We’ve spent the last two weeks of ReduX talking about the changing world of local motocross, first in my column and then with some of your letters in response. Here’s a final group of emails with some more reasons as to why the local scene has changed. I think it all points in one direction. Have a look.
You hit the nail on the head. I no longer own a race bike, but I do have a UTV and a mountain bike. I talk about taking my boy to the races, four miles from my house, but I don't feel like sitting around all day at a track when he can ride all day somewhere else. I guess today we all desire constant entertainment, even between motos. Keep up the good work.
I see the same trend in D16/D23. My reasons for racing less have more to do with a growing young family than anything, but it also has to do with the time investment. Like you said, a day at the races is a long day with a short amount of track time.
I prefer motocross over cross country riding but I don't like sitting around waiting for my turn on the track. I personally think the solution lies in fewer classes and longer motos. I would pay more per class if it meant I could get home sooner.
Bottom line, it's all about time. If somebody can figure out how to run motocross races a little more like the cross country races, it's my opinion the numbers would begin to rise.
I am so glad you brought up this topic. It seems like I get asked this question on a daily basis and my answer remains the same.
I cannot speak for everyone, but these are the main reasons I have decreased my racing tremendously. It has to do with the fun/cost/time equation. The races are not local and the race times are not convenient. For any working person over the age of 25, you only have the weekend to do things around the house. Although my wife is always happy to go with me to the races, she says, "You do realize that you just spent fifteen hours to ride 11 laps of which two where in the mud." And that is when it hit me. I had blown my own fun/cost/time equation.
My favorite local track is Muddy Creek, but I have found a few alternatives to motocross racing and many of my friends have done the same. We hit up the local motocross tracks for practice on Saturday's to get a ride in. If we need a quick competitive fix we will hit a local hare scramble series (although not as fun as motocross) where you start, race for two hours and leave exhausted, feeling like you got your money's worth. During the week, we clip in some pedals and say, "thank you and good bye" to that #3 Arby's combo that fueled our week day rides. Why #3? Because 3>1 so you know it has to be better.
The reason racing is less popular post-recession has seemingly little to do with bikes being more expensive. It's disproved by your price comparison in Part 2, and also in the fact that side-by-side sales/spending is huge, practice is still popular, extremely expensive mountain bike sales are high, etc. Too many reasons point away from that. (Manufacturers: exhale now.)
A large reason, which I believe is that nowadays, in 2015, people value their free time MORE.
Since our economy's somewhat-recovery, a LOT has changed. Most people fast forward through TV commercials, traditional radio is dying, network TV is dying, music industry has completely changed, paper magazines are dying, folks drink less soda, households do not have telephone landlines, kids watch movies in the car, the advent of all things INTERNET, etc, etc, etc. We all generally adapt, respond to, and are accustomed to this! This is very different from years ago, the years local racing was popular. So, whether we realize, or embrace it, or not, WE HAVE CHANGED.
I believe a track and running races can still be a good business but doing business obviously must change. Living in Manhattan, my local track is Englishtown Raceway (like you Weege!) in NJ. Great track. I'm there twice a week like clock work...for practice. I only race a few times a year at most, not-ironically, since the economy hit the fan. My riding buddies and I, young & old, actually love racing each other in practice and even formed our own happy little practice-race league (SGSMX!) where we even count points towards a championship and we probably annoy all of the riders around us on the track. (Sorry dudes)
Unfortunately, none of us go racing anymore for the same, exact, single reason.
Thanks, folks. In my letters, lack of time was mentioned about as much as four-strokes. Racing is awesome, but waiting to race is tough. But this is not new. I sat on the tailgate of my truck a dozen years ago waiting for a moto, but apparently in 2002 this didn’t discourage anyone, because numbers were growing. It seems to matter now.
Yes, dudes from the 1970s, I know there used to be just the “125 class” and the “250 class,” but that’s been gone a long, long time. Dividing the pie between age groups, A/B/C divisions, Schoolboy, Supermini, and the rest has been a part of this sport for decades now. It’s not so much that the schedule is new, but maybe our reaction to it is?
Just wanted to throw an opinion at you regarding your latest ReduX segments. Little background. I’m in my 11th year of racing in Minnesota and race +25 and Vet +30 B. I’m also the Open MX class Rep for Minnesota AMA District 23.
I think the majority of the reasons behind the current slump in amateur motocross have been well documented. And obviously money is the big one. Everybody’s looking to get the most track time for their dollar. However, over the last few years I’ve noticed a new trend with some of the local promoters. The tracks seem to be getting more and more technical and less “amateur” friendly. Back in 2004 and 2005, when I first got into racing, the recipe for a successful event seemed easy. Attract as many A riders as possible and the B, C, and Youth riders will follow. It seems these days like maybe the promoters are still using this approach. Problem is, the A riders still aren’t showing up and the bread and butter riders are left with a track they aren’t comfortable racing on. Practice days aren’t necessarily safer but you’re also not competing so keeping your distance is easier.
Your article kind of stirred something I have been thinking about for a long time. I am 48 and have raced off and on since I was 14 although I was never much better than a decent B rider, also I haven’t missed the Highpoint national since 82. The point is I have been around a year or two. Lately I am what Jody Weisel calls a professional practice racer. There is a reason is that the jumps are too damn big. Bought my nine-year-old son a KX 65 from Cernics this spring but we just ride and I am happy with that. You are right about the time thing, all day at a track is hard to do in today’s world. People are working harder today to make a living, meaning weekends, I work 3 a month. I am eating my lunch at work on a Sunday nightshift as I type this. I love this sport but it needs some changes at the local level to make it happen.
Good stuff here. Big jumps are not new to the sport. I remember Bob Hannah complaining about supercross-type obstacles back in 1987. Of course that’s relative and the jumps are much bigger now, but a double that was scary in ’87 was still scary in ’87, and people still rode. Things just keep evolving.
And that’s really just it. What I’ve realized is nothing has fundamentally changed about motocross at its core. Yes, four-strokes cost more, but it’s not double the cost when adjusted to inflation. Yes, jumps are bigger, but big jumps at the local races are not new. Yes, you’re at the track all day for only a few laps, but that’s not new either.
It’s not new, but it has evolved. In almost any other field, technology makes things better. The phone/computer/tablet you’re using keeps evolving to where you don’t even recognize one from ten years ago. Better tech keeps coming to the masses. That happens in motocross, with better bikes allowing us to go faster and jump further than before. Progress, but unlike computers, going faster and jumping further in motocross isn’t always better.
We’ve also progressed in other ways. Our time is more valuable. And our goals? Oh, we’re much more ambitious. These days parents cram their kid into seventeen activities—soccer, art, gymnastics, stick and ball stuff, foreign language, and swim class—because everyone wants the best for their kids. They always did, but it just keeps evolving. More, more, more, evolving, evolving, evolving. As each generation pushes a little harder, gets more ambitious, it takes some of the basic fun out of the equation.
I don’t want this to turn into a socio-political battle, but there’s something else I mentioned last week: Yeah, the economy has “recovered” in some ways, but we keep hearing it’s concentrated at the top. Don’t we see a similar reflection within this industry? A few people are spending huge money on things like UTVs, high-end mountain bikes, super-built brand-new four-strokes, or year-round training facilities. They buy motorhomes and they hire riding coaches, and they chase the professional dream. That infuses a lot of cash into the sport, and some people can afford that.
Then someone wrote me a telling letter. Yes, the four-stroke doesn’t cost much more when new, but what of the used four-stroke market? I didn’t get to race growing up, so when I was 23 and finally got a job, I bought a one-year-old CR125 for $2,300. It was stock, it probably sucked, but it was all I needed to go racing, so that’s what I did. I had zero fear the bike would burn a hole in my pocket. Eventually, it broke, it sat in my garage forever after I got a newer bike, and later someone bought it from me for peanuts. I didn’t care because I’d paid so little and gotten so much out of it.
The same people who always could afford a new bike can still afford a new one. But what about the less-serious racer, who just wants to have some fun on weekends, isn’t going “all in” or “all out” and doesn’t expect to turn pro? That guy might have less money than ever, but the market for a nice three-year-old bike is much trickier than before.
And the sport is much more competitive if you’re a guy who just wants to buy a used bike and have fun. Here’s one more letter:
The Real Reason
Just got done reading your article, "The Influencers," and here is my take on how things are not the same, but are picking up.
Yes, the sport is more expensive and the four-strokes are part of it, but I don’t want to demonize them. Why is it the attendance at race day has gone down? I point the finger at the riders themselves. The whole mentality behind motocross has changed. People feel like motocross owes them something for all the hard work and money that they throw down. But motocross doesn't owe people anything. Not one thing. Motocross thrives because of the people behind the scenes and the die hard fans that still support local races. People feel that they need to be rewarded for showing up to their local race each Sunday, usually in the form of purse money, but in reality people need to volunteer or help out tracks to keep things going. When something becomes more of a job than it is fun, that's when the fun dies out and people lose interest.
This hypothesis is clear today. Literally the only time our gates are full at any race is only when there is a money moto. Also, racers themselves do not see the worth in local races today. Every year I make a joke, well meme, about "brace yourselves, here comes the Loretta’s status." Most of the time racers in my area will only train for one and one thing only; to make it to Loretta's ranch. If they don't make it after they tried every qualifier and regional they can, their season is over and they don't want to race for the rest of the year. They sell their bikes and gear and wait until next year. They don't see how local racing can possibly be fun so they just quit till next season.
It seems that people have lost sight of why we go race on Sundays, why we spend the money on bikes and fancy gear, and why we do what we do. BECAUSE IT’S FUN!!!!!!!!!!
People need to keep things fun and remember why they got in the sport in the first place. You don't need to have a factory bike to have fun or the latest gear. Just go out and ride! Two stroke or four stroke who cares. Keep it safe, keep it fun, and go brap!
Thank you for your time.
And that’s it. We’ve seen a perfect storm of many things adding up to one thing: the loss of racing “just for fun.” New bikes are a little more expensive, used bikes are a little more expensive and a little more risky, bikes are a little faster, jumps are a little bit bigger, home schooling and year-round training are a little more popular, people have a little less money to throw around, more activities, and more use for their valuable time. It just keeps going in that direction, little by little, year by year. After all of that evolution, you end up in a different place. Today’s cost of entry is high, and I don’t mean gate fees or entry fees, but the cost of being competitive. Gone are the days of used bikes stuffed in the back of the family car or towed on some junky old trailer. Now you want fresh stuff in the back of a lifted pickup, or in the trailer behind the motorhome. Everything keeps getting better. But that requires a bigger commitment, which makes it all more serious. And with that commitment comes pressure, and with pressure comes less fun. It’s easy to say, “Oh, people should just have fun with it.” But when you’re spending that kind of time and money, it’s kind of hard to not care about the results and just have a good time.
I especially like the point about volunteering at your local track, which is something I rarely hear anyone consider doing. Again, don’t blame your local promoters. They’re probably taking in less money than ever. When you’re taking your racing super seriously, you’re going to ask for a lot from the track and the organizers of the race. When you’re just racing for fun, you’re not asking for stuff from the track—you might even ask if you can help.
Over the weekend, a prominent industry guy told me something he’s noticed. Today’s local bicycle shop is open for you to come in and BS, and it even helps organize group rides. At your local mountain bike trail, clubs are no doubt helping maintain things, probably voluntarily. It’s grass roots all the way, and it’s strictly about recreation. How many people with a mountain bike on their roof rack can name the top pro mountain bikers in the world? Probably half. The rest are just riding for fun. In this sport, I doubt you’ll find someone who rides who doesn’t also know who Ryan Dungey is.
This fact has always been cool. It’s always been what gives this sport a lifestyle, the fact that it’s hard to do, requires commitment, money, and ambition, and it soaks so deep into you that you both follow pro races as a fan and ride yourself for fun. But have we gone too far? Is it time to make a split, between those that want to go “all out” and try to be pros, and those who just want to have fun? Because it’s getting harder and harder to make a formula that works for both—the homeschooled motorhome four-stroke big-jump set, who is willing to commit huge time and money into the sport, and the dude who just wants to try racing on a three-year-old bike stuffed into whatever vehicle he already had. For fun. Remember fun?
Have a story about a local track, group, or club that’s making changes and doing it right? Email Weege.