I asked Martin for a description of Grass Track Racing, and here is his story. Thanks Martin.
Grass Track bicycle racing is, exactly as the name suggests, racing bicycles on grass tracks. Large photograph of "Perth Highland Games" 2003, attached. Crowd attendance at this meeting was 7000.
I am guessing here, but I would say that ever since bicycle racing became common place, racing them on grass tracks has been taking place. It is my opinion that the word "Path" in a Road/Path bicycle refers to a track and probably a grass one.
What is it and how does it work? Well, it is just like racing on a hard track, except that you will not have a sprinters line marked on the track. Mark out an oval track, any size you like, mark a finnish line and go racing.
In Britain there are different types of race meetings. England usually runs cycling only meetings, very much the same as any other cycling track meeting. Scratch races, points races, pursuits, team pursuits and occasionally sprints. There is a regular track league on grass in the city of Leeds, West Yorkshire.
Scotland has a long and well established tradition of Professional grass track racing. There has been a professional circuit of local multi sport "Games" for several hundreds of years. Often referred to as Highland games although in fact many are in the Lowlands of Scotland. These games include running, wrestling, jumping, dancing, tugs of war and of course throwing heavy objects. They also include cycle racing.
All the sports are run within the same grounds, so runners and cyclists will use the same track, with the dancing, jumping, sprinting and heavyweight events taking place in the centre. Most events are handicapped, in that competitors will be given a head start. Races are for cash prizes, collected from local sponsors and gate money, and can be quite large, up to as much as $4000 total prizes for cycling events at one "Games". There are 34 "Games" which promote cycle races from June to September each year, spread all over Scotland. All the tracks are different, ranging from about 400 metres to as little as 200 metres. Often flat, but can be on a slope, with varying qualities of surface. Common distances raced are 800, 1000, 1600, 3200, 6400, 8000 metres and Diel's (Devils or Elimination races). You might races as many as 7 times in one meeting, plus heats in the shorter distances.
All riders use brakeless bicycles with fixed gears. Tyres need to be slightly heavier or lightly studded depending on the condition of the track (it takes a lot of rain to cancel a meeting). Many riders use older steel road/ track frames with shallower angles and better clearance for heavier tyres. 165mm cranks are preferred for cornering clearances. Gearing depends very much on the track and race distance, most riders use a 48 chainring and have sprockets ranging from 13 to 22. Tyres need to be well affixed, especially tubulars, and often tape is wrapped around the rim and tyre to help them stay on. Cornering fast on a flat track on a fixed gear takes a little getting used to but is quite naturel once you have learned to relax, crashes are rare, but when racing for a living, competition can be strong!
Professional Grass track racing in Scotland is controlled by the Scottish Games Association www.highlandgames-sga.com. Look at the website for 2004 fixtures and information on how to enter. For England contact British Cycling.
Regards Martin Coopland, Scotland, www.BatesBicycles.com - REClassicBikes@aol.com