Ice to see you - motorcycle ice racing

Wozza's travels take him to Sweden, where real men ride bikes with just the one footpeg and murderous spinning discs of death where the wheels used to be. This is ice racing. It's insane


Ice racing is wrong. So very wrong. And after a weekend spent in Sweden, which culminated in me riding in the Swedish National ice racing final after a day's practice, I can say this with utter certainty.

I'm almost at a loss to know where to begin. But one thing stands out. Oh yes, because even more wrong than the compulsory sub-zero temperatures, the total lack of brakes, the ridiculous lean angles, the tyres with 120 spikes each and the eye watering wall-of-death cornering speeds, is the complete absence of a left-hand footpeg.

I know a missing footpeg may seem like small beer against the other odds stacked against anyone slinging a shivering leg over one of these methanol-burning two-wheeled chainsaws, but think about it for a moment.

With no left footpeg, the ice racer must balance his foot, completely unguarded, against the swingarm. This is his inside foot, the one he's leaning on mid-corner, which means a lot of pressure going through his boot and onto that slippery, spindly swingarm covered in slush. And all this pressure is transmitted via a frozen foot that's numb anyway, inside a clumsy motocross boot, in the heat of a race when his mind already has at least a hundred other things to think about unless he wants to end the night under a hay bale and looking like chopped liver.

It would be ridiculously easy to slip but should that foot come unstuck, it'll be under the wheel in an instant where the inch-long, razor-sharp spikes will puncture it with more holes than a teabag - assuming they don't take it clean off.

But then ice racing is a man's sport and here in Sweden men don't worry about small things like losing their feet. Instead, they bang down another schnapps, strap an outfit of homemade armour on top of their battered leathers and step boldly forward to do battle on the ice.

Four at a time they roll to the start tape, and as soon as it goes up I swear you have never seen a first corner like it. With total, instant grip courtesy of their spikes, turn one is hit just like every other corner - on full noise, with the bike thrown in so fast you'll think they've all crashed.

Which they actually do quite a lot, and there are no small crashes in ice racing. With this much grip, when you do get it wrong enough to unstick 240 spikes you'll be so far into the laws of physics' bad books you can rest assured it's going to be a big one. And that's before you factor in the minimal run off, the fact you'll accelerate not slow down as soon as you hit the floor, and the small matter of those wildly spinning spikes following you hard into the trackside barriers.

One man more willing and able to stare this certain death in the face better than most is the man you see above, Per Olov Serenius, or 'Posa' to his fans. Despite being 58 years old, he has won a whopping 15 Swedish titles and scooped his 16th here this year. And when the prizes on the night amounted to little more than a giant bar of chocolate and some flowers, you know he's doing it for the sheer love of racing.

I on the other hand, was rather less legendary when it came to my turn. But I did manage a few laps in the packed stadium, didn't disgrace myself in the process, and also came away with both feet still attached to my ankles, which was a result as far as I was concerned.

WHERE? WHY?

Swedish ice racing takes place in Sweden, from December until March. We don't recommend you try it yourself because you might die, then we'd feel bad. But if you want to see it for yourself look at www.isracing.net. It's all in Swedish but the 'Kalender' page should be enough to get you on your way.

And would you know it but the UK gets its own ice racing too, albeit in slightly different form. The annual Telford Ice Speedway, which has the advantages of being both indoors and in Telford, not Sweden, takes place on Sunday 11 February. Have a look at www.telfordice.co.uk or call 01691 777051 for more info.

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