You may have started to hear more and more people talking about Flat track racing over the last couple years. Thats because it’s super awesome and a lot of the Canadian racing is happening right her in our own backyard of Ontario.
Flat track racing today is basically heavily modified dirt-bikes ripping full-out around a 1 mile and sometimes 1/2 mile flat, oval, dirt track. There are various classes for different age groups and experience levels and they all race back-to-back in 1 evening, making it a hilarious & exhilarating night out with family and friends.
Hot dogs, hamburgers, fries & onion rings are usually being cooked up by the fairgrounds snack-bar crew so you can feed the family, snuggle up on the bleachers and watch the fast paced races. The vibe is “country” with friendly people from all over Ontario and the North Eastern US states. The community vibe is definitely strong and camaraderie can be strongly felt from the regular racers and attendees.
Flat track racing was one of the most popular forms of motorcycle racing in North America from the 1930’s until about the 1980’s. The easily accessible and fairly inexpensive form of racing made it appealing to the various social classes back in the day. Harley Davidson was the most consistent brand contributing to the growth and success of flat track racing and is still heavily involved in it today. Other brands came and went as the economy wavered but Harley stuck it out and really built up the sport.
In the 80’s the popularity of flat track racing began to decline and motocross & road racing began to take over. Today, flat track racing is slowly regaining popularity and in Canada we owe that to a passionate company called Flat Track Canada. Their goal is to promote the sport of flat track motorcycle racing in Canada and ultimately reclaim the former glory of the sport.
With Canadian races being primarily scheduled in Ontario we have many opportunities to experience and participate in all the fun. With a lot of the main races being held in Welland & in Paris, Ontario. My friends from Town Moto and I often ride down to soak in all the fun, hang out for the night and support Town Moto racer #73 – Doug Lawrence.
Getting to Welland from Toronto to watch the races can be either a scenic 4h cruise avoiding major highways or a simple 1.5h highway blast on the QEW. The choice is yours but I’ve mapped out a nice scenic route from Toronto to Welland that you can really impress your friends with and have a blast before the races.
Getting out of the city is always a drag but if timed right, you can skip out on rush hour traffic and be on open country roads within 45 minutes. Riding through the Dundas and Hamilton area is always a treat so take some time and stop for a coffee in town and enjoy the escarpment twisty’s.
Dundas has a great little cafe called Detour Coffee right in the heart of town. From Dundas you will head south east through Hamilton towards Welland. Ridge road is the road with the view and the one you need to save on your “To Ride” list. On Ridge road, you will ride for miles along the ridge of the Niagara Escarpment with Hamilton and beautiful Lake Ontario on your left and farm land on your right. This is definitely a highlight for me and for many a rider.
As you approach the race track in Welland, you will be greeted by parking lot attendants who will collect cash for admission (it’s usually cash only so be sure to pack some bills – $12/adult) and will lead motorcycles in through the main gates to park. Cars and Trucks park outside of the main gates but the motorcycles have a designated bike parking area to hang out together. Once you’ve parked your whip, you will have a few hundred cool bikes to check out. The crowd usually brings in a good mix of bikes so there is always something interesting to see.
Getting to the track early will allow you to park, check out the bikes, grab some food and find a good seat before the races start. The opening ceremony usually starts around 7PM but you’re welcome to arrive as early as 2:30PM when the gates open for racer registration. Before you head down, double check scheduling on the Flat Track Canada website.
The racing is loud and exciting, even down to the youth racing where their helmets are larger than their bodies. All of the classes race on the same night so the whole night is jam packed with fun. Sometimes you will even catch “Speedway Racing” which is kind of like watching a circus act. What makes “Speedway” racing unique & comical is the bikes only have 1 gear and no brakes. The clutch can be used at the start line but then the riders are full throttle most of the race sliding sideways through the round dirt track for all 4 laps. It’s exciting to watch and everyone has a good laugh but the race also makes you appreciate the precision and skill that the riders possess to be able to ride that line between “in-control” & “out-of-control so closely”.
As the night progresses, the winners from the earlier heats race in their class finals. From youth to expert the best of the best go head to head to take home the prize. Usually by this time the sun has set, the stadium lights have come on and the fans are really getting into it. The atmosphere is sort of like a scene from a “Friday Night Lights” southern states football episode. There’s dirt in the air, the stadium lights are highlighting the track, the quirky announcer is busting out fun small-town jokes that only the locals understand, you can smell the grill still cooking up a storm and the couples are getting closer and closer snuggling up with hot chocolates under blankets to stay warm. I love it.
Overall, Flat Track racing is fun for everyone and I recommend that you all check it out at least once. Whether you’re from the city and just want a destination to ride to or you live around the corner from the track and want to do something different. The races will have you captivated and entertained all night. Even if you’re not a motorcyclist yet but are curious about getting into it, make the drive out, bring your friends, bring a blanket and hang. Everyone’s friendly, everyone is welcoming and you will leave feeling great and a bit more re-connected to the simple & important things in life.
Thanks for reading.
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