Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Rev Up. I just can’t stop riding motocross. It’s more than a sport or a hobby; it's something that gets ingrained into your soul after so many years, and no matter how long you stay off your bike, the yearning to feel the handlebars and twist the throttle won’t end. I’ve been racing since I was 4 years old and riding for thirty-three years, so my roots and scars are so deep that they will be a part of me until I’m gone.
However, things arrive in life like a career and family, and after enough years even those stricken with the worst case of “Peter Pan” syndrome begin to wear a sense of self-preservation. It’s a hell of a thing to be in love with something so dangerous. If you are serious about your career and want to be a responsible father, you shouldn’t be out there on a 450cc dirt bike railing berms and sending it off of triple jumps. I have struggled with this personally, and I guess I’ve come to grips with the fact that I’m only cheating myself by denying my passion. Before you can be good to anyone or anything, you must first be good to yourself. To that end, most of the eyes meeting these words are at their best when they are able to ride their dirt bikes. The whole process of getting your body, your bike, and your gear bag ready to go to the track sets forth a string of positive events that gives your life structure.
When I’m able to ride regularly, everything in my life begins to organize itself. I watch what I eat more closely, work out in the gym more regularly, and prioritize my affairs much more efficiently. The “get’er done” mindset goes into hyper drive, because I know that in order to do what I really, really want to do, everything else must fall in before hand. In fact, as I enter my Vet years in the sport I find myself satisfied by simply getting ready to go ride.
Before last Saturday, it had been nine months since I had last thrown a leg over.
The summer heat had subsided. A switch in my head had flipped in the middle of the night, and I was riding that day no matter what. I woke up, clapped my hands, and walked out to the garage while enjoying my morning coffee. There was “Hurricane” with flat tires and my gear bag with spider webs all over it. I took a brief look at the forecast for the track and smiled to see clear skies over the vicinity. In a familiar effort that was almost subconscious, the gear was thrown in the washer, the air was in the tires, and before you can say “arm pump,” I had my trusty steed in the back of my truck and was ready to head to the track. It’s funny; I felt those race day butterflies merely pushing my bike up the loading ramp.
The drive to the track was the same as it always was: Tool blasting through my high-def speakers, windows down, and cruise set on 80 mph. I paid my twenty dollars to the gate attendant at MX421, who just nodded at me and said, “Good to see you back.” Again, just unloading the bike, setting her on her stand, and putting my gear on was a satisfaction in itself. Like Clark Kent running into a phone booth to become Superman, you can all relate to the confidence you gain by having your knee braces and riding gear on. Like always, I walked over to the fence line to check out the dirt and raised my eyebrows a little because it was indeed a little muddy. Nothing like a little slickness and sketchiness to dust off the cobwebs, right? Oh well, I had agreed at 6 a.m. that morning to pull on my goggles, so I sat out for the track.
Man, it’s so weird after a few months. The first couple jumps are always awkward, and my reaction to the bike’s attitude is slow. My uncoordinated demeanor in the ruts and corners had me shaking my head at myself. Three laps later my arms were cinder blocks and I was totally out of breath—from holding my breath. But I had a huge smile. Adding to my delight was seeing my sister-in-law with my niece and nephew roll into the pits and park beside my set-up. Lincoln is almost 5 and has a PW50, so I kind of had to be “Uncle Andy” for the next trip to the track. That’s when it all came together. Three laps later I had cleaned the jumps and finally went into a deep, muddy, rutted left-hander and railed it. There was the feeling that had been vacant for nine months, the feeling I cannot live without—the greatest feeling in the world.
I went back to the pits for perhaps my favorite part of the day. My niece Blakely (21 months) helped me clean the mud off of my rear wheel with a tiny stick. Sis-in-law brought me Gatorade and snacks, and we just sat in the sun watching the mini bikes take their turn. It was perfect.
Two sessions later I was loving it on the track. My timing was coming together, and I was beginning to put the power down. Then, something happened that set forth a chain of events that would be my undoing for the day. It’s hard to explain, and only you readers who are defenders of the faith can understand. There was a triple in a timing section that garnered my attention, and I could not get it out of my head. Again, it’s difficult to describe the annoying itch that pecks at the brain in this instance. I suppose it’s akin to the feeling a severe alcoholic or drug addict has. I’ve had this problem ever since I started riding—and it got me again. I was going to jump the triple before I went home, and that is all there was to it. I was confident, I felt it was within my limits, and I was going to send it. It did not go well.
The prime ingredient in jumping any rhythm section is momentum. Momentum for a jump 100 feet away begins in the corner 100 feet before it. Well, I was hesitant in the muddy corner, and it went downhill from there. I spun on the take-off and popped up too high instead of out. Then, disaster struck as I tapped the rear brake and killed the engine. Perhaps the nine months of garage life had my carburetor a little gummy? Whatever the case, I landed hard. Very hard. After exploding off of the gas tank and handlebars, there was a moment of clarity as I tucked into a somersault, then I thought to myself, “Oh wow, look at my cherry bike; at least it didn’t cartwheel.” Then, smack. You guys know that smack. Again, I’m 37 years old, and I hadn’t so much as tripped or skinned my elbow in nine months, so the initial pain was stronger than garlic mouthwash. But, my instincts kicked in. Thirty-three years of crashing gave me the strength to give my buddies videotaping the “I’m all right” signal, and I got back to my feet and picked up my ride. I knew Lincoln was waiting for me to come around, so I gingerly kick-started my Hurricane back to life and rode back to the truck.
There was Lincoln. “You crashed, didn’t you? You’re hurt, aren’t you? I seen your helmet fly up, then I didn’t see you, so I know you crashed bad, huh?” I patted him on his tiny head and said, “Hold this thing, little man. Uncle Andy needs to sit down for a while.” He nodded at me proudly and held up my bike while I had a moment in the grass lying on my side. It was almost creepy. Yes, the pain was large, but I was smiling and almost laughing. I loved it. I had taken the shot and was going to be ok, and it gave me this crazy feeling of strength instead of defeat.
Just typing those words sends goose bumps up my arms and makes me grit my teeth. I work out in the gym to be strong so I’m ready for a crash. If you ride dirt bikes, you are going to crash. Was it in my best interest to try such a jump after being off the bike for so long, and do I regret going for the triple? It doesn’t matter. It is what I chose to do in that instance, and it filled me with motivation, strength, and fulfillment on a level for which I cannot find words. It’s motocross, ladies and gentlemen. I love it so much. As long as I am able, I will always be a motocross man. I will never stop. Live to ride and ride to live.
Thanks for reading, see you next week.