Top 5 Winter Olympic Sports That Parallel Motorcycle Racing
Every other year dozens of countries attempt to set aside geopolitical, ethnic, religious, and cultural differences in order to gather in one host nation so that a select few citizens from each nation may participate in that spectacle of sport known as the Olympics.
With the world’s eyes currently focused on Sochi, Russia, for the 2014 Winter Olympics, wide-ranging media coverage is dominated by headlines telling of athletes’ triumphs and trials. Everywhere you turn, news from the Sochi Olympics is there.
As motorcycle enthusiasts we couldn’t help but notice how several of the speed-related, timing-clock-driven Winter Olympic events mirror various forms of motorcycle competition.
Here are five events from Sochi that got our two-wheeled hearts racing.
(Apologies to hockey nuts, figure skating fans, and curling buffs: we didn’t see any parallels to motorbike racing. As soon as someone organizes the first motorcycle demolition derby we’ll pair it to hockey and add ‘em to this list in 2018.)
5. 50-Kilometer Cross-country Skiing –to- Motorcycle Enduro/Cross-country Racing
While cross-country skiing isn’t known for barely-manageable speeds or high-flying jumps on impossibly skinny skis, it is a sport, whether in sprint or long-distance races, that demands endurance. Cross-country ski races often take place through wooded areas and varied terrain. The longest of the Olympic cross-country events is a grueling 50-kilometer (31-mile) race that will suck out the life from the skiers, with many of them often collapsing from exhaustion as they cross the finish line – or even before finishing.
Enduro and cross-country forms of motorcycle racing are, of course, speed dependant, and also a race against the clock as well as fellow competitors. Additionally, enduro racing pits riders not only against one another but also against the elements and the race course’s terrain. As enduro and cross-country riders will attest, at race’s end, physical exhaustion and collapsing in a heap are part of the sport.
Also, we’d like to see someone tweak motorcycle enduros to include a target-shooting element like the cross-country skiing discipline of biathlon. Yeah… Bikes and guns!
4. Snowboard Cross –to- Motocross/Supercross
Snowboard cross combines familiar elements of the snowboarding world, like big-air jumps in half-pipe freestyle and the high speeds seen in downhill snowboarding, all into one race. Add in snowboarders racing side by side on this type of combined course, and there’s no telling which skilled racer will crash off a jump or which one will cross the finish line in good form.
Looks and sounds a lot like supercross (arenacross) and motocross to us, even down to the multi-racer gated starts.
Motocross racers have the unenviable but entertaining task of contending with big jumps, slow-speed hairpin turns, and short but brutal spans of ruts, whoops, and whatever else race organizers want to mix in, leaving the racers to battle this course for several laps.
Just as the snowboard cross course can change the face of the race in a heartbeat, the supercross/motocross track can make a meal out of top riders, leaving the door wide open for the guy you thought was off the radar.
3. Short Track Speed Skating –to- Motorcycle Speedway/Ice Racing/Flat Track
In the U.S., cars on oval tracks are a huge deal. So you’d think motorcycles doing the same activity would receive the same adulation. Alas, it’s not so, but the Europeans do love their speedway motorcycle racing (in fact, speedway racers can actually make a comfortable living in some Euro countries.). And for good reason: the action is fast, riders are often only inches apart if not outright banging handlebars, and races are relatively short in length and duration, which keeps fans entertained.
Outside of the Olympics realm, talk of speed skating rarely enters conversational exchanges ‘tween us ‘Murricans. Yet, motorcycle racing fans should take more notice of this rapid-fire winter sport. Short track skating very much shares attributes with speedway racing, flat track, and ice racing, including the counter-clockwise direction of the course.
Speed skaters burst off the start line, quickly jockey for position, and draft each other for an opportune time to pass into the lead, all while essentially hanging off on one another at seemingly impossible lean angles. Furthermore, most races are fast-paced and over in the blink of an eye.
Maybe Tide, Pepsi, and Budweiser ought to figure how to plaster their logos on the backs of high-tech Lycra body suits…
2. Freestyle Skiing and Motocross Freestyle
Freestyle snow skis and freestyle motocross motorcycles have nothing in common, except for what their respective pilots can do aboard them.
One big ramp/jump is all that’s needed to really get these athletes in motion. Once airborne, aptitude, amplitude and attitude set the winners apart from the rest of the field.
Many of the aerial tricks and maneuvers used by motocross freestyle riders and those used in the five types of Olympic freestyle skiing echo one another in their common goals of impressing judges and making the crowd hoot ‘n’ holler.
Perhaps no other pairing in this list is more alike than freestyle skiers and freestyle motocrossers. Though different in their sports, these athletes are often cut from the same cloth.
1. Alpine (Downhill) Ski Racing and Motorcycle Roadracing
Skillful application of honed techniques, sheer physical reflex and coordination, and intense mental focus are the downhill ski racer’s primary tools for achieving the quickest time (read: fastest!) while negotiating a steep path filled with short arcs and sweeping turns.
If you could toss in other racers at the same time, the many forms of downhill ski racing (slalom, giant slalom, super gs, etc.) would be a lot like roadracing.
Unlike downhillers, roadracers compete first and foremost directly against other racers and not the clock. Not unlike skiers, however, roadracers must also achieve as much controlled speed as possible while navigating turns of varying radii and direction, in addition to knowing when and how to effectively scrub speed and accelerate at all the right points in the course.
Maybe the most appealing similarity (at least visually) between downhill ski racers and motorcycle roadracers are the stunning lean angles they maintain while fighting the undeniable forces of physics.
Speeds inherent in ski racing and roadracing often precipitate some spectacular crashes. Though disparate, both sports are thrilling to compete in and watch. Both sports kick ass!