About

I produced this website after a member of my club, Withington Wheelers, showed me a picture of his dad receiving a trophy for winning a race in the 1930's at Belle Vue track, Manchester. I am a lifelong cyclist and I was brought up in Manchester, near Belle Vue, but I did not know that they held bicycle races there. After some searches on the internet, I found out more about the cinder track and the history of Belle Vue as a Victorian Pleasure Garden. As this was in 2020 in the middle of covid lockdown, I decided to start a project to find every bicycle race track in the UK, identify their locations and write a very short history of each track. I also collect old bicycles and have spent half my working life using computers, so this was a perfect project for me.

I quickly found that the task was very large and much information was not available on the internet. When I had identified several hundred tracks, I subscribed to old-maps.co.uk* to help in locating tracks, this proved very useful as most of the tracks disappeared a long time ago. I then needed more information about tracks so I subscribed to the British Newspaper Archive. This proved to be a real game changer as practically any reference to an old track would have appeared in one of the hundreds of newspapers that they have scanned.

This work is not a history of early bicycle racing, Andrew Ritchie** has written the definitive book on the topic, rather it is a compendium of all the bicycle racing tracks in the UK from the first one in 1869 to the present day. Whilst researching the history of tracks, rather than just including the track statistics and brief historical information, I have tried to find out how tracks came about, what kind of racing took place at the tracks and what happened to tracks after they stopped being used. I have written extensively about the racing that took place on each track, this is well documented in newspapers and it provides an insight into the use and popularity of the track.

This project turned out to be large, much larger than I envisaged. So far I have included information about 700 tracks, with another 200 on a 'Long list' to be researched in the future. I hope that this work can act as a basis for people to add and expand our knowledge of UK bicycle tracks.

Whilst researching track history, I was always on the lookout for pictures of tracks and racing on tracks. Local historical groups are particularly useful in this respect and cycling clubs are also a rich source of historical information. The project gave me an interesting insight into the history of other sports particularly football, rugby and athletics. I also found it interesting to research the problems of amateur and professional racing, sponsorship, betting, company sports facilities, the economics of sports grounds and a host of other things. I also communicated with some very knowledgeable interesting and helpful people, which was nice.

The website should be simple and easy to use. From the main screen of the website, if you select 'Map', a Google map will appear, on which you can zoom and pan to examine an area of the UK in detail. Bicycle racing tracks are shown as coloured dots on the map. If you put your mouse over a track dot, it shows a bubble with the track name. If you click on the track dot, a pop-up screen is shown with more information about the selected track, or a web page with full information about the track.

From the main screen, if you select 'Database' you will see a list of all the tracks that I have found, together with brief details of the track. If you click on a particular track name, a link will display full information, history and photographs of the track. I also came across several video files related to specific tracks and I have provided active links to these videos within the track text.

From the main screen, clicking the 'Search' button will give access to a powerful search facility. With the search, you can type in a keyword, such as 'Luton' and it will find all the tracks with Luton in their name or location and present you with a list of the tracks. You can then select any of these tracks to display in detail.

In the first release of this website, I have identified over 700 tracks and written a brief history of over 300 of them. This is an ongoing project and I am continually coming across new tracks that could be added. I have called the list of these additional, unchecked tracks the 'Long list' and you can see them using the 'Long list' button on the main screen.

This website is freely available to anyone interested, it is strictly a non-commercial ad-free archive of historical bicycle racing tracks in the UK from 1869 to the present time. I would like to extend the website and keep it up to date and you can help with this if you have any information on old tracks, particularly old photographs of tracks. Please use the email link to contact me.

    * The old-maps.co.uk website has now closed and I use the National Library of Scotland maps website.
    ** Andrew Ritchie (2018) Early Bicycle and the Quest for Speed, McFarland, North Carolina.
       Unfortunately Andrew died in 2022, which was a great loss to the history of bicycle racing community.

OldVelodromes.co.uk   by   Tony Baxter 2023