From East End bomb sites to the land of the rising sun

The closest thing cycling has to rollerball — or at least roller derby — cycle speedway involves an oval dirt track, singlespeed bikes with no brakes, spectacular sliding turns and lots of rider-to-rider contact. This video from Japan show how speedway has even spead to the far east, and is just as daft and fun there too.

It also has one of the best bits of skullduggery we've seen as a rider prevents a pass on the inside of a turn by sticking his foot into his challenger's wheel. Skip to 0:55 if you can't wait, but the whole thing's worth two minutes of your time.

Cycle Speedway started in the UK between the wars, but really boomed after WW2 as bombsites provided instant race tracks; by 1950 there were 200 clubs in East London alone. If you fancy  go, it now comes under the umbrella of British Cycling, with about 40 clubs

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.