We all want to return back to normalcy. Group gatherings with our friends, having the freedom to go about our typical day including work and recreational activities—we miss being able to do things we probably took for granted, and do them with the people we always did those things with.
Over the weekend, High Point Raceway opened back up and hosted a ride day so local riders could log some laps (while remaining socially distant). High Point is a well-known, of course, but it rarely hosts open ride days, so this was already a great opportunity. Even better, as Davey Coombs has mentioned in his Racerhead columns recently, the track was fully covered in grass! We all dream of the day we could go rip up the local country club’s golf course but that rarely happens. So ripping up a grass-covered, pro-caliber track will have to do!
While this was the first event I took place in since spending a week in Daytona during Bike Week (and everything shutdown immediately upon our return home), I knew the crew at High Point had done their homework in order to open up. The Race Leadership Team (consisting of representatives from the AMA, MX Sports, and MX Sports Pro Racing) has been working long days finding out how our industry can get the ball rolling again. The Race Leadership Team released the safe-to-race toolkit last week that outlines cautious procedures for motocross tracks looking to reopen. There was also a long, thorough list of procedures and details on the High Point Raceway website that was available several days in advance for people to read and understand. I actually had to sleep on the decision to attend the ride day but knowing there were guidelines in place, I felt safe with how the situation was being handled. And boy am I glad I did go!
On Saturday, my brother, dad, and I loaded up the truck and set course for High Point Raceway. Masks, hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, snacks, pens, and old hoodies filled the seat next to me as we talked about the motocross legends that have all lined up behind the gates and blasted roost around the historic facility. We were eager to have the opportunity to do the same—although at a lot much, much slower pace.
Upon arriving at the track, Carrie Coombs-Russell (CEO of MX Sports Pro Racing, Racer X’s sister company) welcomed us with two handouts—a liability form (which was a one-pager just for each individual to sign, instead of the usual clipboard with multiple signatures from multiple people) and a Safe-To-Race guide that outlined the basic information on the riding areas available to each bike size and rider age and health considerations. After finding a parking spot with ten feet on each side of us, we filled out our paperwork in the truck and took it to the registration station. Although markers were set up to separate people in a long line, there was no line when we made our way over. We simply handed our signed paper to my coworkers and gave them exact change. It was a quick, minimal contact interaction.
Once I geared up, undid the straps, took my bike off the trailer, and made my way down under the large bridge/walkway and onto the starting straight, all the worries I’d had were gone. I was just here to have fun on my dirt bike. With the grass and slick conditions (it was snowing earlier that morning!) the first lap for each class was a sighting lap—low speeds, low RPMs, and no jumping. After that, it was full throttle. Okay maybe half throttle for me but still!
As I putted around the track, I couldn’t help but smile. I was able to escape. Not worrying about the news I read earlier or the negativity we see on social media—it was just me doing something I love. I ride as much as I can at home (the neighbors would probably tell you too much but they’re just jealous, right?) but to be able to drive and go somewhere and interact with people (masked) face-to-face again was great. There are no live sports going on so we’ve all been doing our own thing, whether it be binge watching Netflix or sports replays on YouTube, creating crafts, exercising, working around the house, you name it. Small conversations with random people were much needed. And there’s something about getting on your motorcycle that’s another form of meditation to clear your mind.
When it was all said and done—laps and laps and laps later—I had a few tip overs, sketchy moments, and quite the collection of High Point Raceway dirt stuck to both myself and my Kawasaki. But more importantly, I had a blast. The once grass-covered track had been ripped up by over 300 people who came out to put in laps on the motocross track, three-mile GNCC loop, two-mile eMTB loop, 50cc track, and Stacyc course. A few local pros made it out, including Nick Fratz-Orr and GNCC competitor Liam Draper.
Fratz-Orr posted a clip from one of his laps GoPro to his Instagram:
Dusty Williamson, our advertising coordinator, and our newest Racer X’er Ryan McLeod (brand and event manager) were also able to come spin some laps as well. Williamson took an electric Alta bike out in the woods and McLeod laid down some fast laps on the motocross track. Here was McLeod’s take on the day:
It was a frigid morning that kept bouncing back and forth between sunshine and snow flurries. It had rained on and off the day before, but none of that mattered because I was going to ride my dirt bike on a grass-covered, national-caliber track. I got to go out in the third session so there was still a decent amount of grass on the track. It was a surreal feeling to be riding one of the best tracks in the country, so I just cruised around trying to get a feel for how the abbreviated track flowed, not tip over in the mud, and not get roosted! I spent the next half hour scraping mud out of my bike’s nooks and crannies. Still huffing and puffing from the first session, I wolfed down a PB&J and went back over towards the staging area. On the way I saw the Racer X crew so I went over to them for a quick, and socially-distant, pow wow before hitting the course again. The track had completely taken shape for my second session. Ruts had started to form in every turn and the greasy slop on top was gone. I saw Andrew Fredrickson taking pictures so despite my arm-pump, I tried my best to style for the camera!
All my bike needed was a quick squirt of chain lube after that session. I went out for two more sessions and started to get my bearings for the rutted, off-camber turns, and steep uphills and downhills. I even built up enough courage to try a few of the smaller tabletops and double jumps. By the end of my fourth session I could barely pull my clutch lever in, but I had a smile from ear to ear. I haven’t even washed my bike yet but I already can’t wait for my next ride!
In addition, my brother and dad have told me each day after work how they had such a great time during the ride day and can’t stop telling people about it.
RedBud MX in Buchanan, Michigan, also had a ride day that followed similar procedures over the weekend. With positive feedback and happy riders, they hope to have more in the next few weeks.
The best news? This ride day was just a start, as the social distancing procedures will now transfer to the Bulldog GNCC this weekend in Georgia. We’ve now transitioned from a ride day to a points-paying race. Could these guidelines lead to more openings, more riding and more racing? If it can be done safely, let’s hope so. If you can get out and ride, go ahead and do it (safely) as we all hope to get back on track.