Hogan's Heroes: Flat Track

John Hogan sees if Flat Track really is as cool as it looks. Even if you're rubbish at it

Mission #9 CCM flat track school 

Preconception: Flat track is cool
Reality: Flat track is cool  
What I learned: I'm no Jay Springsteen

When it comes to activities that could result in personal injury, I have a fail-safe rule. I get my wife to watch whatever it is for a couple of minutes and if she thinks I look odds-on for a guest-spot on Casualty, I stop.

You know what I mean: tired truck driver on the phone to his mate halfway through a shift, rolling a three-skinner and unaware the nut that holds the steering wheel on is about to fall off. Within minutes he'll be in A&E, covered in fake blood and broken glass.

Sadly the Long-haired General couldn't make it to my flat track debut, but as I took to the track I could picture her humming the Casualty theme and giving an ominous thumbs down. Oh well...

For those of you who don't know what flat track is, go and watch On Any Sunday. In short, the bikes are low, off-road-ish with 19-inch wheels and no front brakes. They are raced around a dirt oval, they are fast and always, always sideways.

From February next year you too will be able to have a go. CCM have been successfully running supermoto track experiences and are now bringing flat track to the masses. We were invited to have a go at Stoke speedway stadium.

The day begins with a couple of laps around some cones on a loose surface, but you know something's not quite right when the first thing you have to do is slip a kill switch tether on your wrist. The cones are about 15 metres apart and the aim is to wind the throttle on and then off as you pass them, feel the back step out and then carry on. It was hard to overcome the feeling of impending crashes when I'm used to keeping everything in line but the instructors dished out tips until I was slewing confidently about. I was happy.

Once everyone had mastered this we moved to a larger area to get a feel for accelerating out of corners while holding a slide. This was where we had to start applying a bit of technique - if you don't have your right elbow up there isn't room for the bars to come round, so you can't apply enough opposite lock to go the direction you want. The instructors picked up on everything and made the process of learning really easy. At this point I didn't seem to be going as well as the others, so I gave it the big-un. And crashed. This was a cathartic experience so I carried on once again until I was happy and doing what the instructors wanted. So I crashed again.

Throughout the day top flat trackers were on hand to demonstrate correct technique, then national flat track champion Lee Complin did a couple of demo laps on the full circuit. And crashed - but it was raining and there wasn't much grip at all. After all this we were allowed out onto the full track, one at a time, to get a feel. It was at this point I fell in love with flat track riding. Apparently instructor and all-round sideways ace Pete Boast could hear me laughing as I came past him.

The day finished with three-lap race-pace practice sessions (so they'll be races then). You line up at the gate, a green light comes on, the gate shoots up and you're away. Lee could see I was keen to get a good start so he whispered that instead of hanging over the front and launching hard in first gear, I should sit on the back of the seat and wheelie away in second. What followed was quite possibly the best launch I have ever done on any bike, ever, and I got the holeshot by a mile. Great, I thought, until I realised there were two guys behind, waiting to get past or knock me off trying.

I got my head down, then someone crashed and I won. Rock on me.

Doing wheelies and sliding are two of the coolest things you can do on a bike. You will definitely learn how to ride sideways on the CCM flat track experience and you will definitely love flat track riding.

HERO NO.9 - LEE COMPLIN

22-year-old Lee has been riding sideways since he was four years old, on grass track, speedway and lately flat track, and was national speedway champ aged just 15 (you're supposed to be 16 to ride the adult class). He's massively talented and a thoroughly
nice bloke.

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