Cycle speedway: The ‘skid kids’ who raced bicycles on WW2 bomb sites

AC

_82461453_img_8251-copyIn the post-war UK, groups of teenagers found a use for the crumbling bomb sites that scarred their cities – they raced bicycles on them. How did this hazardous and haphazard pastime become a hugely popular sport?

“The back wheels skid wildly, the cinders fly, and another rider makes a four-point landing on crash helmet, hands and knee…”

This was the scene painted by The News Chronicle and Sunday Illustrated. The year was 1950, and hundreds of people had turned out to line a dusty bomb site in south London to watch the hottest new sport around – cycle speedway.

Born in the aftermath of World War Two, cycle speedway grew from humble beginnings.

Groups of teenage lads with little to do took rickety old bicycles, not otherwise roadworthy, and began racing them on makeshift tracks in the rubble of the UK’s war-ravaged cities.

They were imitating motorcycle speedway –…

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