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When we were kids, there was a thing we liked to do on our way home from school.

There was a park we could shortcut through that always extended the trip home by half an hour. In that park was a playing field with a bank at one side, that dropped towards a footpath. The bank had just the right angle of descent to allow the rider of a bike with a back-pedal brake to execute a sustained slide in the manner of our idol, Ivan Mauger. The bank terminated in a low rock wall that was non-negotiable, and the desired performance was to slide to a halt in contact with the wall, the friction of the grass having overcome the the speed achieved on the paddock and the additional gravity assistance of the bank, at the correct moment.

Usually we came up short, once in a while the run would be perfect, and about as often contact was made with the wall at sufficient speed to catapult the rider on to the footpath. This was exceptionally funny, unless you were the victim, and would usually mean the session was over for the day.

Fast forward to this century, and when it comes to playing on bikes, little has really changed. A bicycle speedway event as part of the Rotorua Bike Festival attracted children of all ages, from pre-school to retirement. While there was no bank to slide down, there were two tight left hand turns joined by straights of sufficient length to get up enough pace to make the turns problematic. Oh, and getting up to that pace became an issue pretty quickly too: the races were four laps long, in the age-old tradition of speedway races everywhere. Sprinting for a couple of seconds before heeling over into a corner doesn’t sound that hard in theory, but doing it eight times per race is something best left to 12 year olds.

Or World Cup downhillers, who stacked the open final.

A side note on our long-ago speedway efforts: we once tested out a bowling green near our favourite park for slideability, and nearly got kicked out of intermediate school for our trouble.

The Bike Festival Speedway event was held on a bowling green, right in front of the iconic Rotorua Museum and Blue Baths. A bowling green! And we were allowed to do skids!




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