The Thunderdrome: race on Detroit’s abandoned velodrome

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A couple weeks ago we brought you the story of guerrilla landscapers discovering an abandoned velodrome in Detroit, clearing it of debris and reversing the post-apocalyptal reclamation by nature. Some guys with old bikes even took a spin around it. The kicker to that story was that some locals were going to organize a race there. Well, it turns out those organizers are two of our good friends and that the race is going to take place on October 16. We’re going to be racing at The Thunderdrome and you should too. Here’s how.

Photo: Fabrizio Constantini

Look at the cracked, frost heaved state of the concrete surface in the gallery below and you’ll understand why the organizers have decided to forego motorcycle racing, at least this time. The potential speeds were just too high for safety in what promises to be a largely amateur race. Instead, there’s going to be classes for mopeds, scooters, mountain bikes and road bicycles. The services of an ambulance and crew of EMTs have been enlisted and there’s a common sense series of technical rules so this should be a relatively safe event.

The damage to the track wasn’t just caused by weather. During the 1980s, street gangs raced cars there at night and the weight of their vehicles permanently shifted the concrete pads that make up the track. Dorais velodrome was originally constructed in the 1960s, falling into disrepair as Detroit decayed around it just a decade or so later. Forgotten during the ‘90s, it was only rediscovered this summer. This race has come together quickly.

“We’re all into racing – it’s damn good fun – but it’s not the sole focus here,” commented Andy “Road Captain” Didorosi, the guy in charge of all this. “We’re one of many guerrilla projects going down in Detroit with a nod towards revitalization; city mismanagement be damned. We’re going to bring a good time to the locals despite the best efforts of the City to the contrary.”

We’ll be entering the moped class (as long as Dan Kastner! finishes our bike in time), which is restricted to engines of 75cc or below, nitrous oxide and nitrous methane are banned and the chassis must be based on that of an original moped. If you want to win, we’d suggest entering another class, as we expect our mad motorcycle skills will dominate moped racing at The Thunderdrome, right?

There’s also a class for scooters, which means 50cc or below, again no nitrous and use something resembling a scooter platform.

Starts for both classes with be Le Mans style, which means a running start to the bikes. There’s going to be trophies and prizes for the top three finishers in every class.

Entry costs a reasonable $20 per class, per racer, with all proceeds going to covering the costs of the event and any leftovers being put into restoring and maintaining the velodrome for future events. Spectating is free, but donations are accepted. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to race on an abandoned track in the middle of a city.

Want to do it? It’s easy. You’ll need a suitable machine, appropriate safety gear and $20 to enter. Make sure you read the rules as showing up with a non-compliant vehicle would ruin your day.

October 16. Be there.

The Thunderdrome!

  • nicktp

    I live north of Detroit and rarely go there, but this is surely a worthy cause for driving south of 8 mile.

    The smallest motorbike I have is a 200 so you won’t have to worry about racing against me, I’ll be on a pedal bike…I’ll bring a cheap one just in case it gets stolen!

    Also if you plan on going the day before to ride a not-so-small bike on the track for a bit, I’ll join you. I’d love to buy HFL a beer or 2.

  • klaud


    Try this in SoCal…good luck, but I’d be there.

  • nicktp

    p.s. anyone looking for it should search “Dorals Park”, not “Dorais Park”
    Mound Rd. & Outer Dr.

    I just spent half an hour swearing at google so you don’t have to.

  • thatdetroitandy

    It’s definitely Dorais Park – not Dorals. If you want to find any information on our track, search “Dorais Velodrome.”

    • nicktp

      I see now, google has it correct but google maps thinks it is dorals

  • motoguru

    Rad. See you there.

  • The Lawyer

    This sounds awesome. Wes: I need a tip to get a moped on the cheap and fast. Any leads in Brooklyn? I’ll be there if I can score a moped. Craig’s list only has idiot Billyburg hipsters who know nothing about 2 strokes.

    • Grant Ray

      I know of a tiny shop in Greenpoint around the corner from the YMCA, but I haven’t met them yet. Want the address?

      • The Lawyer

        Yes please.

      • The Lawyer

        Come on Grant. I’m Dying here.

        • Wes Siler

          Grant’s at lunch with the Motus guys, you’ll have to forgive his tardiness.

          Dan Kastner! recommends Orphanage Mopeds out in Bushwick:

          • The Lawyer

            Awesome. See you guys in Detroit, unless I screw up with the big bore kit for the moped I have not purchased yet.

            • Grant Ray

              Yeah, the Orphanage at least has proper contact info. I’d stick with them.

  • skadamo

    Trying to round up some friends make this happen.

    I could run this “motored bike” in the moped class right?

    • thatdetroitandy

      I’m Andy, the guy running it. Motored Bike is totally allowed in the moped class.

  • twinsrule

    They should run motards there. All those cracks and bumps wouldn’t matter on a tard.

    • Wes Siler

      The idea is to have an amateur race that’s open to anyone, which means keeping speeds down to ensure safety. Supermotos would simply be way too fast.