?

The gamble paid off with people queuing to get in on race days; and the sport's fame didn't just stay in Telford, it spread throughout the world and competitions were held at an international level.

This was no sport for wimps. The tyre spikes were sharp and a competitor who fell off a bike and got run over could get horrific injuries. Hardly surprisingly it was attracted some of the bravest (craziest?) riders in the world but it has had, thankfully, a fairly safe accident record.

Why did it end?

It was concerns for safety that ended racing at Telford. Redevelopment was on it's way and the new fencing that was being installed simply wasn't suitable for racing bikes; straw bales would have been more appropriate. The final meeting was held on the 26th February 2012, 25 years after the first races were held. It was an emotional event, with past stars of the track racing against international riders.

Ice speedway may have ended at it's birthplace but it is still alive and well throughout much of the world.