Dmitry Koltakov is an 8-times world champion in ice speedway racing, a sport where riders face off on the ice with razor-sharp spikes on their tyres. There’s a reason they’re called gladiators... We sat down with this ice gladiator to learn all about this insane sport.
Dmitry, for those who don’t know what ice speedway racing is, can you describe it?
It’s a little crazy. We ride bikes on ice around an oval course. The bike tyres are studded with extremely large studs that pierce the surface of the ice. It might also be worth mentioning that our bikes don’t have any brakes.
I’ve been told that a studded tyre on ice has more grip than an off-road tyre on mud. Is that also the case in ice speedway?
Absolutely! In fact it’s easy to forget you’re actually riding across ice. The studs really dig into the ice so you have a lot of grip. In order to maximise the grip as a rider, you really have to lean onto your motorbike and push it into the ice. During a race, however, the conditions are always changing. The more laps you do, the less grip you have, which is always a challenge.
What drew you to ice speedway? How did you get into it?
I started out doing Moto Cross near the town where I grew up. I trained together with Nikolay Krasnikov. Not only was he my friend but also he is the most successful ice speedway racer of all time, having won the world championship no less than 20 times. He told me my riding style would be perfect to compete in ice speedway. I fell in love with it the first time I tried it, and on top of that I really wanted to beat Nikolai (laughs).
When you’re out there racing with a dozen other bikes with spikes on their wheels, do you wear any special protection?
Most of my outfit is very similar to a motocross suit but with a few changes. I wear two different shoes. On my right foot I’ve got a motocross boot and on my left foot I’ve got a MotoGP style boot. That one is more rigid and offers more protection whereas the one on my left foot is lighter and more flexible. To protect ourselves from the ice and spikes of the other competitors we wear a carbon protection plate on our left leg.
Three times individual world champion, five times team world champion... What’s your secret?
That’s staying a secret (laughs). I believe it’s mainly my work ethic. I just keep my eyes on the prize and maintain total focus. The fact that I learned everything I know about this sport from Nikolai Krasnikov, the best in the world, doesn’t hurt either.
Ice speedway is obviously a winter sport, so what do you do to stay sharp during the rest of the year?
I mostly train in motocross during the rest of the year. You do use different muscles in motocross than in ice speedway, so I have to spend a lot of time in the gym as well to train the muscles that I don’t use on a dirt bike.
Credit Photos: ©Afanasyev Sergey