Americans call it the oldest and most pure motorsport. Flat Track races have been held there since the early 1900s. The goal? To ride as fast as you can, without a front brake, on a short oval dirt track. I can tell you from my own experience that Flat Track Racing is crazy fun and very addictive! I am even thinking about modifying my Himalayan “Dhanno” into a Flat Track bike!
Flat Track is big in the United States and Australia, but races are held all over Europe too. Most racetracks are between 400 meters (1/4 mile) and 1600 meters (1 mile) long. Flat track racing is not just about speed but more about your technique to deal with the skipping, sliding and bucking against the centrifugal forces in the corners. Flat Track racers use a special technique to push their bikes through the corners. It is completely different from the traditional racing technique where drivers hang in the corner. Flat Track racers are sitting on top of their bike pushing their bike down with their right elbows up and the left arm straighten downwards. Often they keep their left foot above the ground for balance. The more experienced you are, the more diagonal your bike will be in the corners.
MD58 x Mash Flat Track Academy
Flat track is growing as a sport in the Netherlands. I went all the way to Vledderveen in Groningen to a local flat track for my first experience. There I met Maikel Dijkstra. He is a known Flat Track racer from The Netherlands and recently established the MD58 X Mash Flat Track Academy and School. “The MD58 X Mash Flat Track Academy is set up for young riders that want to get into a growing sport and learn to race at a competitive level. It is also open to riders from other disciplines looking for a challenge and who want to "go fast and turn left". The Flat Track Academy will help them to get ready to race on the oval. Of course, I haven't forgotten the rookie rider, so I also set up a Flat Track School. Here every rider from every level can come and learn to go left, fast. We start with the most basic of basics and work our way up to doing laps.“
So far Maikel reached his best achievements in 2019 when he got his first win in the UK at the DTRA Flat Track Nationals, and became second overall at the DTRA European Championship.
How did he become a Flat Track racer, it is not a very known motorsport in The Netherlands. “I have been racing motorcycles since I was 6. I started with Grass Track racing but after 16 years it was time for something different. I had already explored Flat Track in 2011 thanks to the Dutch Brothers who organized some races in the Netherlands and Germany. So in 2016 I quit Grass Track racing and started with Flat Track racing and entered the competition at the FIM World Cup.”
Flat Track riding skills
”The start is important for all types of moto racing, but for Flat Track you can win or lose on the start. We race on small tracks and the start will determine maybe 58% of the race. Starting is not my specialty, so I had to learn to fight my way to the front in every race. It's a challenge to be stable every lap with a good racing line. Even the smallest mistake will cost you a place.”
Maikel can be found at the racing track one or two times a week for practice. Two or three times a week he is doing high-intensity interval training and power training. “Me and my dad are preparing the bikes a week before each race. On race day, I always walk on the track to make a mental picture, so I know every last bit of it. In the race, this helps me as I know what the track will be like if I go outside the perfect lines.”
For Maikel, the fun of Flat Track racing is to slide through the corners while looking for grip, and then to exit the turns as fast as he can. “It's a neverending game and I can't get enough!” I could not agree more. After some first exercises, I was allowed to go on the main track to race with the regulars. Of course, they overtook me as I was riding very slow, but how exciting it was to be together on one track and focus on getting through the corners as fast as I would dare?
Dhanno suitable for Flat Track racing?
The type of motorcycle is not so important for flat track racing. At the DTRA In England, you can find many different bikes in one race, from a boring street bike to hooligan bikes. They are all modified though. “At first, I raced with the same bike as I rode on at Grass Track racing but for Flat Track, I had to swap the 21" front wheel for a 19" wheel, the rear wheel was already 19". And of course, I needed Flat Track tires which are much wider with a less aggressive profile. To keep the bike stable on the track I also had to lower the front suspension by 12,5cm and the rear suspension by 1,9cm for better handling.”
Flat Track racing vs Moto GP racing
It is known that many GP racers practice on a flat track to improve their skills. Apparently, Valentino Rossi even has a flat track at his own house. A couple of American GP racers are known for their previous Flat Track skills, for example, Kenny Roberts and Nicky Hayden. There are also some riders who still combine Flat Track and Road Racing in the USA. “Most of them started with both when they were young. I'm a big fan of Moto GP and I love to see how they're always riding on the edge of what their bike can do. It's also fun to see how some riders slide into the turns as they do on Flat Track.” For Maikel it is not an option to switch to road racing. “In order to become a good road racer, I think I should have started with road racing when I was a child. I'm now doing the motorsport which I'm best at and suits me, so I “keep it sideways”.”
No Motorcycle license needed
At the end of my day with Maikel, I learned that he doesn't have a motorcycle license! “I can't find time to get my license. But if I get my license I would go for the Royal Enfield INT 650 for some organized ride-outs to events and maybe also do some road trips.”
Interested in doing some flat-track racing yourself in the Netherlands? Get in touch with Maikel and he will teach you the basics or help you improve your skills if you already have some experience. You can get in touch with Maikel via his website Flat Track Academy, Instagram: @flattrackacademy or Facebook: @Flat Track Academy..
l´m going to add flat tracking to the list.
I reckon Dhanno will look really cool.
Hmmm Dhanno dressed for flat tracking, an interesting idea. How did you find her when she finally arrived in the Netherlands via ship. Check out The Girl On A Bike, as she started riding after broken shoulder and hip, ridding extreme enduro in England. Would you consider a ten question article with her. Sending blessing and hugs.